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Movie Review: Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Updated on March 26, 2022
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Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.


Quick Summary:

Director: Sam Liu
Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
Released: August 2nd, 2016
Runtime: 76 Minutes
Availability: On 4K Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD, or streaming on Netflix and HBOMax

The Adaptation We Thought Would Never Happen, And Maybe It Shouldn't Have!

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore has always been a controversial book, one that many fans thought could never be adapted for either a live action or animated film But then DC announced that they were making an animated adaptation and that they were going to bring on veteran Batman: The Animated Series voice actors, Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tara Strong as Batgirl, and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Fans were immensely excited and were eagerly awaiting the movie after seeing the teaser trailer. They were a little worried when they said that they would have a Batgirl/Barbara Gordon centered prologue for the first half of the movie, but most of us hoped they wouldn't mess it up.

I mean, what could go wrong with a Batgirl centered prologue? Quite a bit, actually, Not only is Barbara Gordon objectified and reduced to the love interest for Batman, of all people but instead of unstuffing her in the fridge, it stuffed her into the fridge even more by derailing her character!

The Second Half That Adapts "The Killing Joke" Is Great!

The second half of this movie that adapts Alan Moore's The Killing Joke actually follows the comic very closely. While it looks pretty good, it has one major flaw, it wasn't nearly as disturbing in the Funhouse section, which I have permanently burned into my brain as really, really messed up, doesn't bother me while watching it animated for some bizarre reason I can't explain.

For this getting the R-rating, it wasn't nearly as nightmare inducing as the comic is. And that bothers me because it should have bothered me more than it did. They didn't go far enough!

The Voice Acting Is Great!

There aren't a lot of good things I can say about this movie, but I'll say that the voice acting is what carries this movie, along with Alan Moore's writing. They're an excellent voice cast.

Kevin Conroy was excellent; He gives a great performance, even if half his dialogue in this movie is badly written out of character crap. He did the best with what he had, it's too bad only one half of this movie is worth watching.

Tara Strong, a voice actress I enjoy a lot and follow on Twitter, does the best she can with the crappy dialogue, but not even her performance which is very good, can save the dialogue from being crappy when it's not part of The Killing Joke graphic novel, but if there wasn't a prologue, she wouldn’t have been in the movie much.

The standout performance is Mark "'Arkham" Hamill, who has always done a fantastic job as Joker's voice. He carries the movie with Kevin and Tara, but it's a shame that the story that's supposed to be about Batman and Joker's twisted relationship is derailed by bad Batgirl writing! Still, his performance is amazing and it's worth slogging through the first 30 minutes of this trainwreck for his amazing voice acting!

Still waiting for the edit that cuts out the trainwreck prologue!

The Animation Looks Pretty Good:

The animation is all right, not too outstanding for the first half, but the fight scenes look good and the character designs are okay. It' The Killing Joke section of the movie that actually adapts the graphic novel is where the animation and artwork look really good.

It's not the best I've seen from DC, but it's just okay.

They actually toned down the disturbing imagery from the comic in the movie. It's not nearly as disturbing as it is when you read The Killing Joke, it didn't go far enough, and that surprised me, for this movie receiving the R-rating, but then again, that this was made at all, is an accomplishment, if only half the movie wasn't so bad it's horrible.

The music is also generic and unmemorable so I'm not even dedicating a section to it.

'It was just sex, for God's Sake, it's not like has to mean anything!  We don't have to care!" The problem is, it's completely meaningless, because it was unnecessary!
'It was just sex, for God's Sake, it's not like has to mean anything! We don't have to care!" The problem is, it's completely meaningless, because it was unnecessary! | Source

Brian Azaraello, Your Writing SUCKS When It's Not The Killing Joke!

Brian Azzarello, you might be good at writing other DC characters, but your writing in this movie for the Batgirl prologue, SUCKS!

In your attempt to make Batgirl a stronger character, you forgot what makes Batgirl a good character, and it's not just that she fights criminals, she's a genuinely good, likeable character, and you made her into an emo, whiny girl with a crush on her mentor figure Batman, that can't handle being in a relationship with him, and quits because she's too "emo".

And speaking of her "relationship" with Bruce Wayne/Batman. There's no chemistry, there's no real sense that she's in love with him, I've seen better writing in fanfics, and it's like he went to, and found all the bad Batgirl fanfic and pulled straight from those stories.

He could make the story so much better, but no, he had to go with the stupid fanfic route and put nonsensical romance in this story, who was it for? To satisfy fangirls who like "relationship shipping"?

And by the by, trying to say your movie's making The Killing Joke less sexist by making Barbara a stronger character while showing fanservice shots of her clothed butt is not helping make her a stronger character, you're contradicting yourselves!

It's like Bruce Timm wanted to pair Batman and Batgirl so much they forgot how to write good characters!

Also making the Joker go see prostitutes whenever he escapes Arkham, which is implied during Batman's investigation what happens to Barbara, which wasn't in the comic was just another stupid addition to the movie that was unnecessary, and a bad attempt to humanize Joker.

Not to mention Batman comes across as a creepy older man who slept with the daughter of a very close friend, and did nothing to stop her, even though he should have, he's supposed to be the good mentor figure for her, now he just looks like those creepy teachers you see in news stories who sleep with their students. Nice work, Brian, you derailed Batman too!

This is like what I went through when I read Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 when they derailed Starfire's character by turning her into a slutty braindead goldfish that has no emotional attachment to anyone who has sex with Roy Harper for no reason at all.

I expected a lot better from DC Comics and Warner Brothers, this movie is already controversial because of the graphic novel it's based on, they didn't need to make it worse by giving Batgirl character derailment!

I had flashbacks of character derailment while watching The "Killing Joke", thanks a lot DC Comics!  You've mastered the art of derailing good female characters!
I had flashbacks of character derailment while watching The "Killing Joke", thanks a lot DC Comics! You've mastered the art of derailing good female characters!

Brian Azzarello and Bruce Timm Can't Take Criticism!

I expected a lot better from DC Comics and Warner Brothers, this movie is already controversial because of the graphic novel it's based on, they didn't need to make it worse by giving Batgirl character derailment!

There was already controversy surrounding the book, when controversy erupted at The Killing Joke Comic-Con panel when Bruce Timm and Brian Azzarello were discussing Batgirl's character, and Bleeding Cool reporter Jeremy Konrad, who had seen the movie already, and knew about the sex scene sarcastically shouted, “Yeah, by using sex and then pining for Bruce.”

That’s when co-screenwriter Brian Azzarello, who apparently couldn't hear him shouted, “Wanna say that again? Pussy?”

Way to be a mature adult Brian. Trying to write a commentary on sexism and call a critic a "pussy". A lovely example of how to handle legitimate criticism. Classy.

Jeremy Konrad didn't need to repeat himself, it's quite clear that Brian Azzarello wasn't going to listen to legitimate criticism anyway.

Bruce Timm just doesn't understand that there are some people who don't like Barbara's romantic "relationship" with Bruce Wayne and don't understand that this element is not even necessary in telling a story about Barabara Gordon. The only reason he let Brian write a Batgirl/Batman relationship is so that he could make his shipping pairing a part of a classic graphic novel adaptation.

They're probably squirming at all the negative reviews of this movie all over the internet. And it's not just the feminists complaining about the movie, comic book fans the world over are unhappy with this movie, including me, and I'm in no way a Feminist, but I care about good character writing, it doesn't matter if the character is male or female, and his writing SUCKS!

Parental Warning:

This movie is rated R for the scene of Barabara Gordon being shot in the back by the Joker. Jim Gordon is also stripped naked but it's not sexual. There is some language in the film.

Joker's crazy fun house, courtesy of Warner Bros.
Joker's crazy fun house, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Audience Poll:

Will you watch The Killing Joke?

See results

They Deliberately Altered Continuity to Make Batgirl Just Another Bad Thing That Happened to Batman!

During Batman's investigation of the Joker, he brings up the computer to show Joker and various crimes he's committed. In the image, you can see Jason Todd's dead body.

In mainstream comics, Jason Todd was still alive when The Killing Joke occurred. Barbara showed up to his funeral in her wheelchair and for them to just ignore that and change it just so Barbara can be just another tragedy in Batman's life, on top of losing Jason, is annoying. And irritates me, because it's not a part of graphic novel it's based on! Of all the things they trainwreck with this adaptation, they didn't have to trainwreck continuity too!

: DC Comics, Warner Bros.
: DC Comics, Warner Bros.

Quick Thoughts:

What Works:
What Doesn't Work:
The animation looks good in fight scenes in the first half, looks much better for the "Killing Joke" second half
First 30 minutes is a complete waste of time
Adapting The Killing Joke Graphic Novel (The last 45 minutes of the movie)
Bad writing and character derailment of Batgirl, demoted to whining, emo love interest
The Voice cast is great
Deliberately altering continuity to make Batgirl just another tragedy
Making a controversial comic even more controversial with needless romanitc crap and sex
The music is unmemorable

In Conclusion: I Want My VUDU Rent Money Back!

I’ll be honest; I was going to buy this movie because I knew the comic was good when I read it a long time ago, but ever since I watched Angry Joe's review of the movie and found out about the Bat-sex, I was worried about this movie. This is the second time I've been burned by a DC Comics movie and I'm very disappointed, it's not infuriating to me as Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I still don't like it, and it's not the fault of the voice cast or the animation department, the writing is where this movies epic fails, and I can't recommend a movie for the last 45 minutes of it.

I also don't recommend illegal piracy or streaming, but man do I wish I could get my VUDU movie rental money back, I know I could easily go download this movie or use an illegal streaming site, believe me, I found it online already, but I decided to watch a legitimate source for this review, and believe me, I have rental remorse. $4.99 was too much for me to rent this movie but I didn't want to wait for my local library to get it. I probably should have, would have saved me money. If you have to see this movie, just Red Box it, it's only worth a dollar or two to spend on the rental, but not $4.99!

Grade: D-: The Cast Can't Save This Movie!

This movie had the potential to be a perfect adaptation of The Killing Joke with the added bonus of having a good Batgirl story for Barbara, instead, we got amateurish dialogue, pulled straight off of's bad writing section that not even an amazing voice cast can save this film by delivering excellent vocal performances.

We have writer's who won't take criticism and don't see that their character writing for Barbara Gordon's Batgirl is vomitrocious. The fact that you should start the movie at the 26:30 mark is bad enough. The fact that there are 30 minutes of bad writing makes it worse!

I can't recommend buying this movie, even if you love The Killing Joke, just borrow the movie from the library, not worth buying on DVD or Blu-Ray, but I will pick up the original comic from Alan Moore and DC Comics because it's the version you should just get anyway.

It's reported that Alan Moore said that he "Spit venom at DC and Bruce Timm". Can I join you there Alan?

You can read my review of the original graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore if you want to.

My Rating:

2 stars for Batman: The Killing Joke Animated Movie (2016)

© 2016 ReViewMeMedia


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