“Batman: The Killing Joke” is animated film directed by Sam Liu who previously a number of other DC animated films such as “Justice League: Gods and Monsters”, “Justice League VS. Teen Titans”, “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” and “Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay”. The film is based on the graphic novel of same name by Alan Moore. The voice cast sees Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returns to respected roles and are joined by veteran voice over actors Tara Strong and Ray Wise. This is DC’s 26th animated feature film but the first since 1993’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” to receive a theatrical release.
Out on patrol. Batman (Conroy) stop a robbery with help from Barbara Gordon (Strong) who joins Batman under the name, Batgirl. One of the robbers is Paris Franz, who happens to be the nephew of a major crime boss, has a twisted crush on Batgirl and begins targeting her specifically. Concerned about her well-being and approaches towards Franz, Batman takes her off the case. But during her absence, Batman is ambushed by Franz and his men after his uncle is found dead. Batgirl arrives to save him and beats Franz to a pulp and nearly to death. Batgirl realizes that she has reached the sacred line of vigilante and gives up her cowl. Months later, Batman and Detective Harvey Bullock are investigating a mysterious murder which leads to Batman’s newest yet unknown adversary, the Joker (Hamill). When Batman goes to confront the Joker in Arkham Asylum, the Joker has managed to escape. He later attacks Barbara and her father, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Wise). He shoots Barbara, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and kidnaps Jim. Now, Batman must track and stop the Joker and save Commissioner Gordon from becoming his next victim in their twisted and deadly game of cat and mouse.
This storyline has been one of the popular in the graphic novels and comics that needed a big screen treatment. Even though its animated, it certainly didn’t live up to the hype. While the novel primarily focuses on the origins of The Joker and his feud with Batman, the film does give you a distinctive background but focuses more on Batgirl and her origin which really is let down. Her character and story arch really slow the movie down and by the time it picks up, its pretty much over. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill shine as the titular characters. Tara Strong is great as Batgirl. My major issue is that the focus lacking on the major beats of the film which are in the title itself. I guess I’m one of those people who prefer the novel to the movie but at the same time other comics have had a faithful film adaptation, like “Under the Red Hood”, “The Dark Knight Returns” and even live action like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Batman Begins”.
Overall, this film is a slow burn that picks up towards the end. Its dark and violent but lacks the focus of its source material. Although Mark Hamill had stated he would retire from The Joker voice, he still kept his word on returning for this particular movie. Kevin Conroy still voices Bruce Wayne and Batman from time to time even landing a live action cameo as Bruce Wayne in an episode of “Arrowverse” which followed the “Crisis on Infinite Earth” story. Sam Liu would go on to direct more DC Animated films such as 2018’s “Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay” and 2020’s “Superman: Red Son”