DC And Warner have at their hands one of the most iconic Batman narratives of all time, a narrative that asks the question if the Joker is truly someone too weak to endure a really awful life, or if he can submit someone to so much pain they can become exactly like him. All it takes is one bad day, he insists. “The Killing Joke” is surprisingly only seventy six minutes in length and still manages to feel way too long. For an iconic story with such a meaty premise, DC and Warner obviously have absolutely no idea how to put it to screen, and manage to botch this adaptation big time. With “The Killing Joke” we have to endure what is one long winded and dull prologue that leads literally to nowhere, just to allow the viewer to connect to heroine Batgirl.
It’s not enough most of the film is centered on her and that she narrates the story, but the first half of the movie revolves around Batgirl garnering the attention of a sadistic young mob boss named Paris Franz who is so intrigued by her, he begins murdering and committing cruel deeds for her. This prompts the self-realization in Barbara Gordon where she realizes the thrills of being Batgirl really center more on garnering the affection of Bruce Wayne. It’s not to fight crime, or help people, it’s to be Batman’s version of Harley Quinn, I assume. The writers tack on a painfully awkward and underwhelming romance sub-plot turning Batgirl from a heroine who is victimized by Joker to merely just another of Batman’s girlfriends Batman avenges when she’s victimized by the Clown Prince of Crime.
With the sexual and romantic sub-plot of Batman and Batgirl, Batman comes off as a complete bastard who might seem like the trigger to transform Batgirl in to her own version of the Joker. It’s only when we realize the prologue goes absolutely nowhere that the sexual confrontation has little fallout, thus remarkably miniscule effect on Barbara Gordon until she’s shot by the Joker. Once the Joker escapes Arkham Asylum, he wages a campaign of terror on the Bat Family, mortally wounding Barbara, and kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, intent on driving him mad and turning him in to his own twisted facsimile of the Clown Prince. We’re given an implied origin of the maniacal clown prince, all the while Batman is left to stop the Joker once and for all and prevent him from delivering a final blow and prove that the traditional law structure simply doesn’t work.
Especially for someone too far off the deep end, like the Joker. The one redeeming element to “The Killing Joke” is the mesmerizing performance by Mark Hamil, now considered the quintessential voice by fans alike. That said, “The Killing Joke” is a terribly awful adaptation that injects uncomfortable and unnecessary sexual themes for the sake of gratuitous controversy. It’s pathetic how Warner has only seventy minutes to adapt the Alan Moore story and “The Killing Joke” still ends up feeling spread way too thin.