Review: The Killing Joke

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Review: The Killing Joke

By Lewis Mainwaring


Fans of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland‘s 1988 definitive one-shot graphic novel – Batman: The Killing Joke, have been waiting a very long time to see a full-length adaptation.

Batman: The Killing Joke is a 2016 American animated superhero film produced by Warner Bros: Animation and distributed by Warner Bros: Pictures. The film is the twenty-sixth film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series.

Both the original  graphic novel and this film is set in the fictional U.S. city of Gotham, Batman: The Killing Joke provides an origin story for the supervillain the Joker, loosely adapted from the 1951 story arc “The Man Behind the Red Hood!”.

Taking place over two timelines, The Killing Joke depicts the Joker attempting to drive Jim Gordon insane and Batman’s desperate attempt to stop him.

The film is directed by Sam Liu, written by Brian Azzarello and stars the voices of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong and Ray Wise.

In January 2016, Bruce Timm (producer) revealed that the team had to “add a lot more story” for the film due to the source novel not being long enough to make a feature-length film.

This “added story” came in the form of the first 30 minutes or so that sees Batgirl on patrol and trying to stop robber and crime family member Paris Franz (Maury Sterling). During this cat and mouse game between Batgirl and Paris – Batman becomes even more concerned about her safety and takes her off the case.


Outraged, Batgirl starts attacking Batman both verbally and physically. She eventually subdues him, shares a kiss with him, and they have sex !!!!!!!!!!

Fast forward a few awkward minutes that sees Batgirl transform from heroin to stroppy teenager mooning over the Bat – she retires from crime-fighting – but not before she has some scenes bitching about her ‘mystery man’ with her gay friend and fellow library worker (who is a walking talking stereotype !!!). All that was missing from these scenes was Barbara heading out for a morning after pill !

At this point of the film I was ready to turn off the TV and give up !!!! – Moving on to the better part of the film – the ACTUAL Killing Joke. Which is set one week after Batgirl hangs up her cape (and pulls up her Bat-knickers – sorry had to write that !!!!).

This part of the film is very much a shot for shot remake of the graphic novel but with a feel of the 90’s animated series – which is of-course helped by so many of the voices coming straight from the show.


Created by Moore in 1988 as his own take on Joker’s source and psychology, the story became famous for its origin of the Joker as a tragic character; a family man and failed comedian who suffered “one bad day” that finally drove him insane. Moore stated that he attempted to show the similarities between the characters of Batman and the Joker.

The story’s effects on the mainstream Batman continuity also included the shooting and paralysis of Barbara Gordon (a.k.a.Batgirl), an event that laid the groundwork for her to develop the identity of Oracle. This development of her Oracle persona is shown in a mid-credits scene.


The films adaptation of the source material is excellent – however, the degrading of Batgirls character in the first 30 minutes makes it hard to become immersed in the dark, crazy antics of the Joker (even with Mark Hamill’s amazing performance).

Review: The Killing Joke

The scene in the hospital where Batman ‘comforts’ Barbara just seems icky ! Is Batman going after the Joker due to a sense of morality or is he super pissed that the Joker shot up his fuck buddy !!!! – By this point you can tell I’m not letting this go !!!!

I personally think the expectation for The Killing Joke was ridiculously high and whatever was released would of not pleased everyone.

The use of Batgirl’s prologue could of been used to humanise and explore the complex character of Barbara Gordon; daughter of Commissioner who turns into caped-crimefighter.

Review: The Killing Joke

Instead we had 30 minutes of sexist remarks, close ups of her tits and ass as Barbara goes jogging, sex on a roof, ‘funny’ period jokes and gossip with her offensively stereotypical gay friend Reese.


As a member of the LGBT community and as a 90’s child (where Batman: The Animated Series was my first taste of the Batman universe)  – I was so excited to read there was going to be a ‘out’ gay character in this movie. My excitement quickly turned to fighting the urge to throw my TV out the window.

Overall I’d give this a 3/5 as the only saving grace for this piece of sexist garbage is the excellent voice work of the cast. Maybe the DC Animation department should now look to the future and work on original ideas instead of rehashing classic stories and turning them into this hideous car crash !

If you wanna see a feature length Batman Animated outing done right – go rent Mask of the Phantasm!!!!!

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