Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Killing something

It's taken me a day to calm down. I think I am ready to talk about movie that was supposed to be The Killing Joke.

There were early signs, chronicled in last week's podcast, that this was not quite the movie that people were expecting, most notably due to the 'all new' prologue. I attempted to remain neutral, something that is quite difficult to do when faced with headlines like 'The Killing Joke is a catastrophe 30 years in the making.' It's still The Killing Joke, right? I am not a huge comic book aficionado but in my limited sampling it is my favorite graphic novel. How bad could it be? Mark Hamill came out of Joker retirement for it. Surely he would not have done so if the script was not good.

Sitting in the theatre, eating my overpriced nachos, I was given hope by the audience that filtered in: nerds. All nerds. A wonderful collection of my people. Nerds of every shape and size, every twentieth being a good natured girlfriend, dragged there against her will. Nerds read spoiler filled reviews, nerds love to complain about things on the internet, if The Killing Joke was as bad as had been reported at least some of these beautiful nerds would have stayed away, right?

The theatre was filled to capacity. As the lights dimmed I grew nervous, then excited. This is a movie that I (and a whole lot of other people) has asked specifically to be made. It had the right people involved, the right voice actors, the right director. It opened with a ten minute vanity piece about Mark Hamill. Fine, he's earned it, but god damn if he isn't looking old.

Fade to black. Batgirl's voice.

'I guess this isn't how you were expecting the story to begin.'

Oh shit. What the hell happened.

Let's get my most indefensible opinion out of the way: I have no problem with how Barbara Gordon was treated in the original Killing Joke. It is not her story. She was assaulted as part of an effort by The Joker to drive Gordon mad. In that way, yes, I suppose she is little more than a prop, but her gender is irrelevant. She was family, Gordon loved her, Joker knew that and took advantage. That is the end of her part of the narrative. Her becoming Oracle was not part of the plan, in fact in was added on later. The Killing Joke is a one shot that only had canon implications after it was released.

The Killing Joke movie, in an effort to pad its run time and flesh out a character that was not important in the first place, subjects the viewer to a thirty minute prologue about Batgirl's final few days in the cowl. It is not good, but not because of how Batgirl is treated. It is a bad episode of the old animates series, just with more violence and implied sex. The villain is boring, both Batgirl and Batman behave strangely, the payoff of Batgirl quitting has no impact, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the movie that I paid to see.

Everybody knew that Babs and Bats were going to do the horizontal batusi but I was not prepared for how embarrassing it would be. I am talking the sex scene in the Watchmen movie embarrassing. It just should not have happened. Get your slashfic out of my Batman movie!


I could tell five minutes in that the prologue was going to be bad. It never redeemed itself. But surely, surely the part of the movie that was actually The Killing Joke would be better, right?

Conroy's Batman seemed disinterested. He has always been on the dry side but without the Bruce Wayne counterpart it was almost boring. And Joker? Mark Hamill isn't getting any younger. Joker's voice is definitely different. No bad, just not as good as it used to be. Darker, more gravely, less maniacal. Hamill still hits it out of the park on a few occasions, the moment above and when delivering the classic 'To prove a point. Here's to crime.' line are prime examples but his pre-Joker character voice has very little to it. It pains me to do so but I would describe the overall performance as serviceable.

Every time the movie added something new it stuck out like a sore thumb. Batman fighting the freaks when he arrives at the amusement park was unnecessary (and the fat lady fucking dies). Batman interrogating a trio of prostitutes who seemed overly enamoured with Joker's bedroom skills was just odd. There was also at least one historical anachronism, Joker talking about world war three being started by a flock of seagulls, that could have been updated.

Oh, and this travesty:

This is a very touching moment in the book. Batman lets down his guard for just a moment in an attempt to comfort Barbara. In the movie he refers to himself as Batman. In general, Batman is a dick. He is a super dick in the movie. At least Barbara says so.


The Killing Joke is a bad movie. I am sure that many will find all sorts of enlightened reasons for its terribleness, all of which miss the point and use failed cinema as a way to advance unrelated causes. As a fan of the graphic novel, a fan of Mark Hamill's Joker, a fan of the animated series, a fan of Batman, I am disappointed. If this was the best that Warner Brothers could do with the classic source material then they should not have done anything at all.

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