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Batman: The Killing Joke

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The Killing Joke is my favourite graphic novel: Alan Moore might consider his juxtaposition of Batman and The Joker his worst work, whilst I'd consider it some of my finest hours of comic book reading. I came into The Killing Joke with monumental expectations (duh). But to analyse a film like The Killing Joke, an adaptation nonetheless, you need to come to terms with the likelihood that the adaptation will not be better than the source material. This does not excuse a bad film, only that you need to refrain from using criticism like a flamethrower just because an adaptation isn't the second coming of Jesus.

So, The Killing Joke pleased me. I thought the movie was fine. I enjoyed it. It pleased me. Perhaps I don't have a critical eye or anything, but I don't see the stumbling. I see stumbling, but not the stumbling which fans and critics alike rained hundreds of arrows upon. I see a film, that, independently produced, consisted of wholly original content, could be something commendable.

Hang with me. The Killing Joke is an adaptation of award winning material. A lot of the material is lifted from a comic and translated into this, & it is pretty great material. And we commend adaptations in on themselves, we praise aspects of a film lifted straight from a source material. For example, To Kill A Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck, is an adaptation of an American literary classic of a same name. That is where the film's monologue, social commentary and narrative came from. The delivery and performance elevate the source material, but the material to make something great generated from Harper Lee, not Robert Mulligan.

Similarly, Batman: The Killing Joke is sourced from superb material: the monologues, themes and motifs still exist, and like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird, Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy masterfully deliver career-defining performances that bring the source material to life beautifully.

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To reaffirm my argument, this does not dictate that a film's flaws be close to none, but that a film can be praised for the material that it lifted fro the book. In this instance, people praising Mark Hamill's monologue and the meeting between The Caped Crusader and The Clown Prince of Crime are once in a blue moon, whilst people praising Gregory Peck's final sentencing in To Kill A Mockingbird are dime a dozen.

Inevitably, viewers will argue that a scene is only as good as the context it fits into, which is why Peck's monologue is acclaimed as it belongs in a great film, and Hamill's belongs in a mediocre one, but the scenes in The Killing Joke as a whole aren't delivered in less context than they were delivered by Alan Moore in 1988. Of course, the adaptation will always cease to have the impact of the source material, but close to nothing here undermines the impact of the great scenes.

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The Killing Joke is far from a perfect film. Arguments can be made for thematic relevance of the haphazardly tacked on prologue segment, but without robbing these arguments of their merit, there comes a time where you stop analysing and view a film straight. When I watch the earlier segments of the Killing Joke, I see a lazily written angsty romance written by a writer who, here, seems to believe you can only establish a relationship between two adults other than sex, which is lazy writing.

But like a friend once said:

I don't take marks off for what I believe are flaws if a movie gives me other things I like. Sometimes I love a movie more for its flaws. I prefer a movie with one scene I love than ten I like. I feel over-analyzing a film takes the enjoyment out of it for me, I rather go with my gut.

If in your opinion, the main shortcoming of this film is the 30-minute prologue: your biggest problem with the movie is something I can ignore and I'm left with the 45 minutes of seeing my favourite graphic novel beautifully brought to life.

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