Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

(On Cable TV, February 2017) Hmm. I’m a moderate Batman fan at best, but I do own the Killing Joke graphic novel from which this animated film is adapted, and I’m not happy to report that Batman: The Killing Joke has taken the worst aspects of the source material and amplified them. In an effort to expand the rather short story into a feature film, the screenwriter somehow thought it would be a good idea to spend the first half of the film focusing on Batgirl, giving her temper tantrums and a sex scene with Batman (!) before cynically using her as a revenge motivator though mutilation and an implied side order of sexual assault. Geez … for a movie consciously aiming for an R rating (with blood, language and disturbing themes), The Killing Joke often feels like an adolescent discovering swearwords and adult topics … and then overusing them to the point of self-parody. By the time the central conflict between Batman and the Joker finally unfolds, viewers with the slightest moral scruples will have checked out of the film and withheld their suspension of disbelief. The result isn’t fun. It doesn’t even feel meaningful, important or even respectable: It feels trashy, exploitative and misguided. The low quality of the animation doesn’t help. I don’t mind gritty takes on superhero stories, but The Killing Joke goes too far and makes me feel dirty. Not recommended. Hilariously enough, trying to watch this film on Canada’s The Movie Network proved to be an adventure, as the film was announced early, but then showed up weeks later in listings as “Batman: Bad Blood”. As a result, I wasn’t too sure for a long time what I was watching—the pieces started clicking once the Joker was introduced midway through. In retrospect, this may have been a way from the universe to dissuade me from seeing the results.

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