Monday, August 15, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: The Killing Joke

Based on the groundbreaking prestige format one-shot by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, Warner Bros. decided to take on the task of the most controversial Batman comic by turning it into an animated feature. This was slightly difficult not because of the mature nature, but because the original material would only make for about a 45-minute long feature. So, to pad out the running time to at least over an hour, they decided to put a separate prelude featuring Batgirl, slightly based on the Batgirl Special one-shot that came out less than a year prior to Batman: The Killing Joke. This was met with a lot of backlash from the fan community, partially because it doesn't completely fit in to the main segment, but mostly because it shown to further DC animated projects weird habit of shipping characters who don't have any love interest in each other in the comics, or even meet up that regularly either(i.e.: Green Lantern and Hawkgirl).

Taking place in its own storyline with no connection to Batman: The Animated Series or any of the other DC projects like the New 52 movies, this story starts out with Batgirl meeting up with Batman chasing an up an coming young mobster, Paris Franz(made up for the movie). Paris takes a shining to Batgirl, while trying to take over his uncle's mob, and nearly succeeds in trapping Batgirl with sleeping gas, so Batman forbids her to go after Paris. Batgirl defiantly fights against Batman, where things heat up and of course leads to them making out on a rooftop. Whether this is Batman projecting Catwoman or some other ex-girlfriend in tight leather onto Batgirl is never really explained, but he then distances himself from her while hunting Paris. However, Paris gets the drop on him by hitting the Batmobile with a rocket launcher, but Batgirl shows up punch the living wazoo out of him, blaming him for the rift now formed between her and Batman. Barbara Gordon then retires from being Batgirl, partially for her feelings for Batman, but also because Paris made the whole hero business too personal for her.

The next part is a pretty clear adaptation of The Killing Joke itself. although the prelude does succeed in realizing how Batgirls aggression towards Paris mirrors his relationship with the Joker, who has recently escaped Arkham. While Batman beats down thugs trying to find him, Joker invades Commissioner Gordon's apartment, kidnapping him, and shooting Barbara which paralyzes her legs. Joker takes Gordon to an abandoned amusement park he "bought", and tortures Gordon with naked pictures of Barbara he took after shooting her. Batman is invited to the Joker's park, and fights off his freak show minions, afterwards he discovers Gordon has still kept his sanity despite the Joker's torture. The Dark Knight chases after the Clown Prince in a near fight to the death, but Batman's spares him in the hope he might someday be able to save Joker from his own madness. This ends in the notoriously ambiguous finale as to whether Batman kills the Joker after telling him a joke that sums up their relationship.

The backlash given to the movie is given mostly to fans hating the Batman/Batgirl sex scene, which is because the majority of longtime comics fans were stuck on Batgirl and Robin being a couple, plus Batgirl being the daughter of one of Batman's best allies. The original Batgirl Special the prelude was inspired by would have worked within the confines of The Killing Joke movie as a DC Showcase, similar to the Catwoman special was released with Batman: Year One as a follow up to the movie centering on the Catwoman of that movie's universe. It would mean that the The Killing Joke itself would either be even more padded out by about another 10 minutes or so, but it might have simmered some serious heat off of it. It is satisfying to finally see a DC Universe movie where Batgirl has an active role, however the DC animated features "fetish" of hooking up unrelated characters doesn't pan out well here, even though its long been established that Batgirl has had a thing for Batman. The actual Killing Joke portion of the movie is exceptionally well done, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill being recast as the eternal rivals. Some have criticized that the animation doesn't fully live up to Brian Bolland's style, but considering how realistic his art style was back in the day, this was no easily obtainable task. However, the design and animation manage to work well for this feature, at least up to the same specs as some of the current DC Universe animated projects. It's worth a look at, mostly because of its historical significance, but also as a inventive take on one of the highest regarded titles in American comics.

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