Many attending this year's San Diego Comic-Con International were head-over-heels excited for the exclusive premiere of Batman: The Killing Joke.
Not only was it DC's first R-rated film, but it also served as a faithful adaption of one of Batman's most popular stories to date, while attempting to add some much-needed character development for Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. Before the film's premiere, close to 4,000 attendees flocked to Ballroom 20 at the event. Most arrived early and stayed through panels such as Ash vs Evil Dead, iZombie, and Scream Queens in order to secure decent seats.
I have not read Batman: The Killing Joke and am not a particular fan of Batman or the Joker in general. What pulled me towards the film was the inclusion of Barbara Gordon, who was always one of my favorites. While I had not read Batman: The Killing Joke, I was very much aware of the controversy surrounding the story.
One of the darkest Batman works to date, The Killing Joke is not so kind to Barbara Gordon. During the panel before the film premiered, attendees were told that Barbara Gordon becomes a more fleshed out character and that a lot of original content was added so the story could flow better.
So, was Batman: The Killing Joke worth watching in the end? I can't speak for everyone else, but for me: the film hit all the wrong notes.
The film is gloomy from start to finish, from the background music to the atmosphere. Barbara Gordon appears to be the main character of the film, hence we see the world through her eyes, which is a plus for the film. She's a certified badass who upstages Batman throughout the film.
Their relationship takes a very bizarre and icky turn. That was downside #1. Batgirl becomes more of a lovesick schoolgirl and Batman remains as impassive as ever. Batman was one of the movie's biggest downsides, as his reaction to his loved ones getting hurt makes you wonder if he even has any emotions whatsoever. While it's true I'm not Batman's biggest fan, his mental state was questionable and he wasn't a protagonist I could root for.
Batgirl receives character development only to become a plot device towards the end of the film. Due to certain circumstances, Batgirl disappears from the film, but what was "done" to her remains at the forefront of the film until the climax. Now, let's talk about the film's antagonist: The Joker...
If you didn't think he was a scumbag before, you will after sitting through this film. The Joker gets a backstory as well, so we find out what made this character the monster he is. And let me tell you, I've never seen a more dissatisfying backstory. It's a version of The Joker we're all familiar with, but in the end it failed to make me feel even a shred of sympathy for his character. Boo-hoo, you lost your loved ones due to unforeseeable circumstances and fell into a pit of chemicals. That's supposed to justify all you've done thus far? Fat chance, buddy.
There have been plenty of villains whose origin stories have tugged on my heartstrings, but The Joker's isn't one of them. What he does to Batgirl overshadows any sort of sympathy I could have felt for him. Instead, all my sympathies lie with Batgirl, who was a character you could root for.
By the end, you question if what happened to her throughout the film was even necessary. Yes, The Joker is one evil son of a bitch, but was that level of violence needed to show just how evil he can be? Not in my eyes.
The initial ending of the movie is another low point as The Joker and Batman face off, with the film then taking on a more ambiguous ending. The dynamic between the two characters has always been a curious one, and the ending was trying to highlight the complicated relationship they share.
To be honest, I didn't particularly care: the ending certified that these two messed up characters are perfect for one another, but isn't that a fact we've all acknowledged on some level already? Multiple adaptations, along with the comics, have shown that Batman and The Joker are two sides of the same coin. Repetition is tedious, and this dynamic has tired me thoroughly.
Overall, fans of the comics and of Batman are bound to enjoy the film but have a few reservations about the treatment Batgirl receives. In the end, I couldn't force myself to completely like the film but there were some plus sides such as the phenomenal voice-acting, Batgirl, and the fitting score.
All in all though, Batman: The Killing Joke does not make me regret never reading the graphic novel.