Director: Sam Liu
Cast: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong (VOICES)
Release Date: August 2, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7.5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name, Batman: The Killing Joke takes a journey into the dark psyche of the Clown Prince of Crime – from his humble beginnings as a struggling comedian to his fateful encounter with Batman that changes both of their lives forever. Years later, and now escaped from Arkham Asylum, The Joker devises a plan to prove that one bad day can make anyone as insane as he is – setting his sights on Commissioner Gordon. It’s up to the Dark Knight to put a stop to The Joker’s latest scheme and save one of Gotham City’s finest. Following a gripping prologue introducing Barbara Gordon’s heroic adventures alongside Batman as Batgirl, Batman: The Killing Joke stays true to the authentic tale that has held fans’ imaginations for nearly three decades – spotlighting the birth of a Super-Villain, the fortitude of a Super Hero and the punchline that will leave you speechless.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
Based (primarily) on the beloved graphic novel of the same name, ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ begins with a storyline fans of the graphic novel may not be quite so familiar with, following a troubling time between Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) and Batman as their conflicting methods and choices begin to create a rift between the two heroes. A short while later we jump into The Killing Joke fans will surely be more familiar with. When a sporadic visit to Arkham Asylum for Batman to have what he feels is a much needed discussion with the Joker results in the discovery that the clown prince of crime has miraculously escaped custody, Batman begins to hunt him down. Meanwhile unbeknownst to the dark knight, the true terror of Joker’s sinister plan which involves Batman’s long time ally Jim Gordon begins to unravel and the reality is far more terrifying than anything imaginable.
‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is a dark and twisted journey into the demented psyche of the Joker, as well as the troubled relationship between the Clown Prince and the Dark Knight and the resulting personal and indirect impact of their continued squabbles. Once the film truly delves into ‘The Killing Joke’ storyline it’s a powerful, tense and even unsettling ride that should easily enthrall most Batman and/or DC Comics fans not only with its intensity and brutal nature, but with the highly anticipated return of so many notable voice actors from the groundbreaking 1990’s animated series including (but not limited to) Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill who both reprise their voice roles of Batman and the Joker respectively. Unfortunately the film does suffer from the newly integrated opening the animated film contributes which feels painfully out of place, even for someone such as me who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading ‘The Killing Joke’ graphic novel and nonetheless promptly noticed the uneasy shift. The opening segment keeps true to the dark nature of the story and provides some solid insight into the rift between Batman and Batgirl, yet its inability to truly merge within the subsequent adaption never occurs and the result is a film that feels more like two animated episodes set back to back than a feature length film. That notable problem aside, ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ certainly delivers in nearly every other aspect and any fan of the graphic novel as well as Batman and DC fans in general definitely won’t want to miss out on it.
Overall, ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is a dark and riveting exploration of the troubled relationship between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of crime as well as a shocking glimpse at how truly deranged the Joker is and the events that began him upon that path. While the film suffers a degree from an added opening sequence that never seems to fit properly within and results in a somewhat broken film overall, it’s still certainly quite the treat. The brutal intensity and dark nature, in addition to the anticipated return of voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill all result in one jaw dropping animated adaption that I would highly recommend any Batman and/or DC Comics fan make sure to give a shot. It’s certainly more than worth the cost of a rental for those who may be hesitant to make a blind purchase.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty great as a whole, providing a relatively sharp and detailed presentation from start to finish which aside from the brief instances of banding we’ve all come to accept and even expect from the DC Animated titles, holds up admirably even during the numerous darkly lit and/or fast paced sequences, never resulting in anything occurring on screen to become rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a pretty solid high definition video presentation that should largely please the masses.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack sounds fantastic and delivers a consistently crisp, clean and aggressive audio presentation. Regularly utilizing all five available channels in order to sent a plethora of action related auditory effects and other general ambience throughout the various speakers, while always making certain that any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously never becomes distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a wonderful and fairly hard hitting 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that perfectly complements the film and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ includes a few solid extras along with a few random older extras from previous DC Animated releases. Included on the release are a couple of Behind the Scenes Featurettes that include interviews/comments with the creative team and more, the included Featurettes are: ‘Batman The Killing Joke: The Many Shades of The Joker’ (running approximately 18 minutes in length), and ‘Madness Set to Music’ (running approximately 12 minutes). We are also treated to ‘A Sneak Peak at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Justice League Dark’ (approximately 8 minutes), as well as the odd inclusion of Sneak Peak’s at three other DC Animated Titles taken from previous releases, the old Sneak Peak’s include ‘Batman: Assault on Arkham’ and ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Parts 1 & 2)’ (running approximately 7-13 minutes each). As usual, a couple of bonus cartoon episodes are also included within ‘From the DC Comics Vault’, this time featuring: ‘Batman: The Animated Series – Christmas with The Joker’ (22 minutes), and ‘The New Batman Adventures – Old Wounds’ (21 minutes).