The latest Batman film, The Killing Joke, has been anticipated for a long time, but not for all good reasons.
The Killing Joke is based on a classic Alan Moore story about the Dark Knight and his arch-nemesis, The Joker. Yet it isn’t just a standard face-off as usual. In it, the Joker sets out to prove to Batman that any good man is just one bad day away from madness, and sets about trying to drive hero cop Commissioner Gordon insane.
If it was just for that, the comic wouldn’t had been controversial but it’s how they reach to make Commissioner Gordon insane is what makes it controversial. And if that area of the original comic wasn’t it, the movie adds additional half hour material which instead of improving, makes the film more sexist.
The style of animation didn’t offend me as much as it did other people. I thought it harkened back to some of the older animated shows, but I’m not sure if that was the intention. I do know that there’s the remastered coloring of The Killing Joke graphic novel and the original one, which has a starkly different feel. I was expecting something with a little more grit along those lines in the animated movie, but who knows if that was an artistic liberty or a matter of budget.
The story begins with a small arc which was actually supposed to improve the image of Batgirl as a character but rather it puts her in a series of misogynist tropes. The first half hour arc showcases a rather clumsy Batgirl, making Amateurish mistakes and having impulsive sex with Batman (Yup! that right).
Later in the flick Joker shoots Gordon’s daughter, Barbara (Batgirl) which permanently makes her crippled. He then disrobes her, and takes photos of her bleeding, semi-nude on the floor, so he could show them to Gordon as a part of his elaborate torture scheme. Barbara—pretty much the only woman in the story—serves no role in The Killing Joke other than to be crippled and assaulted, the victim of sexual violence meant to fuel a male character’s development.
But by including a Batgirl vignette in the beginning, and an oddly tacked-on scene of her future as Oracle at the end, the filmmakers have actually shone a light on the comic’s most ill-conceived and criticized moment.
In theory, the additional Batgirl material was supposed to provide a counterweight to the casual misogyny in The Killing Joke. Harming women to advance the emotional development of some dude is a wearisome comic-book plot staple, and producer Bruce Timms promised that the cartoon wouldn’t follow that same old script but it kinda did.