The latest installment of the DC animated movies adapts the Brian Bolland graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. Best known as the story in which Barbara Gordon is hot and crippled resulting in her giving up the role of Batgirl and becoming Oracle. The film changes the story slightly to put more of a focus on Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and her relationship with Batman before the shooting, but does so while keeping the spirit and quality of the original intact.
The film can be divided into three main story elements: the relationship between Batman and Batgirl, the origin of the Joker, and the Joker’s kidnapping of James Gordon and shooting of Barbara Gordon. The first element deals with Barbara trying to figure out her feelings towards Batman and Batman’s to her. Is she a student, a girlfriend, a colleague or something else. Batman’s insistence on remaining aloof and not making personal connections make it difficult for her to decipher where she stands. When she finally says to Batman that she thought they were partners, his answer, “We are, but we’re not equals,” only further confuses the situation. Ultimately, she finds her equilibrium and is content with the situation before things go haywire and she is shot. The origin of the Joker and the subsequent kidnapping and shooting are taken right from the comic.
For fans of Batman: The Animated Series the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and the Joker are welcome. While many have played these roles, in both live action and animated versions, these two remain the best voice actors to bring the characters to the screen, and make many of the live action versions seem cartoonish in comparison. Their return alone makes the film worth watching. Tara Strong as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl does an excellent job bringing the character’s conflict to life.
A faithful adaptation, fans of the original graphic novel will not be disappointed. Fans who haven’t read the original will enjoy the film for its depth, story, and emotional context. All in all, one of DC’s best recent adaptations, although the quality of the original material has a lot to do with that.