Feature 82 – Batman: the Killing Joke (2016)

or “The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

Featuring the voices of: Kevin “’Batman: The Animated Series‘” Conroy , Mark “the Star Wars movies” Hamill , Tara “’The New Batman Adventures‘” Strong

Director: Justin “Planet Hulk” Liu

Writer: Brian “Batman: Gotham Knight” Azzarello

Origin: USA

Review_____

“It doesn’t have to be good to be a classic!”

Uggh, the summer heat continues to drain my waning lifeforce straight out of my sweat holes on a daily basis. Call me Carbon monoxide, cuz I’m exhausted. Much like Simon Le Bon in “Hungry Like the Wolf”, I smell like I sound… if I sound like the embodiment of misery trapped in Sam Raimi’s Skinner flesh suit, saturated with the contents of the New York Giants’ training camp sweat bucket. Fucking festering bloody HELL! Those Faux News knob ends love to make their tired old “Where’s all this global warming liberal nonsense now?!” jokes every winter when the quicksilver dips into single digits (because they’re thumb sitting finger sniffers who don’t know how climate change works), but where are the same snide comments when every street reporter and their sweet Aunt Petunia is cooking Hot Pockets and fried eggs on the sidewalks? Exactly. Twats.

Speaking of twats, as good as a comic writer as Alan Moore is, he's got an unfortunate obsession with putting rape scenes into a lot of his work. I know it makes his stuff more “adult” and “gritty”, but there is an unnerving preoccupation with sexual assault going on in that man's head, and possibly even scarier things going on in that man's beard. These moments are always done in nauseating ways that make sure to remind the reader that rape is not an arousing act, but a hideous crime committed by monsters in human costumes, so I'm not accusing him of including them for his own titillation nor to attract sales from miserable worms who do get off on that shit. For you SAT lovers out there, sexual assaults are to Alan Moore’s work as The Classic is to Sam Raimi’s movies! Despite my prior diatribe (“priotribe”?) though, today’s review is for the recently animated adaptation of one of the man’s most prolific DC Comics projects of the ’80s, and one of the least rape prevalent works on the man’s resume. Whether it’s because even a “mature readers only” Batman story was only allowed to go so far under the watchful eye of Big Brother DC or Moore just wanted to leave it up to the readers’ brains to fill in the blanks with their own Mad Libs-ian answers, there was no graphic intercourse (forced or otherwise) to be had in this tale, considered by many to be the definitive story of the Batman’s oldest and darkest nemesis – the Joker.

Warning: If you’ve never read the 29 year-old comic book this movie is based on and are allergic to so-called cinematic spoilers, continue not but at your own risk! I have much to muse on this venture and not the emotional balance to tip-toe around all the broken glass. If you choose not to heed Crazy Ralph’s warning, your severed head will have no one but yourself to blame!

Originally conceived as an alternate universe one off (a gimmick DC would later dub “Elseworlds” stories), “The Killing Joke” laid out the Joker’s till-then-untold origin, making Batman and his cackling nemesis much more alike that anyone would have thought before. Although it drew these parallels between the pair it also made clear that three people, who each suffered the worse single days of their individual lives, all took very different paths amid their own personal mental fallout. As much as we’re all the same, we’re all still very very different… and yes, I ate the cookie after reading that.

The Clown Prince of Crime had escaped from Arkham Asylum yet again to cause his signature brand of maniacal mayhem. Rather than attack Batman directly this time, Grinnin’ Jo’ targeted the number one accomplice to the vigilante’s acts: GCPD Commissioner James Gordon. Jimmie’s night of terror began with his daughter Barbara being shot in the abdomen, leaving the lovely ginger paralyzed from the waist down and clawing at her unwanted second navel as she bled out on the carpet of her dad’s apartment. After getting throttled by the Laughing Man’s hired goons (Homer Simpson: “Hired goons?!”), Gordon would wake up later in the remnants of a rundown amusement park, the likes of which you’d expect to be owned by Dick Van Dyke and “haunted” by a guy pretending to be the ghost of a sideshow strongman in an episode of “The New Scooby Doo Movies”. Upon regaining said consciousness, the Commish (not to be confused with Michael Chiklis and his radioactive orange rubble dick) was stripped naked and harnessed by creepy bug-eyed midgets in S&M dungeon cupid get-ups, then dragged through a Tunnel of Love Torment where Mr. J tried to drive him to utter madness (not to be confused with the script-in-progress for my mad cow disease scare movie Udder Madness) with a bombardment of images showing the crippled and bloody Barbara in a disturbing state of undress.

Whether Jokes actually violated Babs with his unfunny bone in the process has been a state of contention between readers in the nigh-thirty calendars passed since its publication. Moore himself declared that Barbara was NOT raped in the story, but in a world where so-called Christian politicians are frequently disregarding their own fucking POPE every time the old man tells them to stop stealing from the poor and shoving golden butt plugs up their asses, fanboys and fangirls continue to debate exactly how many fluids stained that carpet off-panel and from whom they came.

That wasn’t intended as a rape joke, but it feels like it came out a lot skeezier than my usual sense of perverse humor normally would, given the context. If it made your guts feels greasier than a bag of McDonald’s double cheeseburgers (I’m convinced they straight up dip those nasty sammies into a bucket of old grease next to the grill before they wrap ’em up), my apologies.

Remember the part where I said “Killing Joke” was intended as an alt uni story? Well, it was so popular and well received that DC opted to make it canonical and crippled Batgirl in the base continuity. Babs would inspirationally overcome the limitations of her handicap and continue on as the superhero information broker Oracle, hacking the bad guys’ Ashley Madison accounts from the comfort of her wheelchair and forever battling the scourge of bedsores on her backside. Don’t laugh. Bedsores killed Superman, after all! Anyway, DC later rebooted their entire existence and recreated it as “The New 52”, a world where Miss Gordon would still be shot in the spine by the murderous jester of ill-repute, but would fully recover from the physical trauma and retake her place as the be-breasted member of the Batman’s brood, ultimately becoming a hipster heroine residing with the trust fund trash in Gotham’s version of Williamsburg. Blart.

If any of the trigger material I’ve run down up to this point has bothered you at all (especially for those with a fear of thick rimmed glasses and pork pie hats from that last bit), then I suggest you end your experience here and return the unused portion for a full refund… of your zero dollar investment. Fair warning – as much as everyone was anticipating this cartoon conversion of the beautifully rendered battle between two disturbed paragons of good and evil (if you haven’t seen Brian Bolland’s original art, get thee to a funnybook dispensary and partake, post haste!), it’s so much sleazier than the material that inspired it.

Killing Joke was released by Warner Bros (owners of DC Comics) one convenient week before their summer blockbuster-to-be, Suicide Squad. Despite being a team movie, the only real focus of the live-action SS has been on team member Harley Quinn and the controversial remodeling of their white trash version of The Joker, which does a disservice to the rest of the potentially entertaining cast. No diggity, a better suited title would’ve been Joker & Harley: Send in the Clowns! (featuring Batfleck and Big Willy Style). Hoping for something more than a marketing tie-in, fans moistened their Underoos when it was revealed that the characters’ voice actors from the now classic “Batman: the Animated Series” would be reprising the roles they helped make larger than life for kids of the ’90s. Kevin Conroy as Batman! Luke Skywalker as Joker! What’s-her-name as Batgirl! Woohoo! But, was it actually worth the anticipatory pants shittings that came about from the announcement?

To kick things off, if you were wondering how a 64 page one-shot graphic novel was going to be stretched into a 90 minute feature, that answer comes in the form of an original Batgirl tale, written by renowned comic scribe Brian Azzarello. Regarding the Bat, the Bazz has some experience already, including the acclaimed “Joker” one-shot with the dynamic Lee Bermejo on art, and the much less lauded “Broken City” storyline in the main “Batman” series with illustrator Eduardo Risso. In all fairness, “Broken City” was coming off of the heels of the massively successful all-star pairing of Jim Lee & Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” event, so despite not revolutionizing the character, it wasn’t a bad story so much as it was overshadowed… and I’ve probably lost most of you after that last paragraph, meant for comic geeks over Hollywood hangers-on. MOVING ON!

Presumably taking place in the period between the murder of Robin 2 and the arrival of Robin 3, Batgirl (Tara Strong) is pulling sidekick shifts for Batman (Kevin Conroy), helping keep the peace in Gotham City. And doing it in high heels no less! As with any female in a position of prominence, Barbara’s garnered the unwanted attentions of a fan-gone-too-far in the form of a criminal who calls himself Paris Franz (Maury Sterling)… really, Bazz? That’s what you call him? Sweet Christmas, man, if you didn’t want the job you could’ve just turned it down! Uggh.

This small time sleazeball has a hard-on for the ginger vigilante and though his efforts to get cozy with her go unrequited, they’re still enough to throw the high-heeled hero off her game and allow him to continuously get away. This doesn’t sit well with her spandex clad father figure, who reprimands her several times about staying away from Paris the Tongue Bandit. Pretty hypocritical of the old man, given his long term on(her)-again, (get)off-again humpin’ buddies relationship with Catwoman, not to mention (though I’m mentioning it) his belfry bang sessions with Talia fucking al Ghul, which resulted in the birth of THEIR SON! For Fastback’s sake, Bats, you ran out of orphans to be your leotarded right hands, so why not knock up the daughter of one of your most dangerous enemies for Robin #5! Left your Bat condoms back at the cave and figured Talia couldn’t get pregnant if she just jumped up and down after?! Sounds like Alfred was a pretty piss poor home educator when it came time to have “the talk”.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Batgirl. She rebels like a teenager, throwing hissy fits in her private life and rebuking Die Fledermaus’ orders, shouting about how she can handle the job and how her hormones won’t get in the way… then she completely contradicts herself and throws herself all over Bruce’s batpole. And so signals the moment when Brian Azzarello shat away his legitimacy with a large section of the fanbase.

Sorry kids, but it’s true. Batgirl is reduced to being a hormonal chick with authority issues who just can’t keep her tongue to herself. And Batman? He’s equally incapable of controlling his animal urges (despite how his whole deal is being in control of everything) for the sake of trying to give geeks something to wank about. Bats swaps spit with his young protege, gropes her ass, and gives his will over to Lil’ Brucie as his nubile daughter figure straddles him and undresses herself faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth as a creepy concrete gargoyle creep-eyes the joining of junk from above.

For the kids out there – a phone booth was basically a Tardis without all the space-time manipulation stuff. They just had, well, a phone inside. Shut up. I’m not old, you’re just stupid! BAH!

I thought the numerous shots of Batgirl’s/Barbara’s backside were the gratuitous work of a 14yo boy before this, and had concerns when one scene featured a redheaded hooker alluding to Paris’ penchant for mask play, but for the filthy love of Bob fucking Kane (or Bill fucking Finger, depending on whose side you’re on), Bazz! No, you know what, forget my prior pet name. After reducing this to a PG-13 fanboy fantasy, your new moniker is now “Brazz”, as in short for “Brazzers”.

And for the dickards out there wanking themselves to this with one hand (Seriously? Google “Batgirl hentai” or just search “Batgirl” on PornHub, YouPorn, PayNadaPornanza, or whatever your free fuck movie service of choice) and using the other to type out disparaging YouTube comments for those of us against the needless character assassination going on here or anywhere else by calling us “social justice warriors” because we're not misogynists like you, feel free to choke on your own mincing members, you putrid, seething, self-loathing, subhumanoid cum squats.

What nut fart coined phrases like “social justice warrior” and “white knight” to begin with, anyway? Clearly some CHUD who thought that the reason women weren’t throwing themselves face first at his dick had nothing to do with his being a sack of rancid garbage and everything to do with weak little pussy boys who pretend they’re better than him by treating women like they’re not just prettied up breeding stock put on this planet to make casseroles and babies. Just the type of scrotal flea who thinks words like “social justice” and “white knight” are bad things, because they go against the “alpha male” rapist personality that they were told they had to be their entire lives if they wanted to be a success, but upon whom the total irony of using those terms as insults is lost when they’re looking up to heroes like Batman as their fucking idol. Grow up, you simpering shit sniffers. Learn some gods damned empathy and figure out how people want to be treated instead of just treating them like crap for starters! Chances are you can’t afford to import a slave wife of your own, so straighten the hell up or you’re only going to have yourself to blame when you die alone having never known real love.

And not that mandatory love given by someone who was legally responsible for your well being. That doesn’t count!

And the fuckery doesn't end there, either. Oh no no no. After giving Batgirl the best sex of her life (as we're forced to overhear during one of Babs' workplace girltalk sessions with her gay co-worker, who might wanna call the fire department, cuz he's a straight up flaming stereotype), post-hookup Batman turns into Craftsman (i.e. a complete tool) and altogether AVOIDS Batgirl. For WEEKS. So, the same guy who’s trained his mind and his body for decades to the point of being one of the most dangerous men on Earth becomes a whimpering little bitch-boy just like that?! Holy chastity cages! Matching wits with Riddler? Going toe-to-claw with Killer Croc? Holding the mangled corpse of his murdered ward in his arms? Nothing, compared to the nerve crushing intimidation of having to talk to Batgirl after a one-nighter. Did she slip a digit in his dumper without asking and he’s ashamed that he liked it? Did he blurp out a Brodie Bruce while she was going down on him? Did he call her “Robin” when he came? You’re Batman, for fuck’s sake! BATMAN! DAMN IT, BRAZZ! WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE EDGY?! YOU ACTUALLY GOT PAID FOR THIS!? BUCKETS OF BLOOD! ARGH!

That's it. Forgive me if this sounds like fanboy rage, but if I linger on this amateur fanfic shit storm story any longer, I'm gonna have a fucking stroke and risk losing my spot in the tontine I signed into with the boys and girls from up North for the keys to the Kraken. From this point on, the movie basically follows the “Killing Joke” story to the letter anyway, minus a bonus scene here and there for further running time enhancement. Unfortunately, this includes one of Bats hitting up some hookers for info on Jokeman that just tries to lead more credence to the “Joker raped crippled Barbara” theory THAT ALAN MOORE ALREADY SQUASHED. Yep, more of that edgy “pander to the maturity retarded” bullshit to try and justify the R rating. Guy Gardner help me…

Okay, so the story’s a lead balloon filled with farts in a church… so much for mixing metaphors. The entire first half, which was created to not just pad time (mmmm, pad thai) but show non-fans why Batgirl’s part in the story is important (which it never really was, and now just smells like so much exploitational stink!), is just needless and irritating and tonally wrong wrong WRONG!

That said, let's pretend we're a Grindr user with blue balls and see how the rest measures up! The animation is solid. It's standard DC stuff a la previous Batman Merrie Melodies, such as Under the Red Hood and Son of Batman. That’s not a bad thing if you’re looking for a more realistic art style. It fits the other DC movies just fine, but not so much in this instance. Brian Bolland’s art (I repeat, funnybook dispensary, post haste, get thee!) in the book is a high standard to live up to. Its heavier shadowing and richer colors are poorly represented by the paint-by-numbers job we end up watching. And in a story that hinges on Joker’s personal flashbacks and special demented brand of insanity, there’s so much room for creative license that just gets ignored! To paraphrase the late Heath Ledger’s jolly sociopath, “Why so lazy?” Maybe WB could’ve taken a cue from Beavis and Butthead Do America‘s Rob Zombie hallucination sequence and brought in industry folks like Sam Keith (remember the MTV adaptation of his psychedelic “Maxx” comic book?) or Simon Bisley to add their own stylized touch, punching the visuals up a bit. Hel, go outside of the proverbial comic box and hire a freak like Ralph Steadman to really kick the shit out of those bastard visuals! You just know those visuals did something to deserve it, so if the cops come around asking if you witnessed anything, you didn’t see NOTHIN’. Got it? Good.

By the way, if you hate rambling reviews where the writer just pisses on and on about how they would've done the thing they're reviewing differently, my apologies. I try not to be that person, but comic books are one of the few things I’ve had a boner for longer than movies. Sometimes my metaphorical urine stream just doesn’t stop and we get an “Ogre takes the world’s longest leak in Revenge of the Nerds 2” position like the one I’m currently locked into. I once again throw myself to your tender mercies in repentance, but I don’t feel right when bitching isn’t backed up with reasons and alternatives aren’t offered by the offended. It’s too “Conservative politician” for me.

As mentioned, the announcement of Kevin Conroy AND Mark Hamill returning to lend their voices to the pop culture icons that they helped redefine during the dark days that were the Schumacher movies left the internet losing control of its collective bladder. I mean, sure, the duo had just finished voicing the very same pairing last year in the Batman: Arkham Knight video game (as they had also done for the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City installments before), but what self-respecting geek plays video games these days, right?! Ignoring the massive sarchasm with which I just split the Earth apart wider than Michelle Duggar’s birthing void, the reason this was a big deal was due to Hamill’s vow that he would never again do his signature Joker voice (because of the wear and tear is does to his vocal chords), unless there was to be an adaptation of “The Killing Joke”. So, banking on Hamill’s renewed popularity following his part in the highest grossing movie of all time (which I still haven’t watched), DC and WB fast tracked the production with a Wally West quickness, cracked out on the possibility of a “Big money, no Whammies!” payout. Too bad they also managed to bury the lead when it was announced before the movie’s release that this wouldn’t be Marky Mark Skywalker’s final portrayal of the clown-faced killer, as he and Conroy are both coming back AGAIN to voice their respective alter egos for the not-out-as-of-this-writing cartoon series “Justice League Action”…

Were this not disappointing enough, not only is the Hamill “get” not nearly as special as we were first told, but the damage the Joker role has done to the old man is pretty damn prevalent listening to the hoarse delivery, with several instances of bordering-on-cracking. You can just picture his voice box exploding like an IED the next time a convention hall full of fanfolk goads him into doing it “just one more time!”. Even if Cock-Knocker's gullet wasn’t resembling that of a deep throat porn star’s post-retirement, Killing Joke‘s dialogue is just too moody and philosophical for his brand of Mr. J mania. Alan Moore’s words are some of Joker’s most prolific, but they’re square pegs in Hamill’s round mouth hole. HOWEVER, I gotta give props where they’re owed – Hamill’s rendition of the movie’s big song and dance number is perfectly suited for him and he pulled it off brilliantly. Kudos!

Speaking of said scene, here’s something else I can’t let slip through my grip without a gripe – Joker’s gaggle of sideshow goons. Yes, with every day of age I get a little more cantankerous and bitching about small things is cheaper than therapy. Now, despite what the posters of Old Man Withers’ haunted amusement park would suggest, I’m presuming that Joker’s gang was not included with the deed and are an actual team of thugs he had on retainer for whenever he made his latest escape from Arkham. They’re all trained in various disciplines of combat (including the two-headed lady’s knife-throwing ability, which is sometimes accurate enough to take Batman’s smoke bombs out in mid-air, but other times inaccurate enough to stab her own associates in the back) to further pad the action a tad, but they’re also fairly well trained as a troupe of back-up dancers for Joker’s big musical scene… The fuck?

As much as some of my opposition to the movie during my first viewing cooled off by the second viewing, it’s still far from great. What should’ve been a milestone in DC appealing to their mature audiences with an adaptation of one of the Dark Knight’s most infamous tales instead turned out to be a clunky, uneven, off-putting clusterfuck that tries too hard to humanize its heroes and only tarnishes them when all is said and done. In the end, The Killing Joke lands in the camp of crappy attempts at making Alan Moore comics into movies, right alongside The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. Much like post-bang “bitchy broad” Barbara, who hurls a civilian onto the back of his head for no reason beyond telling his girlfriend he needs space (IT HAPPENS!), I’m tossing The Killing Joke into some bushes and walking away like nothing happened.

As Warner Bros spokesbacon Porky Pig always says, “F-f-f-f-f-f-fuck off, folks!”

Moral of the Story: As per his own words, The Joker is a connoisseur of piss… Now all I can think of is Batman’s deadliest villain, dressed like a purple hipster, partaking in a frothy yellow wine tasting. Damn it.

Screenshots_____


“Wanna see me do a trick? But first, did you ever see Night of the Demons III? I don’t want to spoil the surprise!”


So the villain of this story is Guy Smiley?


Ever since the mall perfume stands switched to a commission only pay structure, employees have gotten WAY too aggressive.


“Can you hurry up and catch the damn Vulpix already?! We’ve got crime to fight!”


Wow, even underwater that guy’s hair retains its full body! He must use Mary Matthews’ All Natural Protein Hair Gel™.


I wonder if Peter knows that Mary Jane’s been posing for sexy mobster paintings… really shitty paintings at that. Why’s her torso so short?!


“Sorry Manuel. As much as I’d like to strike out under my own persona, I just don’t think ‘Pigeon Princess’ strikes fear into the heart of the criminal element.”


“Oh my god! Mad Hatter’s running naked through the street!”
“Meh. I’ve seen bigger. And scarier. Ever seen Killer Croc naked? Trust me, you don’t want to.”


“BatPhone jack… BatPhone jack… DAMN IT! Why do I always have to put so much bullshit in my car that I can’t even find the Grodd damn BatPhone jack without a GPS?!”


Get it? Cuz it says “GOTHAMS RAGE” and Batman is Gotham’s outlet of revenge? You know, like in Batman Returns, when Catwoman wrecks her big neon “Hello There” sign and it says “Hell Here”? Uggh.


Despite tragic results with early test audiences, Sony went through with the release of Paul Blart 2 as planned. Though the long-term damage to society as a whole has yet to be measured, experts agree that we, as a species, may never recover…


That’s not so much an advertisement for the Fat Lady as it is a matter-of-fact poster made for skeptics. “See… the Fat Lady. I told you she was real. Pay up.”


The Joker’s secret origin? He used to be Kramer!
(And why the fuck is that doorway twice the size of the actual door?!)


I’ve had fantasies that looked exactly like this… uhm, I mean, “nightmares”! I’ve had nightmares that looked exactly like this!


“The fax machine at work broke down, so the company’s sent me out door-to-door to inform people that they may be eligible for our free cruise giveaway!”


Many wars and feuds did Joker fight. Honor and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand… But that is another story.


“Yeah, we can do all that! But you’re gonna have to pay us the premium rate, you give us the money up front, and if you put this up online, our pimp is gonna scalp you! Now, you got a room already, or you wanna use ours?”


“Damn it. EVERY time I start making brownies, these assholes need something!”
(How the Hel is he even able to see the signal from that position!?)


Alright, which one of you assholes got Bat Mite hooked on meth?!


“No… hey… come on, Bats… you gotta stop… DAMN IT! I HAVEN’T EVEN TOLD YOU THE JOKE YET! STOP LAUGHING!”

———————————————————
———————————————————

Anubis will return next time in
“#SquadHoles”

Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

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