Batman The Killing Joke (2016) review

One from the to watch pile…
Batman The Killing Joke (2016)

Film: Batman has never been my favourite superhero, but he’s always been right up near the top. His parliament of villains though, are unsurpassed by any other comic. Characters like Two-Face, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Catwoman and the Joker in different circumstances are Travis Bickle, The Godfather, Hannibal Lector, Lisbeth Salander or Freddy Kruger; since the 80s, the writers of Batman have always given a real cinematic personality to Batman villains.

Specifically this has happened since the 80s because of three comics that took the childlike elements of comics, and made them for adults. These comics all came from DC because in those days, Marvel weren’t anywhere near the same page as DC in terms of understanding that there were now adults who had been reading comics since they were kids and they still waded in the kiddies end of the pool. DC though, struck out with three comics that changed the face of comics: Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and the comic that this DC animated feature is based on The Killing Joke.

The Killing Joke specifically is a Batman/ Joker story and explores not the differences that they have always shown… The good/bad dichotomy… But instead the similarities of their psychoses.

The Killing Joke introduces us to Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, a sidekick who also has somewhat of a crush on him. We explore her and Batman’s relationship in the first act with an investigation into a mobster, and how it grows into something more that just a professional relationship.

After we get that relationship down, we lead into the real horror story which is of the Joker on the loose in Gotham City, and when he maims Barbara and kidnaps her father, Commissioner Gordon, Batman’s investigative powers go into high gear… As does his need for revenge…

In and amongst this story, we get a glimpse into the origin of the Joker… Or one of the many origins he claims, anyway.

The animated version does have a slight difference in the story from the comic, in that they have included more Batgirl as an introduction so what the Joker does to her has more gravity to someone who may enjoy these movies, but don’t necessarily have a large volume of DC Universe knowledge running through there skulls. Within the confines of this feature it works well, and the actual comic itself probably would have been far to short for a feature over an hour, so it’s a welcome addition, though there is clearly two completely separate acts. The thing I found real interesting is that obviously Moore’s resistance to his stories being translated into film or TV have resulted in his name being completely removed from the credits. I can’t say whether this is upon his request or DC’s, but I assume the former is the truth.

This film received a lot of criticism about the relationship between Batman and Batgirl, but I don’t think it’s as bad as they say, and doesn’t really vary from Batgirl’s origins. Almost every incarnation of the comic version of the character have had Barbara become Batgirl due to an obsession with the Dark Knight, and to have her act in that obsession isn’t completely unreasonable. Also, the character has always been of varying age, sometimes she’s a university student, so maybe 18 to 22, or working in a library, and not an ingenue librarian either, but an established one, so we are talking mid 20s to 30… These ages aren’t unreasonable to have a sexual liaison with a man in his late 30s to early 40s.

The animation is great, and lies somewhere between TV animation and a Disney feature, but it does emulate Killing Joke comic artist, Brian Bolland’s art satisfactorily, but obviously, and those that know Bolland’s work will appreciate it would be difficult, not exact to his style. It does replicate his layouts and animates them efficiently.

The voice acting is perfect and reuses the Batman regulars Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl, and they all complete their roles perfectly. Hamill’s Joker particularly has a comic psychosis too it that is truly disturbing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this take of The Killing Joke, and look forward to, considering the post-credit sequence, a Birds of Prey animated film sometime in the future. Batgirl has always been a favourite of mine, and this was a great introduction to the character!

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of this film was the Australian region B bluray which runs for 72 mins and is presented in an immaculate 1.78:1 widescreen with a Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: These DC animated features almost always have a bunch of features, and The Killing Joke is no exception.

The disc actually opens with a trailer for Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and an ad for the DC Season Pass, which incorporates all the DC TV series’s currently airing like Supergirl, Gotham, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

Then we get into the REAL extras, which include trailers for the animated feature Batman: Bad Blood, the film Suicide Squad and the DC All Access App.

From the DC Comics Vault has two cartoons: ‘Christmas with the Joker’ from Batman: The Animated Series and ‘Old Wounds’ from The New Batman Adventures.

We also have Sneak Peeks of their next animated movie, Justice League Dark, and previous releases, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2 and Assault on Arkham.

Madness Set to Music talks to the composers and cast who worked the score of The Killing Joke.

Batman The Killing Joke: The Many Shades of Joker is a character dissection of the Joker.

Score: *****

WISIA: I really love these animated DC features and they always get watched again just because they are so much better than any comic based live-action film, DC, Marvel or otherwise. They don’t feel they need to retell origin stories over and over, and just tell the tale of heroic deeds and villainous acts.

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Batman Vs Superman (2016)

Film: Seeing as how the Marvel movies have become such a part of the cinema vernacular now, it’s hard to talk about any comic based movie without a comparison or two. Now I have been collecting comics for years and love it when any character comes to the cinema, be it a major company’s superhero, or a more lowbrow attempt like Ghost World or American Splendour.

Sometimes it’s those single films that work better, and unfortunately, when one creates a cinematic ‘universe’, the later films have the potential to collapse under the weight of the amount of story, characters and open/ unresolved plot threads (still waiting for Samuel Sterns appearance as the Leader, Marvel… Where is it?)

As a kid I always enjoyed seeing my favourite DC heroes come to cinema with the Superman and Batman films, and even though I am not thoroughly convinced by some of the later Christopher Nolan Batman films casting choices, they did show that you don’t need to talk down to people who like comic based films: simply make an action film with comic book characters in it!

The makers of Marvel films took that and ran with it too, and their success of their universe creation reflects that, and now, after years of Batman and Superman movies, and Wonder Woman TV shows, DC have decided to follow suit. 

It would appear that DC are entering the cinematic universe world now too, with this film Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereby referred to as BvS for abbreviation’s sake), which could also have been called Batman and Superman have a misunderstanding, check out Wonder Woman, and fight some poor cgi controlled by a badly realised super villain. 

I’ll just point out that badly realised super villain is Lex Luthor, not director Zack Snyder.

This edition is the so-called ‘Ultimate’ edition which contains both the theatrical cut, and an ‘ultimate’ cut which contains about 30 minutes more footage. For the intentions of this review, I will discuss the theatrical cut first, and mention any differences with the pacing or story afterwards, before getting to the likes and dislikes of the film.

BvS starts with the briefest re-telling of Batman’s origin before reintroducing us to Bruce Wayne as an adult, visiting his business in Metropolis at the time of the big fight between Superman and Zod at the end of Man of Steel, which is destroyed, killing many employees.

(As a side note, Bruce has obviously been Batman for a long time, and I’d even almost suggest he could be the same Batman as the ones in Christopher Nolan’s films, but older, and more jaded)

Flash forward 18 months and we see that Bruce/ Batman is still concerned by Superman’s presence, and mankind is divided with some praising him, and some fearing him and thinking he should be held accountable for his actions, including one which had potential political ramifications.

Then enter Luthor, a multimillionaire youngster who has concerns for mankind too, but maybe he is manipulating some behind the scene shenanigans. Throw in a search for others with ‘special’ abilities like Superman, including Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash, and a surprise super villain that ends just the way you expect, and you have a full story… To the brim!

The Ultimate cut is certainly the better cut of the film. The extra half hour of story isn’t just special effects and fighting, it actually tells more of the story, and has a few cool surprises and fan service too.

Either cut has a lot of story to tell, and it does so by doing a few things that make it travel along at a decent clip. The first thing it does is not tell us the origins of all the characters. Man of Steel established Superman and that is not revisited at all.. Batman’s backstory is told as a small piece of exposition because we really don’t need to see it again… Surely most people know it by now for how many times comics, TV and film have told and retold it! The best thing is Wonder Woman is hardly given much backstory at all, all we know is she is older than she looks, kills monsters for fun and looks amazing in armour! I guess her movie will tell her story.

Another thing I like about the way this story is told is clearly Batman has been around for years, and perhaps is heading swiftly to the twilight of his career. He is scarred both physically and mentally, and trusts no one but Alfred, who as years have gone by has begrudgingly become complicit in is Batman’s actions. Jeremy Iron’s delivers every line with nothing short of a delicious cynicism.

Actually, the entire cast play their roles perfect. Cavill is the ultimate boyscout, Affleck portrays and older, almost unhinged Batman (akin to The Dark Knight Returns Batman) like he was born for it and Gadot’s Wonder Woman has a fondness for war that’s clearly apparent. The supporting cast of Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Diana Lane, Callan Mulvey and Holly Hunter are all spot in as well, but there is one glaring cast issue that sits horribly wrong, and more disappointingly, it’s one I supported all along.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a confused mess. Whilst I appreciate, and earlier endorsed the idea that Lex Luthor would be a young, start-up whiz-kid, with a dark side, Eisenberg plays the role like a slightly hyper-active computer programmer who gets mildly annoyed when he doesn’t get his way. I didn’t get any feel of ‘bad guy-ness’ at all, and his machinations were all organised so distantly from him, that they didn’t come across as organised by him at all! At the very best, he would be most appropriately described as the worst of James Bond’s villains.

My final criticism of the film is the overall look of the battle sequences. Snyder created his own cinematic ‘language’ with the film Sucker Punch that in general serves him quite well, but I believe it fell down in this film. His wind up for the punch that results in a slow motion effect was used far too often that it just slowed the fight sequences down, and considering how cartoony and ineffectual THEY are, I’d be trying to get through them as quick as possible, rather than letting the viewer see how poor they are. Seriously, the Doomsday creature looked like it was made by the guys who did the Incredible Hulk film, and hadn’t had an advancement since then. It seems to me if you want to sell your comic superheroes as serious action films, this is not the way to go.

So all in all I enjoyed the actual story of the film, and most of the characters, but those couple of points really stood out as a step back for ‘comic movies’ as a sub genre.

Score: ***1/2

Format: As one would expect from a HUUUUGE budget Warner Bros film based on several of their biggest properties, the 2.40:1 image and Dolby Atmos audio are immaculate on both the 151 minute theatrical cut, and the 182 minute ultimate edition. 

Score: *****

Extras: So first in the Ultimate Bluray edition’s case I have to talk about the packaging. Whilst I hoped it would come with a metal emblem case like the special edition of Man of Steel bluray did, I wasn’t unhappy with the hardcover comic collection that doubles as a cover. The comic collection contains 6 stories containing Batman and Superman dating back to 1986, and is presented on a gloss stock, and has two cardboard pockets for the blurays. There are also digital editions of both the theatrical version of the film, and the comic book as well!

As for on-disc extras? Wow! There’s heaps, and some sneak peeks at Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman’s movies.

On the theatrical version disc, there’s a whole bunch of extras:

Uniting the World’s Finest talks about the efforts being taken to create a DC cinematic universe… At no time is the word ‘different’ used.

Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants looks at the differences, similarities and history that Superman and Batman share.

 Wonder Woman: The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder looks at the history of Wonder Woman.

Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile. The secret to what this featurette is about is in the name’ the design of the Batmobile.

Superman: Complexity and Truth explores Henry Cavill’s procedure to become the Man of Steel.

Batman: Austerity and Rage does the same for Ben Affleck.

Wonder Woman: Grace and Power… Ditto, but with Gal Gadot.

Batcave: Legacy of the Lair digs into the design of Batman’s hideout, which is a lot different to any cave we’ve seen before.

The Might and Power of a Punch dissects the punch up between Batman and Superman.

The Empire of Luthor examines the character of Lex Luthor, and how he’s been modified and modernised for the film.

Save the Bats looks at how the film cast and crew donated time and resources, including wooden sets being broken down to become bat-houses, to saving endangered bats. Go to

There are no extras on the Ultimate Version disc, but with all those on the other disc, it’s all good.

Score: *****

WISIA: Even the worst of these superhero movies get rewatches from me just for the sheer joy of seeing my childhood heroes come alive, so this being a middle grounder, it will probably remain quite high on the pile.

R.I.P. Prince

For music fans, today is another dark day, just like the many we have had this year, as many great musicians pass, all before their time.

It was with a heavy heart that I woke this morning to read that master of funk and pop legend Prince has passed away.

I have always loved Prince’s music, and he is relevant to us here at The To Watch Pile as not only has his music, according to IMDB, appeared in 166 various movies and video games and TV shows, he also won an Oscar for the soundtrack to the film he also starred in as ‘the Kid’, Purple Rain.

More to the TWP’s scope though, was his music inspired by the best Batman film, Tim Burton’s Batman.

Rest in peace, Prince, and thanks for the music. It’s not only Doves that will be crying today.