Doug’s Thoughts on Batman: The Killing Joke

It went from being beloved to despised in a day, but what’s Doug’s take on the popular Batman story?

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

31 comments

  1. The problem with that first half is that it sets up a different story.The killing joke is about fathers and how they react to their children suffering,one poorly,one well.But if you add batsex in the beginning,it shifts the story to be about batman wanting to take revenge on someone who hurt his lover.And while someone who knows the story already can simply ignore that the first part happened,someone new to it will definitely have the second part ruined by the first.Which is why that beginning is such an awful thing.

    • The first 30 minutes was completely unnecessary and I despised the mob guy who had the hard on for Batgirl. Worst Batman Villain Ever.

    • That’s what bothers me a lot — that Batman’s quest is no longer about defending his friends and allies, but about him being pissed off that someone broke “his” woman.

      • Really? How can even have so shallow perception of the characters? “His woman”? Was it really so subtle, that what happened was not meant to be and both Batman and Barbara regretted it that it, went straight over the heads of viewers or you just switched to full rage mode once Batgirl dropped the cowl and stopped watching?

  2. Your “dumbass moment” isn’t actually that dumb. Its actually a very common fan theory that has been around since the comic came out, and Allan Moore himself has gone back and forth on whether or not it was true.

    Hell, there’s even an argument to be made that that’s what happened in the movie. Did you notice how as the camera pans downwards, Joker’s laughter dies out even as Batman continues to chuckle?

    • Yah, the ambiguity of the ending is one of the many amazing aspects of the story. It presents a philosophical struggle between Batman and the Joker, seems to wrap it up in Batman’s favor, then literally on the last few panels, it very subtlety throws in doubt the potential of completely altering the entire story. Killing joke is not only one of the greatest Batman stories, it might also be the last.

    • Well, DC comics actually quite often explore dark corners and weird consequencies of many characters. Quite a few authors made their definitive views on some characters and how should they end up. Moore’s Killing joke is one of them – a story how Batman maybe finally kills Joker. So is Batman Endgame storyline which is Snyder’s idea how Batman should die (not Zack Snyder, the other one) so is All-stars Superman where Superman dies and you could find few others. DC often let’s their authors do that and than only make it ambivalent, “What if” story or just simply retcons it later.
      They can’t let their main heroes die. It just can’t happen. But I appreciate that they are willing to explore these stories. By the way Marvel hardly ever does something similar.

      So it’s not dumb, you just have to realize that continuity is not the main goal of DC comics and never was. Creativity over continuity is actually DC policy as far as I know.

      • There are tons of dark Marvel stories. For example, Daredevil: Born Again, Dark Phoenix Saga, Old Man Logan, The Night when Gwen Stacy Died, Planet Hulk, Future Imperfect, Demon in the Bottle etc.

  3. Actually, that was a thing the comic hinted. That was a thing you noticed most people missed. In fact, people were talking about this very thing when the movie was announced. It’s not embarrassing. It’s correct.

  4. Thank you for letting me know to give this trash a miss. Batman+Batgirl = Disgusting!

  5. Edit: I know I said this once, in the Awesome Comics page, but I feel it’s more appropriate to share my input here.

    Okay, I’m going to be blunt here, I do not think any of Alan Moore’s work were meant for adaptations. Not that I mind the idea though, however there is context to his work that either shouldn’t be altered or isn’t intended to be translated into cinema; and that’s particularly the case when creative teams take their own liberties to the film and do things that only hurt the story.

    Another chip that’s been bugging me, DC seems to have this very obsessive love affair with the story, as well as Batman Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, and even Watchmen. It’s always those particular entities that they keep glorifying and milking for how “Deep and Edgy” they are, when there is a full library of other stories in the mainstream DCU they can be working from.

    And even then, if the Killing Joke is such a super duper awesome comic… then I really wouldn’t or shouldn’t actually care for a movie! I mean don’t get me wrong, I love seeing superhero stories adapted into other forms of media, especially in animation; but that doesn’t mean I sit with baited breath just to see if Kevin Conroy is voicing Batman again in an adaptation of something like, Batman: Fortunate Son or whatever.

    The Killing Joke already exists and I enjoy reading it in the medium it was made for. Short, simple, but right on point.

    Again I don’t object to an animated adaptation, but we all know the story: The Joker’s one bad day drove him nuts, a plausible origin, and he assaults Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) and tried driving Jim Gordon nuts to prove his point, got it! I mean, most of us practically read the damn book, since Kindergarten! And frankly I think a lot of people don’t seem to understand what the real problem with the original graphic novel was, and that was the purpose of Barbara herself!

    It was a prime example of, ‘Women in Refrigerators’ something which Alan Moore himself regretted but DC apparently was all for it (Even outright telling the guy to, “Cripple The B!+(#!” (Yeah I have this quirk to censor myself, kind of a habit but whatever.)

    And to anyone who thinks this was what made Oracle… well, that’s true in one way… but false in another. It’s the same thing as crediting Rob Liefeld for creating Deadpool, he may have made up the character initially, but if it wasn’t for people who wrote stories with the character afterwards we really wouldn’t have the definitive Deadpool we have today; and the same goes for Oracle, because since the Killing Joke it was, it was Kim Yale and John Ostrander, a husband and wife team who build upon Barbara’s new entity as Oracle, and other writers since then continued building up on it from then on, but not the intent of Alan Moore! It was intended to be a solo piece, but since it was a success of course DC sought to treat it as though it were canon.

    It was a double-edged sword frankly. On one hand it was a prime case of “Frigging” but on the other hand it built the character of Oracle afterwards, setting a more positive example of not only feminism, but also how people who generally lost their ability to do something in life can still came out on top and make a positive difference in other ways. Plus it also further developed character for the rest of the bat family, as well as Jim, the Birds of Prey and other characters in the DCU, pave introduction to the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, followed by Stephanie Brown, and it also taught readers another important lesson on how certain characters aren’t always going to be the same character. (Exceptions aside)

    And I get what they did, they want to establish Babs’ position as Batgirl, prior to her latter involvement in the middle, and even build closure and resolution with her more prominent entity; and it did so… but in a misguided direction, especially considering the controversial Bat-Sex thing, which convulsed the character’s position when confronted with the Joker,and only made it even more of a frigging. Two twists don’t make a straight line!

    Plus, this movie should have just been rated PG-13. I know the Killing Joke is more adult, but frankly having seen the film, it really isn’t very R-rated.

    But as is, the movie was okay. I just wish DC can stop praising the ever loving crap out of it, as well as the other aforementioned stories, thus giving them credit for something they didn’t really deserve and focus elsewhere.

  6. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will always be Batman and Joker. my favs forever. <3<3

  7. Doug your where right about Batman Killing the joker in a episode of Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman Podcast. Grant Morrison gives away Alan Moore’s secret. Here is the link https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DzlekMIf7D4

  8. The idea of the comic was that Batman Killed the joker, it’s expalined in the delux edition, the one that has a hard cover and comentary from several people

  9. Acetylsalicilique

    Steven Universe Vlogs it’s cool but… what about Adventure Time ?

  10. Yeah, I think what happens at the end is actually supposed to be ambiguous, so I don’t think your assumption had been stupid or wrong.

    It’s a shame about that first half-hour, though. I would have loved if Barbara actually had more to do than essentially being a woman in the refrigerator for Batman and Gordon’s collective manpain. Unfortunately, it should have been well-written and someone didn’t get the memo.

    I’ve never been a fan of the Batman/Batgirl idea, either (not even in Batman Beyond where I don’t remember it being delved into too much). It’s a creepy dynamic.

  11. Yeah, this is what I’ve been hearing from every other critic as well. I never read the original Killing Joke so I have no interest in seeing this one. Many characters (both men and women) are used as story devices so that wouldn’t really bother me if I did see this movie.

  12. Your funny Killing Joke story…. Um Doug… that was an EXTREMELY popular fan theory. Youre not alone buddy. :)
    And they didn
    t really clarify it in the movie either because the Joker stops laughing at one point, but Bats still is.

  13. Grant Morrison had the same conclusion as you

  14. I get what they were trying to do with the first section of the film with Batgirl. I think that if they had managed to pull it off better it would have really improved the movie by making us care more about Barbara. Unfortunately, it just made Batgirl AND Batman seem like irrational jerks.

    Overall, I thought that The Killing Joke was pretty good. It’s kind of strange to me that people are so huffy about how the first half “ruins” the second, considering that the first part, although flawed, is still beautiful technically, with great voice acting and animation. I guess that’s how the internet works though– nothing can be “just okay”, it’s got to either be fantastic or terrible. Probably doesn’t help that it’s an adaptation of an Alan Moore classic, which always garners extra scrutiny (both deserved and not).

  15. The writing ruins the 1st half, because the batsex scene could have actually been done well. Bruce and Barbera have always had a relationship.

  16. Watching it, I felt like I was watching two completely different stories that had no cohesion. One had nothing to do with the other, so you end up watching this Batgirl story that didn’t quite mesh with the rest of it (although I think it is kind of hinted that there’s some possible sexual tension between the two of them due to the conversations that she has with her sassy gay friend in the library). It might have been good if it was its own thing, but since they’re wanting to present it as part of “The Killing Joke” story it just didn’t work.

  17. The first part was probably to avoid that people criticizing this with the “women in refrigerators” syndrome where the side character suffers or dies just to motivate the hero. You know, like Uncle Ben or Bucky.
    If you strip off the first half, there’d be complaints about that instead.
    That said, it sounds like the lead-in to add more to Batgirl’s character could’ve been done better. But I don’t thin the movie would’ve been done without something to that effect.

  18. If you want somebody that liked the first half more than the Killing joke part – Here I am.

    Reason is simple – I already read Killing joke, it’s not new, I already know the point. Batgirl story was actually something that I knew about from other Bruce Timm works (Batman Beyond tv series, Batman Beyond 2.0 comics and a few bits from Mystery of Batwoman movie). It probably floated around the creative team for some time (like 15-20 years) and since it was all about sex, they coudn’t do that in the tv series for kids. So it makes sense to do that there. And I am glad that I saw that Bruce Timm’s idea.

    As for the story itself. Even that makes kinda sense. Barbara was in love with Dick Greyson who was pretty much a diet version of Batman at that point. When he left she was left alone in Gotham with Batman. Pretty much no life outside of night patrols and day job for few years! Batman was at that point maybe closer to her than her father. Kinda thins the romantic options for a young girl. Also there are really interesting bits in some of the Batman TAS comics where Batman and Batgirl work as they read each other minds. Point is that it could have happened even that both know that is should have not happened. And it kinda makes both more human than idolized superheroes, which is always good. For the killing joke part – it makes Batgirl much more of and character for that story and also piles up much more guilt on Batman than before. Batman forced her to leave the live of superhero because it was a right decision at that point. But paradoxically Barbara staying as Batgirls against all common sense could save her, because she would probably be outside with Batman at the time that Joker arrived.

    In short I think the additions is worth watching because if explores the characters in different light than other stories. Just as much as Killing joke is with it’s “did Batman killed Joker at the end or not” question.

  19. I was on the fence about it. Sometimes I thought he might have killed him cuz he stopped laughing. and they never showed him in any other panel. but then I thought maybe he was just laughing with him. I was never sure.

  20. Can you please do a review on the little prince.this movie is amazing.its on par with the current pixar movies.

  21. First I want to say, I agree with you on the pacing of the film and that there were many moments that could have really been flushed out. Especially like you said, right after the Joker got his chemical dump.
    As for the first 30 min of Batgirl, I was not surprised or disappointed that they had Batgirl and Batman have sex.
    In the New Adventure of Batman and Robin (Season 3 of Batman the Animated series, and also in The Adventure of Batman and Superman (the few Cross over episodes of the Superman Animated series), and an episode of Justice League, Mystery of Batwoman, and especially Batman Beyond and the Return of the Joker, all of which were written and directed by the same team. All connected and considered cannon of that universe. Had Batman and Batgirl, date for a while. Barbara only leaves Batman when he doesn’t want to have kids with her.
    Batman Beyond Season 1 Episode 12 “A Touch of Curare” 13 minutes in.
    What was disappointing was how they portrayed their relationship. There was no need to add the obsessive mobster , making a weird and acquired love tringle. If they showed multiple scenes of Batman and Batgirl just patrolling and fighting crime and Batman saving her over and over and vise versa we would have gotten a genuine relationship and felt bad when the joker did shot Barbara.
    As for the last scene in the movie Doug, it can just as easily be interrupted like the comic. Both Batman and Joker are laughing until batman puts his hands on joker then the camera pans down and then ONLY Batman is laughing. He could have killed the Joker.
    Keep up the great work Doug!
    p.s. LOVE Tamara’s Never Seen!

  22. Saw it a few days back and came to hear your embarashing story (as you said “spoilers” and i had stopped). Well, I though the same and I haven’t read the comic. In the end you can only hear batman laughing for a few seconds… I don’t claim he really did strangle him, but it could be open to interpretation indeed…

  23. No, you were right Doug. That’s what you’re supposed to think, and yes that frame does look like he’s at least strangling the Joker, maybe not to death, but that’s what it looks like.

    The animated movie kinda takes it a step further. Notice how Batman puts his hands on the Joker as they’re both laughing, and the camera starts to pan up. Notice how when they’re out of the shot….. Batman is the only one laughing…..

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