Sunday, April 3, 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke - Three Takeaways




In the wake of all the negativity surrounding Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's interesting that we have a new trailer about The Killing Joke, another an iconic Batman story. Here are my three takeaways:

1. The gangs all here.
Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Tara Strong are back. Their vocal talents will make sure that an entire generation of people who know them from Batman: The Animated Series will be able to digest the complexities of Alan Moore's legendary Batman/Joker narrative in an enjoyable, nostalgic way. From the clips that I've seen of the film, it looks like they all still have the skills and the direction that made them work so well together for years (and Hamill looks like he lost some weight, which means I need to get it together). Also, it's very good to see Sam Liu and Bruce Timm at the helm. No word on if Andrea Romano is back on as the voice director.

In terms of animation, I think this will be, by far, the most violent Batman story this team has ever adapted. Personally, I think the darker content in Arkham video game series helped give Warner Bros the confidence to finally greenlight a story that a lot of people have wanted to see for a long time.

2. Hypocrisy with BvS?
As I read through the Facebook comments and twitter reaction, I find it interesting that the same comic fans who are frying Zak Snyder for his dark portrayal of the rivalry between Batman and Superman are now praising the debut of a film that, if adapted correctly, will make BvS look like an episode of Lamb Chop's Play-Along. I'm not that surprised, however, as this goes back to a point I made in a previous article, in which I argue that the film was more of a referendum on our perspective of what Superman should be, rather than a true criticism of the film itself.

I'm not an advocate for dark themes and stories all the time. I just get tired of the "this isn't the 80's" argument every time someone uses The Dark Knight Returns in order to defend against the merits of BvS. Because the same could be said for this film. But I know it won't get anywhere near the amount of criticism BvS did, even though the story will be substantially darker.

3. The Rating.
With all of the different articles covering several aspects of the film, I'm not entirely sure about the rating the film will get. Some reports say it'll get an R. Bruce Timm argues that it might get a PG-13. I find this to be fascinated though, because animated films, even in 2016, are still for the most part regarded as something for children or younger adults. People treat animation like a genre, instead of a medium that any kind of story can be told in (something that Brad Bird advocates for).

I'm always looking for ways that I can show that people are moving away from those kinds of insipid thoughts. And I think The Killing Joke has the potential to do that. The last positive step in the right direction was when Toy Story 3 was nominated for Best Picture (and not just Best Animated Feature) in the Academy Awards a few years ago.