When fans heard one of the most iconic stories in the “Batman” comic book canon would be adapted as an animated film, many worried it would be watered down for a younger, cartoon-loving audience. However, it turns out that DC Comics and Warner Bros. aren’t pulling any punches with their adaptation of “Batman: The Killing Joke.”
Based on a comic written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland in March 1988, “The Killing Joke” is considered one of the most influential stories for both the Batman and Joker characters. This is true despite the heavy controversy that surrounds the plotline, which has been criticized as misogynistic for its portrayal of violence against the character Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. Given its adult subject matter, many were surprised to learn that the story would be told through animation, which is typically the space for more kid-friendly superhero flicks. However, Entertainment Weekly reported the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has given the movie an R rating.
“‘The Killing Joke’ is revered by the fans, particularly for its blunt, often-shocking adult themes and situations,” Sam Register, the president of Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, said in a statement cited by the media outlet. “We felt it was our responsibility to present our core audience — the comics-loving community — with an animated film that authentically represented the tale they know all too well.”
As ComicBook.com noted, “Batman: The Killing Joke” is the first animated DC Universe original film with an R-rating. But it just missed the chance to be the first “Batman” movie ever with an R-rating. That distinction goes to the forthcoming “Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition” on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, which, in comparision to the theatrical release, will have an additional 30 minutes of content while carrying the stricter MPAA rating: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is rated PG-13.
“Batman: The Killing Joke” boasts an all-star cast and will make its debut at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con in July. Famous for playing the part of Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” film series, Mark Hamill will reprise his role as The Joker in “The Killing Joke.” Before returning to his most iconic role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Hamill spent a great deal of time voicing the clown prince of crime. Fans may recognize his maniacal Joker portrayal from a handful of “Batman” video games; television series such as “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Birds of Prey,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Action,” “Static Shock,” “Superman” and “The New Batman Adventures”; and the made-for-TV film “The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest.”
Hamill will team with Kevin Conroy, who many may recognize as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the popular “Batman: Arkham” video game trilogy. Ray Wise and Tara Strong will play Commissioner James Gordon and Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, respectively.
“The chance to work once again with Kevin Conroy, my favorite Batman, in what some consider the definitive origin of this iconic villain is a dream come true for me,” Hamill previously told Comic Book Resources about this production. “I am beyond thrilled to return as The Joker in ‘The Killing Joke.’”
It’s been a big week for “Batman” fans. In addition to the revelation that the animated film will be geared toward an adult audience, the way the comic book was, the studio announced that another live-action movie with Ben Affleck’s version of the caped crusader will go into production as well. Despite the poor critical reception of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Warner Bros. is giving the award-winning “Argo” director the chance to helm a story all his own.
Which of these two “Batman” projects are you most excited about? Comment below or tweet your thoughts on the matter to @TylerMcCarthy.