Honest Trailers, a series on the Screen Junkies YouTube channel that releases fake movie trailers which sarcastically mock their subject matter, has chosen their next victim: Batman: The Killing Joke. The direct-to-video animated film, which premiered at this year's Comic-Con, drew hordes of criticism from fans and critics alike, largely due to a shoddy plot.
The film's Honest Trailer, above, is a hilariously sardonic review that pulls no punches and appeals to fans from a fan's standpoint. "The joke is on us," a smarmy movie announcer voice quips, "in this wannabe edgy misfire that looks like a fan-made flash animation, and sounds like some of the actors read their lines at gunpoint." Ouch. And that's just the first forty seconds.
The trailer goes on to mainly criticize writer Brian Azzarello's inability to adapt the graphic novel of the same name from page to screen. Fans had high expectations for the adaptation, since The Killing Joke is widely considered the greatest Joker comic of all time, and the folks over at Screen Junkies seem to think that the film adaptation more than failed to meet those expectations. According to them, the movie takes the graphic novel's worst elements - like its representation of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl - and amplifies them, while downplaying its strengths. They also criticized the 40-minute prologue, which stretched the film into what they call a "below-average extended episode of the animated series that's trying really, really hard to justify its R rating."
It's likely the R rating also contributed to The Killing Joke's bizarre script, which includes a nonsensical sex scene between Batgirl and Batman, plus some cartoonish swears thrown in for good measure. The film's attempt to comfortably situate itself in the edgy-but-animated genre falls so flat that it reads as simultaneously parodic and just plain offensive. Since writer Azzarello has been responsible for the comic book portrayals of darkly iconic characters like the Joker, Rorschach, and Comedian, fans expected more from his take on The Killing Joke.
Perhaps one of the most consistent points of criticism for Batman: The Killing Joke rests on its portrayal of Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. The original comics raised eyebrows for paralyzing and torturing Gordon, and the film adaptation took this poor portrayal even further, in a move the Honest Trailer calls "fighting fire with gasoline." Not only is Gordon paralyzed, tortured, and maybe even raped (again), she is also characterized as Batman's overly emotional subordinate - who also has sex with her boss. And is roofied. Despite Barbara Gordon's legacy in the comics as a truly strong representation of womanhood and, later, disability, this film paints her as a flighty girl whose greatest concerns revolve around what Batman thinks of her. As the Honest Trailer creators astutely note, though, at least the Killing Joke writers gave her a Gay Best Friend that reads like a "90's sitcom writer's idea of a gay person."
Batman: The Killing Joke has a well-known bad reputation, although producer Bruce Timm's said that he knew the film would be "controversial." Despite Timm's insights, though, it's not the offensive bits of source material that make this movie so bad, it's the filmmakers' impulse to expand on them. Screen Junkies wryly puts these frustrations into words in their Honest Trailer dedicated to the film, or, as they'd like to call it, Batgirl: Sex and the Gotham City (Followed by The Killing Joke).
Batman: The Killing Joke is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.
Source: Screen Junkies