All-New Animated DC Universe Original Movie to Authentically Reflect Best-Selling & Eisner Award-Winning Graphic Novel;

First Non-PG/PG-13 Rated Film in 9-Year History of Franchise

BURBANK, CA (April 15, 2016) – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has accepted the MPAA’s “R” rating for its upcoming animated film, Batman: The Killing Joke, choosing to remain true to the landmark DC Comics graphic novel’s violent, controversial story, and making the film the first non-PG/PG-13 rated movie in the nine-year history of the DC Universe Original Movie franchise.

Batman: The Killing Joke, one of the best-selling graphic novels in history, tells the tale of The Joker’s origin story – from his humble beginnings as a struggling comic, to his fateful encounter with Batman that changes both of their lives forever. Actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their Batman: The Animated Series roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively.

Since its inception in 2007, the DC Universe Original Movie franchise has brought classic and current DC Comics stories and characters to animated life through a series of primarily PG-13 rated films. Throughout the 26-film history of this popular franchise, Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have crafted animated productions that appeal to the adult fan – from adaptations of fan favorite stories (Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) to liberal adaptations of contemporary tales (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) to original narratives (Batman: Gotham Knight, Wonder Woman, Justice League: Gods & Monsters).

Animation visionary Bruce Timm guided the DC Universe Original Movie franchise for its initial 16 films, then returned last summer with his own original story, Justice League: Gods & Monsters. Timm takes the reigns once again for Batman: The Killing Joke, reuniting a trio of actors (Conroy, Hamill & Tara Strong) from the game-changing Batman: The Animated Series cast to add even greater reverence to this heralded tale. Recognizing the fans’ dedication to the highly acclaimed graphic novel, Timm has worked meticulously to accurately maintain the intense adult content of The Killing Joke.

 “From the start of production, we encouraged producer Bruce Timm and our team at Warner Bros. Animation to remain faithful to the original story – regardless of the eventual MPAA rating,” said Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation & Warner Digital Series. “The Killing Joke is revered by the fans, particularly for its blunt, often-shocking adult themes and situations. 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.”

At this time, there are no plans for an edited, PG-13 version of the film.

A two-time Eisner Award winner written by renowned comics author Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke has maintained an unparalleled popularity throughout its 28 years of existence – as evidenced by its ranking as the best-selling graphic novel of 2015. Batman: The Killing Joke was greenlit in 2013 and announced in July 2015 at Comic Con International in San Diego.

Batman: The Killing Joke also features the voices of Tara Strong (Teen Titans; Batman: Arkham games), as Barbara Gordon and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, RoboCop) as Commissioner Gordon. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will host the film’s World Premiere at Comic-Con International this summer, and see a subsequent release in 2016 on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD.

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I too found The Killing Joke to be over-rated. The plot was rather simplistic, albeit, shooting Barbara Gordon (and implying she was raped thereafter) was a bold move that fit the tone of the story well. Insofar as your theory regarding DC having protected the Joker, I have to agree with Clark Kent_DC on the ending of No Mans Land:

"He had just spent an entire year proving we are a nation laws, not men, and couldn't piss that away."

Gordon makes a similar argument at the end of the Killing Joke, demanding that "We have to show him our way works".

Now for the elephant in the room. I hate the whole Batman gets together with Batgirl thing. I hated it when it stated in Batman Beyond. I hate it even more so, here. I get the whole Batman is only human thing; and as such he has needs, but this has been more appropriately demonstrated with Catwoman and Talia Al Ghul. They much closer to his age group; and, they don't work for him (practically speaking).

Philip Portelli said:

I always thought that The Killing Joke was a bit over-rated. It was a very good if grim book, certainly controversial. It was designed to tap in on the Joker's popularity as it made him a bit more sympathetic with more of his background revealed and a line where it seems that he knows how wrong his life is but he can't stop now.

It also was supposed to eliminate Batgirl from the comics as she sort of became a symbol of the 60s campiness that DC wanted to forget. The only reason that they didn't outright kill her there was to "protect" the Joker, IMHO.

This was from the start of DC's fascination with British writers who were allowed to twist their characters into psychotic, psychopathic and psychoanalytical knots.

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As I said before, I had preordered the DVD of Batman: The Killing Joke and watched it yesterday. I thought the adaptation of the actual story from the graphic novel was well done. I don't agree that Barbara was physically raped after being shot, unless you consider pictures of her taken naked after being shot rape. Until the introduction of Harley Quinn, Joker was portrayed as asexual. I'm glad they maintained the GN's ironic twist of the Joker not realizing he had shot Batgirl. I'm glad they appended her becoming Oracle. A sequel within the movie showing her acting as Oracle with Black Canary et al would have been preferable to the prequel.

The "prequel" created for the movie has caused some controversy. It was necessary to add the prequel (or a sequel) because the movie's length of 77 minutes was only possible by doing so. The events of the GN alone would have made the movie half as long. They choose to portray Batgirl as an inexperienced hero. Her being flummoxed by the character calling himself Paris Franz is evidence of this. He drugs her and only avoids his obvious intention to rape her by sealing herself in a vault as she begins to lose consciousness. Paris Franz is ruthless and resourceful, using heavy artillery and almost killing Batman. The GN has her stop being Batgirl only after being paralyzed. The movie has her stop being Batgirl after almost killing Paris Franz, before her shooting. Although being portrayed as an inexperienced hero, Barbara is portrayed as an independent woman who chafes at being ordered around by Batman. When they have sex it is a one-time thing that is initiated by Barbara, as an independent grown woman. I'm not crazy about Barbara having a sexual relationship with Batman. It doesn't fit with anything else I've read. She obviously doesn't know Batman is Bruce Wayne and may not even after they have sex.


Watched it yesterday and found it to be kind of a bizarre experience. The first half of the movie, I think, is mostly designed to get the viewer invested in Barbara as a person and to establish a strong connection between her and Batman so that there is a greater impact when she is later assaulted and brutalized and so that Batman has more "skin in the game."  The new story content gives a neophyte viewer an entry point into the part of the story that's adapted from the graphic novel. 

I thought the sexual tryst between Batman and Batgirl was creepy and unnecesarry.  When she is assaulted by the Joker, I felt that it was deliberately left open to interpretation as to whether or not she was raped.  There's an interesting exchange between Batman and Alfred where it's implied that the Joker may actually know Batman's identity. It's never confirmed but this would had an extra layer to the assault on Barbara if he had sussed out the connection between the two.

And the final scene with Batman laughing still doesn't work and seems somehow even more inappropriate in this context. Overall, I thought this was decent and very faithful to the graphic novel.  Considering how adult the content was, I think it would have been more effective if the animation style was a little more realistic and not so reminiscent of the all ages style of the animated series.

Richard Willis said:

The GN has her stop being Batgirl only after being paralyzed.

She gave up the identity just beforehand in Batgirl Special #1, which according to DC Indexes came out a week earlier. It built on a 1980 Cary Burkett story in Detective Comics #491-#492 in which Batgirl was shot by a hitman called Cormorant (with the result she became more nervous around guns).

When she was introduced in Detective Comics #359 Barbara was a librarian with a doctorate. So back then she was much older than Robin, probably somewhere in her 20s. If Wikipedia's information is accurate Yvonne Craig was 30 when she appeared in Batman TV show.

I think the choice to call her character Batgirl instead of Batwoman caused later writers to think of her as younger than she was.

I watched this movie over the weekend and now know the answer to my own question about how a movie “based on one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time” can also be “original.” I enjoyed this movie far more than I expected to, and far more than any live action Batman movie I’ve ever seen. (To put that remark in context, I believe I’ve seen them all except Superman vs. Batman.) For one thing, the characters were allowed to progress in ways they never would in the comics. The “prequel” section really made the movie for me.

The ending really let me down, though. When I first read The Killing Joke decades ago, the significance of the ending went completely over my head. I was dumbfounded when the movie, too, skipped both interpretations (below) for the non-ending I mistakenly thought it had in 1988.

INTERPRETATION #1 (posted by Luke Blanchard): “Forgive me if you caught this, but as they're laughing together the Joker offers Batman his hand. The laughing then stops, indicating Batman hasn't taken it. So the end is they're still bitter enemies.

“I think we're supposed to understand Batman let's-call-this-off speech as like the flashlight beam in the Joker's joke, and his refusal to take the Joker's hand as his turning it off before the Joker can get across. The image is repeated in the final three panels, where we see a beam of light from the police car headlights which is gone in the final panel.”

INTERPRETATION #2 (posted by ClarkKent_DC): “There's also the theory that The Joker stops laughing because Batman breaks his neck.”

As far as I am concerned, The Killing Joke is an “Elseworlds” and always has been (or always should have been one). I like the idea of Batman finally putting an end to the Joker once and for all (especially in the context of the story). Coming at it from that angle, there’s no reason for me not to accept the progression of Batman and Batgirl’s relationship in the movie.

FWIW, Alan Moore's quote about the ending:

"...for the record, my intention at the end of that book was to have the two characters simply experiencing a brief moment of lucidity in their ongoing very weird and probably fatal relationship with each other, reaching a moment where they both perceive the hell that they are in, and can only laugh at their preposterous situation. A similar chuckle is shared by the doomed couple at the end of the remarkable Jim Thompson’s original novel, The Getaway."

Personally, I've never been able to accept that Batman would be laughing after such horrible things had been done to people he cared about.  Maybe there is a way that story could have been done that that would make it seem somewhat plausible to me, but I doubt it.

Thanks, 'Tec!

Personally, I liked that they incorporated Barbara's injury into the main storylines of the comics. As I've said before, she was a much more worthwhile character as Oracle than, after being miraculously healed, reverting to yet another acrobatic hero, lost in the crowd.

I'm glad the animated Killing Joke didn't impose an interpretation on the ambiguous ending. Alan Moore is a terrific writer and, like all writers, sometimes has a misstep. I don't think the ending was a good idea but if you're adapting the story you should stick to it as much as possible. I was prepared to hate the prequel part but I think it was well done.

Richard Willis said:

I don't think the ending was a good idea but if you're adapting the story you should stick to it as much as possible.

I agree. The part of the movie that adapts the graphic novel is REALLY faithful. So faithful that it recreates many of the panels from the book almost line for line. I don't know if I've ever seen that done so precisely before but I thought it was a really nice touch.

“Personally, I liked that they incorporated Barbara's injury into the main storylines of the comics.”

I don’t deny that good things (such as Barbara’s identity Oracle) came out of The Killing Joke. It’s not the crippling of Barbara Gordon which caused me to relegate it to Elseworlds status; it was my opinion that it would have made a better ending if Batman have killed the joker at the end (an opinion which I changed four hours ago, after reading the Alan Moore quote above).

“I'm glad the animated Killing Joke didn't impose an interpretation on the ambiguous ending.”

I wasn’t suggesting they impose an interpretation; I was suggesting they use the ambiguous ending Moore gave it, which they completely ignored. (Odd, since they were so faithful in other respects.) They took away the ending it had and left it with… nothing, really.

What I referred to as "interpretation" #1 above is what Alan Moore explained in the quote 'Tec posted (I just didn't get it for 28 years). The movie lacked cinematography descibed by Luke above. that's why I called it a "non-ending": because it deviated from Moore's.

Moore's statement clarifies it quite a bit, but I would be willing to bet that almost no one "got it" until they read his statement. If a writer is trying to get a point across in a story it would be nice if someone besides the writer understood it. Similar to a joke not being funny if you always have to explain it.

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