Batman: The Killing Joke does not amuse; Jason Bourne returns in an action-packed entry
Batman: The Killing Joke*
Dir: Sam Liu
Starring: (voices of) Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, John DiMaggio, Brian George
Batman: The Killing Joke is widely considered to be one of the greatest Batman stories in comics. Written by Alan Moore (the author of such venerated comic-books as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and Swamp Thing) and illustrated by Brian Bolland (one of the best comic-book artists of the 3 decades) the 1988 graphic novel took Batman to territory darker than the character ever had been before (with the possible exception of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns which came out in 1986). It would be fair to say that post-TDKR and The Killing Joke Batman as a character has - for good or bad – never been the same again.
As for me, I have never been as enamoured of The Killing Joke as the vast majority of the comic-book reading public. Of course, it has fabulous art by Bolland and it does explore the Joker’s (the Batman’s arch-nemesis) insanity and origins in intriguing ways but it also brings into Batman’s world an element of sexual violence which was completely unnecessary (remember, Batman was created as a character for children and young adults) and severely ill-treats a beloved character, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl for no reason other than shock-value (the Joker’s machinations could have worked to the same effect using some other plot device). Even Alan Moore later distanced himself from this work.
Now comes the animated version of TKJ. Oddly, while the movie is rated "R" (the first DC animated movie to receive that rating) it also brings with it a number of elements from the Batman: The Animated Series, the best on-screen realisation of the character in my opinion, but one which is squarely all-ages. Hence, while it’s great to hear Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker - the greatest Joker of all time, live or animated) and Tara Strong (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon) again in their iconic animated roles and see animation reminiscent of B:TAS, TKJ needed to establish an identity separate from the beloved animated series which was more in line with its more mature content.
That (and my issues with the source material) aside the movie itself is a major misstep because it repeats and exacerbates the worst component of the graphic novel. The movie adds a whole new backstory for Barbara/Batgirl but instead of presenting her as a strong, independent woman and an ideal role-model for young girls it turns her into a whiny, clingy, angry female obsessed with her mentor and adds a sexual element to the character which is completely unnecessary. It also takes the Batman/Batgirl relationship into creepy territory and does a disservice to the Batman as well as it takes a character who is all about self-control (to the extent that he always refrains from killing the Joker or any other super-villain) and turns him into a character too weak to control his worst impulses or to have a straight conversation with a significant other. The movie works best with the material that was strongest in the graphic novel i.e. the Joker’s motivations/origins and the Batman/Joker dynamic and the voice acting is as strong as you would expect given the pedigree. But the rest of it? Just leaves you with a bitter and disgusting taste.
Cut to chase: Leaves a disgusting taste.
Dir: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed
The original Jason Bourne trilogy was a massive success and is fondly remembered by cine-buffs. I liked the series well enough though I did find the latter two fairly repetitive. Nevertheless, the Bourne movies left an indelible mark and certainly impacted the James Bond franchise which was in danger of becoming irrelevant by making it more visceral and gritty. Now, almost a decade later, Matt Damon is back in one of his most iconic roles and is reteamed with the director of the 2nd and 3rd instalments in the series, Paul Greengrass.There is no particular reason for the movie to have been made other than it was almost guaranteed box-office. By the end of the movie, Jason Bourne is exactly where we find him at the beginning of it. And the real-world implications of the plot (national and global security, privacy, data leaks, the unholy alliance of military intelligence, government and private commerce, etc.) are merely hinted at and skimmed over. Nevertheless, the Damon/Greengrass teaming delivers what it promises. A reasonably entertaining spy thriller that has as its heart some tense action-packed but coherently choreographed fight and chase sequences which keep you on the edge of your seat. The climactic chase through the heart of Las Vegas and its casinos may run on too long and stretches suspension of disbelief to the limit but it still keeps you engaged. Jason Bourne and action film fans should like this one.
Cut to chase: Formulaic but well-done.
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Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection