Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Batman: Killing Joke Review

I'm not a hundred percent sure where to start with this review. Should I jump straight into the controversy, or share my opinion on the source material? I guess I should start at the beginning for those completely unfamiliar with this story. Killing Joke is possibly one of the most well known and critically acclaimed graphic novels based around Batman's beloved villain, The Joker. The story is about Joker escaping from Arkham with a master plan to prove everybody is capable of going just as crazy as he is. To accomplish this, Joker targets Batman's closest ally, Commissioner Gordon. Joker knocks at his front door, shoots his daughter in cold blood, abducts him, ties him to a carnival ride and forces Gordon to watch as his daughter get abused on a constant video loop. Throughout the story, Joker experiences flashbacks to what may or may not be his origin story and Batman is trying to track Joker down. The story ends on an intense show down between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. 

I like the graphic novel a lot. While I feel Long Halloween and Hush are better Batman stories that really dive deep into Batman's character and larger themes about corruption and the like, Killing Joke defines Joker. Even though the origin story we are given is unreliable, it still gets across how Joker feels his life lost all meaning before being dipped in chemicals. For him, life was a cruel joke and he's just there to deliver the punchline. He's cruel, dark and twisted, but still finds a way to make you, the reader, laugh along with him. Killing Joke is not about Batman, Gordon or anybody else. It is a character study about The Joker. 

That being said, the book isn't perfect. You might of noticed in my summary of Killing Jokes' plot that I neglected to mention that Commissioner Gordon's daughter is Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. This was intensional, because Barbara being Batgirl has no real effect on the story itself. It effected the DC universe afterwards sure. Barbara becomes paralyzed and transforms herself into the technological based hero, Oracle, but that doesn't happen in Killing Joke. In the graphic novel, Barbara is not just a victim, she's mostly used as a tool by Joker to drive her father mad. What's worse is how Batman reacts. He basically doesn't react to it at all. Batman is upset one of his companions has had their legs taken away from them, but he's mostly driven to find Commissioner Gordon. Even in the final battle, he talks more about how Gordon will overcome the damage Joker did to him and doesn't even mention Barbara. Barbara is an object in this book and her attack only comes across as meaningful if you have prior knowledge of who the character is. If Killing Joke is your first Batman story, the shooting comes across like Joker shot a normal civilian instead of a hero who has fought in countless battles along side the Dark Knight for decades prior. 

This is where we start talking about the animated film adaptation. You see, they tried to fix that problem I just mentioned about Batgirl. To insure the audience knows Barbara was a superhero before being shot by the Joker, the film's entire first act is all new material centered around Batgirl taking on a young, brash gangster named Francs Paris. This adventure takes place a week before the events of Killing Joke and gives an explanation on why Barbara gave up the superhero life style. After the first act is over, the film jumps directly into the events of the graphic novel. Before we get too deep into how this went wrong, I want to talk about why this doesn't work on a narrative level. The transition between the film being about Batgirl to being about the Joker is so clunky, it feels like you're watching two completely different movies. Sure, the goal was to familiarize the audience with Batgirl, but her adventure has absolutely nothing to do with Joker's story. There's no connection between Joker's gang or Paris'. There's no common goal, there's no relation between the two, nothing. The story could of featured Batgirl taking on Joker's goons or taken place in the amusement park Joker buys at the beginning of his story. Anything would of been nice, but this Batgirl adventure feels slapped on like a bonus story in a special edition copy of a graphic novel. 

But where the Batgirl section get really frustrating is how they write the character. As mentioned before, this is supposed to be the adventure that leads to her quitting being a masked hero. They do this by having Barbara almost beat Paris to death. When she saw she was more than willing to take a life, it scared her into quitting. Which would be fine, but another large factor in her decision was feeling uncomfortable after sleeping with Batman. 

Yep, in case you haven't heard, there's a sex scene in the film between Batman and Batgirl. Now let me clear up a few things. First off, the most intense thing shown on screen is Batman grabbing Batgirl's butt while she's on top kissing him and Batgirl removing her shirt, revealing her bra. After that, it pans up to a gargoyle and fades into the next scene. So visually, it's pretty much a PG-13 sex scene and nothing all that shocking happens. Also to the movie's credit, they do depict this as a "Heat of the Moment" encounter and both characters displayed very poor judgement. The problem is the implications of them doing the act at all. Let's set aside the age difference because in this story, while Barbara is in her mid to late 20's and Bruce is easily pushing late 40's, early 50's, they are both consenting adults. What bothers me is how Batman is commonly seen as a father figure to all of his young wards. He raises, supports and teaches these young intelligent teens who see themselves as broken and lost. Like any good parents should, he gives his sidekicks a role model for them to strive for. So watching the scene feels like watching a middle aged man make out with his attractive daughter. But even if you are willing to look past that, you also have the fact that Bruce is sleeping with his best friend's daughter. Which is just gross and feels like a betrayal of trust the two share. 

But here's the real problem with the sex scene, instead of being a story of a strong female superhero, it's yet another story about how a woman needs a man in her life to make herself feel complete. Throughout the first act, Barbara talks with her gay librarian friend about her relationship problems with Bruce. She explains how she never feels like Bruce compliments her skills as a crime fighter. It's not enough to take down the bad guys, she needs to be told by a man, a man she admires, that she did a good job. At this point I should mention the conflict between Batman and Batgirl was centered around Paris taunting Batgirl with how much he wanted to sleep with her. Batman begins being overprotective after Paris successfully hits her with a knockout gas and Batgirl wants to prove she has the situation under control despite loosing the upper hand during that encounter. Barbara is constantly seeking approval from Batman throughout this first act. Hell, what lead to the sex scene was Batgirl trying to prove she could dominate Batman. It comes off less like she's doing it for herself and more like she's trying to please him. Which is frustrating, because instead of using this extra time to tell a kickass Batgirl story, they fell into a messy story riddled with overused and wildly sexist tropes. Even more frustrating is knowing this opportunity to tell a good Batgirl story in a highly anticipated movie which would reach a lot of new fans has been wasted. 

Also this is a minor nitpick, but I'm tired of seeing Batman, in canon, having sex with other heroes while they're still in costume. Putting aside how silly it can look at times (See 52 Catwoman Vol.1), it just doesn't seem practical to me, or comfortable for that matter. You'd think capes would get in the way and let's hope nothing falls out of Batman's utility belt while he's thrusting his hips. A smoke bomb going off as it falls out of a pocket seems like a real mood killer. 

Sorry, mind started to wander, what was I talking about? Oh right, Killing Joke.

Besides that, the movie is fine. The performances of Kevin Conroy's Batman and Mark Hamhill's Joker are legendary, and the "Looney" musical number is bone chilling. Honestly, if you're going to watch this movie, skip the first act with Batgirl and jump directly to the Killing Joke portion. They add a few things to this section of the film as well, but a lot of it is minor and not even worth nitpicking. There are dips in animation quality where a few scenes won't look as polished as others, but again, it's minor stuff. 

I'd say this is a must see, but the first act makes it extremely hard to recommend. It amazes me how a scene of a naked Gordon being dragged around by Little People with a cattle prod is out controversied by new original content.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Playstation Experience 2015 - The Hitch Explains It All Podcast - Ep.05

Hitch expresses his thoughts and his feelings about the Playstation Experience 2015 Press Conference.

Audio only version will be uploaded at another date

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Spectre (aka "Grinding The Tower") - The Hitch Explains It All Podcast - Ep. 04

In this rambling episode of HEIA, Hitch and Josh talk about the new James Bond film, Spectre.
To jump directly to our conversation about Spectre, go to 54:43.

For the Audio Only version follow this link

Saturday, October 31, 2015

One Punch Man, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Attack on Titan: Junior High, Young Black Jack - The Hitch Explains It All Podcast - Ep. 03

Hitch is joined by his mother, Susan, and his sister, Amanda, to talk about four shows from the Fall 2015 Anime Season including: One Punch Man, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Attack on Titan: Junior High, and Young Black Jack.

!!!Bonus Video!!!
Peeping Life TV Season 1??

Hitch has major problem with this show...

This was originally a full video, but it was instantly taken down the moment I uploaded it. So this version only has the intro animation I put together.

 You can download the Audio Only Version here

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Steven Universe - The Hitch Explains It All Podcast - Ep. 02

On this episode of HEIA, Hitch and Kay Worley share their love of the animated series Steven Universe.

If you are interested in seeing more from Kay please visit her on FacebookdeviantArt, or Tumblr 

Down below is a copy of the Audio Only version, which you can Download Here

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F - The Hitch Explains It All Podcast - Ep.01

Hitch and Senpai Coast to Coast's Josh Dunham talk about the latest Dragon Ball Z movie and the experiences included. 

The first episode in a new monthly podcast.

Livestream can be found here Remember new streaming night is Mondays.

For an audio download, click here

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hitch Plays - I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: Part 1

From a Live Stream recorded on 7/30/15.

Hitch plays through the PC Point and Click Classic, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." For the first Chapter we play through Gorrister's storyline.

I'm Live Streaming games on Thursdays at 8pm. You can watch the stream right on this site if you go here