Tuesday, 26 July 2016
REVIEW: BATMAN-THE KILLING JOKE
Jokes On Luke.
76 Mins. Starring: Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong & Ray Wise. Ditector: Sam Liu.
How about a joke? I promise it will kill you! You just have to give Luke Skywalker a hand...c'mon let me hear it! He's finally crossed over to the dark side. All in a purple haze. Now 30 Seconds To Mars frontman and 'Dallas Buyers Club' Oscar winner Jared Leto may be having the latest laugh as The Joker. Hoping to kill it in the upcoming weeks 'Suicide Squad' movie that has been teased for around a year now (check the new 'Justice League' and 'Wonder Woman' trailers, that just seems to be what DC do). Even though he has a big purple suit to fill in the late, great redefining 'Dark Knight' actor Heath Ledger who will always have the last laugh. But 'Star Wars' star Mark Hamill has been punching lines as the Clown Prince for decades now. He's as much Batman's arch nemesis as Leto, Ledger, Jack Nicholson and even Cesar Romero are...if not more so. Almost every comic-book that has turned into cartoon cariacture from the 90's classic, timeless 'Batman-The Animated Series' to feature films have heard Hamill's unrecognisable, but unmistakable Joker voice...and of course laugh. You don't just have to watch the latest 'Kingsman' film to be mistaken for thinking this guy is as British as the Secret Service. Even when you console yourself with Batman's 'Arkham' video games you can't escape his maddening Mark. Hamill has played The Joker card more than anybody. And you just thought he was standing on some rock in the highlands of Scotland looking all forlorn. Jokes on you!
Or is that Luke? Now many an animated Bats flick have had almost as much success as the big, live action feature films (that may not be too hard right now after this years critically and commercially disappointing 'Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice' movie that was actually damn good), from 'The Dark Knight Rises' to 'The Dark Knight Returns'. But this time they're going for the comic-book crown. Taking geek arguably Batman's most infamous and best graphic novel (at the very least the best Joker one), 'The Killing Joke' and finally making Alan Moore and Brian Bollard's 80's classic a big-screen feature now those who grew up reading it when they shouldn't will be trying to hide it from their own kids. In making a cartoon out of Batman's darkest night (with respect to Paul Dini's (the man whose Batman animated series brought the clown out of Hamill himself and also introduced us to a new character creation of his you may have heard of, or be hearing more of soon, Harley Quinn) latest autobiographical, meta novel that overcomes any adversity, physical or emotional), this could easily be suicide for a struggling D.C. But with a hit squad lead by director Sam Liu (and featuring a world weary vocal Ray Wise, the right choice as Commissioner Gordon and a terrific Tara Strong as his Batgirl (with a tacked on and somewhat sexually tacky in its lack of tact, but Strong held entertaining origin story for a character so popular right now even 'Iron Man 3' and 'Nice Guys' director Shane Black wants to do a movie about her) daughter Barbara), turning classic cells into rich animation (complete with colourful Easter Eggs at a coin flip...including a headshot of the greatest jester to ever tell the Jokers tale) as vibrant as neon nights sometimes bad guys don't die. No matter how you interpret the classic ending.
But as another new era of Batman begins, going back to this classic we have a vintage feeling film that can still have mass appeal to the mainstream digital generation, whether you're watching it in 4K or at home on the barcelounger. That's because Mark Hamill and the man who may have played the Bat more times than his adversary has played the "two-bit wack job", Kevin Conroy make for a hell of a team...or should we say pair of bitter enemies?! These guys are two of a kind as Batman and the Joker just like Adam West and Ceser Romero, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger and soon to be Ben Affleck and Jared Leto...just you wait seven days. They belong to their own animated, die hard, comic coral generation. Between all the lozenge needing Bale grunts and growls and Affleck's dynamic digital upgrade, tell me does anyone have a voice that just bleeds Batman more than Conroy? And aside from Ledger making the white war paint make-up all his own and Leto seemingly impersonating him from a vocal standpoint (Jared just loving this too, with his own photographic interpretation of this novels classic graphic cover on the lens of his Instagram feed filling the Mars mainstream masses with cult nostalgia) is any mans voice and laugh more cruelly clowning as The Joker then the one made by Mark? Cult arguably even more The Joker than he is Luke, Hamill brings it all out of the prince of purple (with all due respect to the late, great Artist that once made an entire 'Batman' soundtrack off one dance). All the "just one bad day" madness and the gravity of an honest and painfully human origin story we didn't see until Moore showed us more. He has all that it takes...with just a little push. This may just be his ace in the hole turn as the playing card trick, his best hand yet. We told you you had to give it to him. Now how about we shake on it? Put it there! Because the jokes on all of us. By the rain of a pale moonlight we'll all leave this ending laughing. Even if it kills us. TIM DAVID HARVEY.