‘Batman: The Killing Joke’: What We Know About the New Animated Batman Movie

[Update, 4/27/16: Added first official trailer (see above).]

Before The Dark Knight trilogy was ever even a glimmer in Christopher Nolan’s eye, the animated Batman series from Bruce Timm was the quintessential portrayal of the iconic hero in film and TV. It’s now two-and-a-half decades since Timm’s series debuted, and to this day it still holds up. Most known for taking its cues from both Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s comics, the series is far from irrelevant in today’s modern landscape of superheroes. With that in mind, it only seems right that the same creative team adapts Moore’s famous Killing Joke saga for a featured-length animated movie.

Batman: The Killing Joke is set to arrive this summer, bringing to life a story that many fans know by heart. There’s plenty to unravel as we approach the premiere, with both the cast and creators shedding light on what we can expect from the movie. Here’s everything we know so far.

[Update, 6/8/16: Per Polygon, ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ will premiere at San Diego Comic-Con this summer before it is digitally released. However, fans can also catch in select theaters on July 25!]

[Update, 7/20/16: Per Fathom Events, a second night of screenings (Tuesday, July 26) has been added for ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ due to “unprecedented demand.”]

1. The Killing Joke source material

The Joker from DC Comics' The Killing Joke
The Joker from DC Comics’s The Killing Joke | Source: DC Comics

The modern depiction of the Joker we see today from the likes of Heath Ledger and Jared Leto is pulled directly from the pages of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Without giving away too much (seriously though, read this comic), the story centers on the storied dynamic between Batman and his classic arch-nemesis, honing in on the untold origin story of the Clown Prince himself. The original saga is widely regarded as a must-read for any comic book aficionado, penned by the legendary Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), and drawn by Brian Bolland.

2. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return as Batman and the Joker respectively

Batman and the Joker - Batman the Animated Series
Batman the Animated Series | Source: Warner Bros.

Even casual fans recognize two men as the go-to voices behind Batman and the Joker: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. They first appeared as the iconic characters in the original animated series, since then lending their talents to the Arkham video games, various animated Batman and Justice League movies, and tons more. The duo returns to assume their roles once again for The Killing Joke, albeit in a much less kid-friendly version of the Dark Knight.

3. Bruce Timm is signed on as a producer


As the creative force behind the original Batman series, bringing Bruce Timm in for The Killing Joke was a no-brainer for DC. Timm’s vision for the Batman/Joker dynamic can be seen in the DNA of Nolan’s The Dark Knight, as well as the rumors surrounding Jared Leto’s allegedly crazy portrayal coming in Suicide Squad. And while Timm may only be an executive producer for The Killing Joke, having him involved in any capacity is a win. He also points out that because the source material isn’t long enough for a full movie, additional story was added to fill out the runtime.

4. “A really nasty, vile Joker”

The Joker - Batman: The Killing Joke
The Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke | Source: Warner Bros.

Just because it’s an animated movie doesn’t mean that the original Killing Joke story will be watered down in the slightest. Mark Hamill hints at as much in an interview with The Vergetelling them that “if people want to see a really nasty, vile Joker, this is the one.” It’s a version of the villain that’s a far cry from Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson’s campier portrayals, reveling in murder, destruction, and most importantly, complete and utter insanity.

5. Expanding the character of Barbara Gordon

Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke
Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke | Source: Warner Bros.

If there’s one glaring issue with The Killing Joke‘s source material, it’s the characterization of Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). As The Verge describes, in the comic Gordon is “shot, paralyzed, stripped nude, and, it’s suggested, sexually assaulted,” all of which are problematic in a decidedly more progressive era of comic book stories. According to the animated movie’s creators, a concerted effort was made to expand her character, noting how “the audience gets to spend more time with Barbara Gordon as a person before the events of The Killing Joke.

6. Batman: The Killing Joke lands an R-Rating

Source: DC Comics
Source: DC Comics

Given the violence and content of Alan Moore’s original comic series, it should come as little surprise that the movie version has officially earned itself an R-Rating. It’s just the second animated Batman movie to ever be rated-R, and the first in the greater “DC Universe Original Movie” series. Warner Bros. president Sam Register explained the decision, noting how “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.”

Batman: The Killing Joke will premiere at San Diego Comic-Con this summer and will have a special theatrical release on July 25.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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