It’s been a long time coming, but Alan Moore’s seminal Batman tale The Killing Joke is finally being taken from page to screen. But not even the people in charge know how this thing is going to be received.
Veteran voice actor (oh, and he’s also that guy from Star Wars) Mark Hamill reprised his role as the Joker for the upcoming R-rated animated feature, and told Empire the character has come a long way since he first brought him to life in Batman: The Animated series back in the 1990s.
Hamill said he actually had trouble even imagining the comic being brought to life visually, just because it’s so dark and controversial. But, by adding in a fresh Batgirl tale to supplement the graphic novel’s relatively short running time, he thinks they’ve really managed to strike a balance that will work:
“I can't imagine how people are going to react to this, because I'm a Killing Joke purist. When they first talked about it, I said, ‘The only way we can do this is as a book on tape so that we honor every comma, every word, every letter, every syllable of Alan Moore's script. We can add music and special effects to enhance it.’ They kind of said, ‘What are you talking about? Nobody is doing this as a book on tape. It's not commercially viable for us to do it that way. See if you can get the rights and record it in your basement or something if that's what you want to do. This story has to be expanded.’ If we just adapted The Killing Joke as an animated film, it would maybe be fifty-five minutes. They've actually done a really incredible job of supplementing it with Barbara Gordon/Batgirl material.
I love the fact that the Joker is so unrelenting in his lack of humanity in this story. He's so extreme that it pushes Batman to the edge of not adhering to his code of honor. Which can happen. You almost question whether or not he's going to make an exception in this case, because the Joker is so extreme. It's chilling stuff. When I'm in character, and, yes, I'm in the studio so I'm not turning into the Joker by any stretch of the imagination, but what I'm saying is that if you're in character and in the zone, you relish it. Then you take a break and you think, ‘Jesus, what did I just record?’ That was really creepy.”
Producer Bruce Timm revealed the story has been this close to making it as an animated feature for years now, dating back almost a decade. The first effort was derailed when the studio realized it'd almost certainly have to be rated R, then a second push was shelved following the tragic theater shooting during The Dark Knight Rises’ run.
Batman: The Killing Joke hits Digital HD on July 26, and disc Aug. 2.