Went and caught a theatrical screening of the new DC animated movie, Batman: The Killing Joke last weekend, ahead of its local Blu-ray/DVD release next month. The original 1988 graphic novel one-shot, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland, is certainly one of the seminal works in the 70+ year history of Batman and his universe, and one of the most potent things about it is that it was short and packed such a powerful punch in a page count not much more than... a single issue of a regular comic (unlike the multi-issue arcs of other classic Batman stories from the same period, like The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One).
To help pad out the running time of the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke, director Sam Liu and screenwriter Brian Azzarello start the film with a 15 minute prologue which focuses on Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and her relationship with Batman. Violent and strongly sexual in parts, the prologue is an addition to the story which is sure to anger and divide a lot of fans (it certainly changes the established dynamic and relationship between the two characters in a major way), but the rest of the film follows the graphic novel very closely (save for the now de ri|gueur teaser sequence placed mid-way through the end credits).
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are as great as ever as the voices of Batman and the Joker respectively, and the animation has a look and feel to it that provides a nice throwback to the Batman cartoons produced in the late-sixties by Hal Sutherland and his Filmation studios. The Killing Joke is violent and even a little sexually perverse. It has some amazing strong visual moments - most of which are lifted straight out of the graphic novel - but Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1997) still stands as the Dark Knight's finest animated moment.
The preview screening was preceded by a nice little featurette on Mark Hamill and his memories on how he landed the role of the Joker and the ways in which he approached voicing the character over 20-plus years now.