One of my all-time favorite Joker stories is The Killing Joke. The story was controversial because it brutally changed the status quo: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) was now paralyzed from the legs down. Because of this, she would later become the hacker Oracle. It also recounted the Joker’s origin, building on how he started out as The Red Hood. I personally believe this story helped Batgirl become a better character, more than just a female, younger version of Batman.
I was excited when I learned that an animated feature was being made. When I learned that Mark Hammil, Tara Strong, and Kevin Conroy were reprising their roles as The Joker, Batgirl, and Batman, I was even happier. The movie even became DC’s first animated feature to have an R-rating. That’s really the only way the story can be done. This is the Joker proving that everyone is as twisted and sadistic as him. He believes all everyone needs to push them over the brink is a “bad day”. And this is him giving Commissioner Gordon and Batman that “bad day”.
Then I watched, and my happiness was short-lived. My biggest gripe is the first half-hour. Barbara and Batman bring in a criminal and then they have sex. Why? This wasn’t even in the original book! It’s not like the rest of the story wouldn’t have gotten the R-Rating. And the rest of the movie acts like the first half hour didn’t even happen! So why add it?
Batman and Batgirl were never an item! Batgirl and Dick Grayson, the first Robin, were an item, yes. If it had been Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, I wouldn’t have minded. With Batgirl, Batman was nothing more than a mentor.
A friend of mine suggested that it might’ve been to raise the stakes for Batman. If that’s the case, it still wasn’t necessary! Barbara Gordon has been an ally of Batman’s for years. She is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, another ally. The stakes were already high because of their relationship as mentor and student. It also completely changed Batgirl’s motivation. She became Batgirl out of altruism, even in Batman: The Animated Series. She wanted to help Batman clear her father’s name. The sex scene makes her a fawning groupie.
The rest of the movie was good, however. All the voices were great, even Tara Strong with her limited performance. I still recommend it because the part after the first half-hour that actually is The Killing Joke is great. The rest was all unnecessary.