Animated Batman: The Killing Joke will be DC’s First R-Rated Animated Movie
The fans have been wondering ever since Warner Brothers and DC announced they would be animating Alan Moore’s iconic comic Batman: The Killing Joke exactly what the film was going to look like, and exactly how far they would go, given the overall darkness pervading the story. Well, now we have answers to both of those questions. To answer the second question first, it is now confirmed that the animated Batman: The Killing Joke has received an R-rating, making it the first DC animated film to receive this rating. This means that they likely won’t shy away from depicting anything that may have been omitted otherwise, including the violence. In the trailer for the Batman: The Killing Joke, they show pieces of the torture of Commissioner Gordon and the torture, paralyzing and traumatizing of his daughter Barbara (aka Batgirl) in an attempt to push Batman over the edge, but it is unknown how they’ll handle some of the more piercing aspects of Barbara’s ordeal. The movie will feature the legendary voices of Batman and the Joker from the iconic 90s Batman animated series, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, respectively.
In regard to the rating, Sam Register, president of Warner Brothers Animation & Warner Digital Series said this in a statement: “From the start of production, we encouraged producer Bruce Timm and our team at Warner Brothers Animation to remain faithful to the original story — regardless of the eventual MPAA rating. The Killing Joke is revered by the fans, particularly for its blunt, often-shocking adult themes and situations. We felt it was our responsibility to present our core audience — the comics-loving community — with an animated film that authentically represented the tale they know all too well.”
An official press release for the film also added two additional pieces of interesting information:
“At this time, there are no plans for an edited, PG-13 version of the film … It’ll also feature an original 15-minute prologue that helps set up the story, giving even longtime fans of the story something new to look forward to.”
The 15-minute prologue was put in place for two reasons, according to interviews with Timm and others. First, they felt like there wasn’t quite enough material for a feature-length film with just the comic, and second, they wanted to flesh out the character of Barbara Gordon and make her more integral to the story, rather than simply a means to an end for the Joker. Now, as for the first question, this video interview with the cast and crew provides some interesting insight into the making of the animated Batman: The Killing Joke, including the actual style / look of the movie. If you have 10 minutes, it’s worth watching. But the short version is that they married the realistic and detailed artwork of Brian Bolland from the original comic (which they felt was incredibly hard to animate) to the more animation friendly (but still amazing) art of Kevin Nowlan, creating a sort of hybrid.
Another interesting snippet from the above video, which was recorded before the rating was handed down: toward the end, Bruce Timm say “…nowadays, it might not even get an R-rating. We could probably do this movie straight up, do a very faithful adaptation of the comic without toning anything down, we might get a PG-13. We really don’t know.” This could indicate that either the film has been softened a little in the transition to animation, or we’ve hardened as a viewing public, and it takes more to get through to us now. The comic itself sparked two opposing opinions in the fanbase – some felt it was unnecessary and that the Joker was enough of a villain as it was, and others believed the violence crucial to establish him as the absolutely foulest enemy of the Dark Knight.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out just how successful WB and DC were at adapting this iconic comic. The animated Batman: the Killing Joke will debut this summer at the San Diego Comic-Con and will go on sale later in the year.
As a final note, DC appears to finally be embracing the R-Rating. Just before this, they announced a longer Batman v Superman director’s cut would be released in an attempt to de-seat The Return of The King director’s cut as the already really long movie that is now the longest movie ever (I keed, I keed…), and that the cut will be rated R. And now that the R-rating is acceptable, David Ayers reportedly wants the Suicide Squad sequel to be rated R. You know what I want? An R-rated Aquaman. Let’s see him really show those jerk porpoises who’s boss!
UPDATE: The first official trailer for the Killing Joke bearing the “R” rating has been released:
Images: DC Comics / Warner Brothers