5 ideas about a movie: Batman: The Killing Joke

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have been reviewing movies for almost 3 years and, throughout that time, I tried to branch out as much as possible – I wrote about big blockbusters and small indie films, Hollywood flicks and foreign pictures. All of the movies had one thing in common – they all have been theatrical releases. Well, this time, I’m widening the spectrum and reviewing an animated movie that was released on streaming and had only a limited theatrical run – Batman: The Killing Joke.

IMDb summary: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

  1. The Killing Joke is the newest addition to the DC Animated Universe. Lately, I have been watching a lot films of that franchise – I’m done with Justice League films and I’ve also checked out the Wonder Woman animated feature. All of the DC Animated films are beloved by the fans, so The Killing Joke was also highly anticipated. The original graphic novel was written by the genius Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, so that’s also a few of the reasons why the nerds couldn’t wait for it. I haven’t read the original comic book  but really want to and will do in a near future.
  2. Writing: the comic book writer Brian Azzarello penned the script for the film and did quite a good job. However, the story did seem uneven. The first half an hour of original material, regarding Batgirl and her relationship with Batman, did not have any connections to the actual narrative of The Killing Joke, so the feature seemed like 2 different shorts in one. I understand why they wanted to add more backstory and development for Barbara, but I think they could have found a more cohesive way to do so. Nevertheless, I really liked the ending of her story – The Joker might have broken Batgirl, but Barbara survived and moved on to better (?) things. I also liked that they kept the ambiguous ending and that they also played fast and loose with The Joker’s backstory: even though the visual flashbacks told one story, the lines of dialogue sorta contradicted it.
  3. The theme of insanity and loneliness during madness was explored in the film. I have a weird interest in insanity as a concept for creative cinematic stories (that’s why I love Gotham’s Arkham Asylum episodes), even though I understand what a serious, awful, and important real-world issue it is. Nevertheless, the dark portrayal of insanity in The Killing Joke was respectful and sophisticated – the film wasn’t just dark and crazy for entertainment sake. I also really liked the deeper dive into Batman’ and Joker’s relationship and the similarities they share. The Joker has always been my and a lot of people’s favorite comic book villain and it is quite easy to see why. He is so iconic and well-rounded, both physically and psychologically: his distinct look is instantly recognizable, despite the plethora of variations throughout the years, and his emotional stance as a villain is amazing: he is frightening, yet humorous; efficient, relentless and threatening; unreliable yet still scarily charming.
  4. Sam Liu directed the picture – he has a lot of experience with animated comic book properties and didn’t disappoint this time either. The animation was good, it was done in the same style as the majority of DC Animated Universe films. I don’t know if would look good on the big screen but it definitively worked on a small one. The action scenes were also realized nicely and I appreciated the recreation of the comic book panels – even though I have yet to read the original material, its graphics are familiar to me due to how iconic they are.
  5. The voice cast did an amazing job, but it is no surprise when you see who actually voiced the characters. Kevin Conroy returned to voice Bruce Wayne / Batman and did a perfect job, as expected. Mark Hamill shined as The Joker once again. I just love that slight crack and the edge in Hamill’s voice – it is so appropriate for The Joker and I cannot imagine a different actor who could do this job. He performed the infamous memory monolog perfectly: it wasn’t too flashy but just the right amount of terror and intimidation. Tara Strong, who has plenty of voice work experience did a nice job bringing Barbara Gordon / Batgirl to life, while Ray Wise was also good Commissioner James Gordon, even though it is his only second voice role.

In short, Batman: The Killing Joke was a nice addition to the magnificent DC Animated Universe. It might not be the best feature of the franchise but it is definitely enjoyable. I would love to hear the thoughts of those who have read the comic – how does the film compare to it?

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Batman: The Killing Joke

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Movie review: Stonehearst Asylum

Movie reviews

Hi!

This past weekend, I went to see the new mystery thriller Stonehearst Asylum. I went to this film for 3 reasons:

  1. Since seeing Cloud Atlas movie I became interested in Jim Sturgess – he plays the main role here.
  2. The movie is based on Edgar Alan Poe’s short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Profesor Fether. I had read Poe’s short story The Pit and the Pendulum in 10th grade and since then became intrigued to read more of his work. I have read the short story this film is based on before going to the movie and I can definitely see why Hollywood producers chose this particular story to turn into a motion picture. It has a tremendous amount of potential possibilities and a tonne of mentioned but unexplored themes.
  3. The work of asylums and the complexity of human mind fascinate me. Moreover, Fox’s Gotham’s story-line about Arkham asylum is my favorite part of that whole show.

Summary (from IMDb): A recent medical school grad who takes a position at a mental institution soon finds himself taken with one of his colleagues — though he has no initial idea of a recent, horrifying staffing change.

Directing

The movie is directed  by Brad Anderson whose most well know films are The Call (2013) with Halee Berry (we watched this one at school during psychology class – that film really shocked me, especially when something like that happened in my own county only recently) and The Machinist (2004) – I’m planning to watch this one.

Visuals and the setting:

The movie is set in 1899. I love period pieces and XIX century is one of my favorite time periods. Imperialism, industrialization, nationalism are 3 words that describe the XIX century. All these events have negative and positive outcomes and I love when history is complex like that and doesn’t give us just straight-up facts but challenges our minds, makes us compare pluses and minuses and lets ourselves decide if disadvantages outweigh the advantages or vice versa.

The color palette and the design of asylum looked believable and really cool too.

Twist (SPOILERS)

The first twist that the patients with Lamb had overthrown the doctors of the asylum and put all the keepers and the true head of the asylum Dr. Salt into cages was predictable and it was also spoiled in the trailer. The movie really had a lot of cliches and I swear, I finished almost all the lines of dialogue in my mind before the characters said the words. When the movie made me think than I had it all figured out, the plot had the twist that I really didn’t expect it to have. I might have predicted it if I had watched more carefully, but I stupidly turned off my mind and just enjoyed the movie. The twist was really nice surprise at the end and made the movie even more better.

Acting/Character by character breakdown

I don’t usually do my reviews like this, but this film had so many characters and all of them did something important. So, let’s begin!

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Jim Sturgess as Edward Newgate – he is the main protagonist and the only character you can root for because his intentions are mostly pure. He is divided between two sides: the cruel patients and not less cruel doctors.  Jim’s acting was great, really good performance.

Kate Beckinsale as Eliza Graves – a troubled woman whose family got rid of her and whose husband beat and used her, so she bit his ear off and ended up in an asylum. She suffers from seizures when touched by men. I wished her back story was explored a bit more.

These two characters, of course, fell in love in the course of the movie. To my mind, their romance was a bit fake and pushed.

Michael Caine as Dr. Salt – a cruel doctor with cruel treating methods. Michale Caine was on screen for only a short time and I never understood his character, he looked no better than a crazy person.

Ben Kingsley as Silas Lamb – mad genius and a killer whose actions I could understand. He was a surgeon in a war and killed few of his patients because they were suffering and dying, so he relieved them of their suffering.

In my opinion, Lamb’s action were justified much better than Salt’s. They could have showed why Salt was acting the way he was because it just seemed that he wanted to break his patients and, while trying to restore their sanity, he only made them more mad. Lamb, on the other hand, clearly had a post dramatic stress disorder after the war.

David Thewlis as Mickey Finn – a crazy supporting character who really lacked the back story. You knew he was crazy but you didn’t know why and as a result, didn’t care for him much.

Sinéad Cusack as Mrs. Pike – the head nurse of the asylum and the only character who was completely selfless and kind. Wish we would have spent more time with her as well.

Sophie Kennedy Clark as Millie – one of the patients who suffered from Salt’s treatments and blossomed when Lamb became the head of the asylum. Her whole plot-line could have been cut because it distracted the viewer form the main events.

Themes and Questions

The movie raised a lot of questions like: Can human actions be justified? Can we know what is right and what is wrong? Are selfless but cruel acts still acts of kindness ? What is insanity? Do we know if we are insane? Is there a cure for insanity? Is it a disease or just another term that describes a person as different? Can people be saved? Is there good side and a bad side or are they are inseparable and undefinable?

All in all,  I liked the visuals and the acting. Some characters were interesting and their actions raised a lot of questions while others could have been developed much more or cut out completely. The twists and clichés mixed together made the movie a plesant experience.

Trailer: Stonehearst Asylum trailer

Rate: 3.5/5 

Stonehearst_Asylum_poster(Google Images)