The Killing Joke – review

The Killing Joke is famous for being one of the highlights of the Joker’s career, and many scars of Batman’s. Alan Moore’s psych is probably in question when his most famous work features purposefully crippling a beloved character, rape and psychological torture.

Ladies and gentlemen, Adam West has left the building.

In his place strut Kevin Conroy, the voice of animated Batman in most forms, including the Arkham games, and in an act of art imitating life he often partners up in media with the Joker everyone gasps at the sight of: Luke Skywalker – or Mark Hamill, when he’s at home.

Spoilers ahead, folks!

 

Even I, someone who avoids both comics and Dr Who for the same reason (I reckon if I dove in now I’d drown in established plotlines and universes), even I have a copy of Alan Moore’s 1988 gritty graphic novel and Batman’s toughest stain on his cape: The Killing Joke.

Finally the movie adaption was released, albeit to a select few cinemas, but it was met with great enthusiasm. I’ve never felt out of place for forgetting my bat-symbol t-shirt before!

 

Transfer from book to screen is never easy, though it’s expected to be when its source is a comic. Every shot is there ready for you, guys!

For the most part The Killing Joke hits its mark, but there are a few gains and losses in small changes throughout the transition.

 

Gains & Losses

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We gained fleshed out plot but lost patience waiting for the Joker.

Don’t be put off by the prologue. If you’re looking for a shot-for-shot adaption of The Killing Joke you’ll get it, just after the first act.

This was helpful to me, someone who avoids comics, since Batgirl hasn’t really been on my radar without them. When I picked up The Killing Joke it was initially to see her, ahem, transition from Batgirl to Oracle. That happened about ten pages in with no sympathy built, but I’m guessing it would have easily stabbed at the hearts of those who’ve followed and loved her from the start. (Not to mention the shock that she didn’t just pick herself up on the next page.)

With only twelve pages of knowledge of Barbara Gordon, the movie did need an extra character-building arc, it’s only real problem being NO JOKER!

I assumed this particular fixated bad guy Batgirl was chasing (lazily named Paris Franz) was actually Joker in disguise, or before he “changed”, or whatever. That was as far as I got before I left it to the movie to surprise me. Alas, there was no surprise. Paris was tossed away and Joker began his story, finally.

This move also fixed a problem in the book but created new ones. Batgirl has been considered thrown away with her entire plot being only to drive Batman in this out-of-universe novel, but in making Batgirl less disposable they managed to make her less Batgirl, with her new pining characteristics annoying fans. When pulled up about it at the San Diego Comic Con, screenwriter Brian Azzarello dug himself a hole while trying to defend the decision by saying “She manipulates the men around her.”

The annoyed fan finished “using sex.”

Not exactly our idea of hero, nor does it fit with Batgirl’s character. It doesn’t even fit the plot. Paris was manipulating her and some argue Batman was too.

 

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We gained action but lost violence.

Something I’ve always found ironic about comics is they’re usually (not always, but usually) about fighting, which means a lot of movement, which means even if it’s done well a comic can lose a lot of the action. In this era of Fast and Furious and Mission Impossible-esque stunts getting grander and grander, the usual “BAM!” in explosive writing is a little hollow.

This is where the movie gains big time. There’s not actually a lot of fighting in The Killing Joke, just Batman being menacing, but the prologue to the movie gives a lot of chase and fighting, upping the ante for those of us who love a damn good thrashing!

But then a punch to the gut was out of shot. A lot of gunfire resulted in little blood. It was all a bit tame and reminiscent of Age of Ultron where the bad guys were conveniently robots so as not to get too real.

This all makes no sense, since the movie was rated 15. It deals with rape, psychological and physical torture and there were no toys to sell, so let us see a damn good thrashing!

 

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We gained a steamy sex scene but also a creepy relationship and a besmirched Batgirl.

This is where the high age rating for a cartoon really comes in, right BBFC?

Easily the most controversial aspect of the story isn’t in the book. I can practically see your eyes rolling, but this time it really wasn’t for the better.

So the clichéd anger turning into sex is clichéd for a reason. Pretty sure there’d be no need for marriage therapy if everyone adopted this method. It made for a mouth-drying moment that also gained a gasp when Batman grabbed Batgirl’s ass!

Some called this move misogynistic. Those people, I ask, go get laid and see where your hands end up. If that’s misogynistic then that means just about everyone is a sexist pig. I bet Barbara’s hands were wandering too.

But it’s still Barbara. Maybe the result of watching Young Justice lately is taking the “girl” of “Batgirl” too literally. Batman is a father figure to her, someone she respects but doesn’t lust for. Leave that to Catwoman or Talia Al Guhl. It was out of character for both of them especially since there was no hint of lust on his part. Okay, Batman is a closed book to feelings, but it seemed like the man who has a plan for everything just kind of went with it. Maybe it’d been a while..!

After the rooftop romance (which I know enough to guess was in fact inspired by Catwoman) the two are petty teenagers playing Mexican stalemates with the Batphone and Barbara is reduced to whining to her offensively stereotypically token gay best friend about her “yoga instructor” refusing to talk to her. It really took the badass out of Batgirl.

 

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We gained Joker’s song due to lost tone.

Another aspect the film brought to life was Joker’s song, which he sings merrily while Commissioner Gordon goes through his “terror-go-round”. It’s fun and chilling, just as Joker himself is, and adds something to what otherwise would have been a rather tame experience.

All the aspects that make it a torturous experience are there; a crippled and raped daughter displays on the walls around him, Joker’s voice sings harsh truths, creepy circus freaks keep his naked body imprisoned, and yet, I felt nothing.

That’s because there is a panel that’s almost art in the comic, which uses an important aspect forgotten in the film: tone. It’s not something you can really pinpoint, just feel. But it gets implied using various optical illusion-type methods.

Gordon is suffocated in the panel, the video walls closing in as he sees more and feels more. Plus, Barbara’s naked body and pained expression is very much front and centre, whereas in the film Gordon travels merrily and struggles weakly to look at shapely legs at most.

He could have been watching Teletubbies.

 

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We gained clarity of the ending but did we want it?

The ending was what most of us were most looking forward to, not only because it’s notoriously ambiguous, but also, who has ever heard Batman laugh before? I didn’t think it physically possible!

I always assumed Batman killed Joker.

This is based on only one panel, one shot of Batman reaching for Joker, his arm(s) outstretched, but it’s so dark you can’t see what he’s going for. It’s possible there could be a batarang in his hand since that arm seems to hover over the heart…? Or was there some strangling? Or worst, but most sickly satisfactory, a neck snapping?

All this is aided by the fact that Joker immediately stops laughing.

And it seems I’m not the only one who thought so. Courtesy of Grant Smith, another Batman comic writer…

http://comicsalliance.com/batman-killing-joke-ending-grant-morrison-alan-moore-brian-bolland-dc/

The film makes it pretty clear that arm reaching for Joker was simply support for a hearty belly-laugh, meaning what exactly? A shining moment of peace between a troubled duo that will eventually end in death? Or proving that By The Book is the right way, like the commissioner begged?

Plus it would’ve been interesting to have seen what that would have done to Batman thereafter. Joker and Batman have a twisted relationship wherein one drives the other: a rock repeatedly slamming into a hard place. It would have been interesting to see Batman’s psych once that drive was gone.

Would he grieve?

 

It’s hard to say which was better because the prologue was entertaining and the rest was a realisation of long-time desire. For all that’s lost there’s some to gain and vice versa. Like Batman and Joker themselves, you take the good with the bad.

4/5*

 

Batman: The Killing Joke will be released on DVD and blu-ray on the 8th August 2016 and the graphic novel is still available in most stores.

 

Singin’ I’m No A Billy, He’s A Tim

Aside from the Commonwealth Games and (debatably) the Scottish Referendum, Glasgow’s proudest modern accomplishment is surely the return of Des Dillon’s play, Singing I’m No a Billy, He’s A Tim. Dillon’s frank but humorous view on the Old Firm rivalry that inflicts the city is returning this April to The Pavilion Theatre.  Since the book’s publication in 2008, the play has spread throughout Scotland and Ireland, making Dillon a minor celebrity of northern Britain.

Coatbridge-bred Des Dillon has released almost 20 novels set around the Glasgow lifestyle. One of which has caught the attention of theatre-lovers and those rarely glancing at the heavy read curtain alike. Singin’ I’m No A Billy He’s A Tim is the story of two opposing football fans tossed into the same cell, their freedom dependant on the outcome of the match and the resulting winnings that will secure their bail money.

“I don’t make points. Other people make them. It became an anti-sectarianism play and I’m happy with that but no, I don’t try and make a point. My whole aim is for people to give me £20 to give them a great night out of entertainment. The last thing they need is taught and I don’t think anybody would be so stupid that they would need a lesson. I think that’s the big mistake writers make. They think that most people are more stupid than their writing, when actually I think it’s the other way round.”

Dillon is a fresh exception to the rule of what is imagined when picturing an author or playwright. No large feather quill. No hidden depth. No bullshit of any kind is tolerated.

“I’m just writing poetry [nowadays]. Once a year I put the plays on, I make enough money for another year and I don’t do anything. My play goes to London and it gets reviewed as a political satire, in really good reviews, but generally up here it gets called “popular theatre” as they say, which really means ‘shite’. That’s what popular means: shite.”

It’s hard to decide whether Dillon is an author who intends to break barriers or conform to them to become great. Or perhaps greatness itself is simply shite too.

Underneath the humour of how petty man can be, a cultural or political message is expected from an author who wrote so often about the subject.

“I was brought up in a total sectarianism community. I was part of it because it was normal. You just hated Protestants. They hated us. That’s the way it was. Or that’s what you felt. That’s what you thought. That’s what you were taught. You learnt it from the people round about you.”

But maybe the point was to reflect rather than tackle.

“The easiest way to tackle a heavy-duty subject is through comedy anyway. And that’s why the play’s been so easy to swallow. It goes down even better in Belfast supposedly. They love it over there, because to them it’s just funny.”

There have been arguments that sectarianism is less of an issue nowadays and that we’re a little safer wearing a green or blue top in certain areas again.

“I think it’s easier nowadays. Definitely. I don’t think that’s down to my play.”

Since this is a man who won’t take any bullshit, the recent referendum obviously came up. The country’s best modern example of bullshit.

“I just think Scotland would be better off on its own. It’s a different culture. We’ve got more money.”

However, this opinion could be created from Scotland’s situation in the arts rather than any political or financial basis. Maybe this no-bullshit approach is due to the publication system we’re used to and that Dillon – and any other Scottish author – is entirely sick of. Maybe the younger generation famed for voting yes were imagining a new world. A world where there was no need for pseudonyms and faking a London address to get noticed by the fat men sneering behind their cigars.

“Every Scottish person knows no matter what walk of life they’re in, whether it’s in football, writing, acting that they’ll never ever reach the dizzy heights of success because England hold the key to the doors of success. I’m unknown [in England], so I’m not a great writer then. I’m well known in Scotland.”

Being frank, Dillon has shattered the image of what makes a great writer. Do sales make you a great writer? That would make J.K. Rowling the best writer ever. Does legacy? No one this century will achieve that. Is a writer’s only choice to put a new spin on Twilight and spit it out to succeed? Publication gives you three options and asks you to choose only two: money, fame and depth.

Meanwhile, Des Dillon will continue to grumble at the latest Oprah-recommended book from the backstage of Singin’ I’m No A Billy He’s a Tim and hopefully live out the legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald: die believing he is forgotten with a hidden treasure somewhere in his house waiting to be discovered and remembered for centuries.

The Da Vinci Controversy

Headache or enlightening? Whatever you think of the new genre “history thriller”, there’s no denying The Da Vinci Code brought a lot of things to attention; artworks, details of history, modern day ideals, and, lucky for us Scots, buildings. Midlothian’s beautiful historic church has gained from the simple act of Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou walking in, with visitation and profits rising as a result of the controversial movie.

In celebration of The Da Vinci Code’s 10-year anniversary and its affect on Rosslyn, the chapel is hosting two showings of the film in the garden. Picnic blankets and garden chairs are welcome for an outdoor showing of Tom Hanks’ pursuit of legend, the second of which comes with a tour of the chapel and its many stories.

Continue reading “The Da Vinci Controversy”

Women in trade

A trade is generally a guy thing. That’s not me being sexist, that’s me getting a conclusion from people asking if that girl I knew is a lesbian because she has to wear a hardhat to work, the general mention that if I didn’t study I would end up dancing on tables, but never making them and the knowledge that there is one single female human in City of Glasgow College’s engineering department.

At least that what I’m assuming from what I saw. I didn’t go inspecting every person I met in the engineering department, declaring they drop their jumpsuits, but there was only one person with make-up on, only one person with her nails done. I think that’s proof enough.

Caera Kimmitt is one of two inhabitants of the girl’s student bathroom in the engineering department. When we were introduced to her we were in this huge manky room that looked like the inside of the Titanic. Metal so big and old it’s not worth trying to dust, everything still and yet a deafening noise coming from the back of the room, the windows so high they become pointless. And out of that, stepped Caera. Hair tied away but well looked after, her nails still unchipped from the party she’d just woke up from, the click of her heel hidden by her smudged white jumpsuit.

The college course alternates between time in the campus workshop and time at sea. Like most of the other students in her department, the plan for Caera is to complete her college course and go on to work on a ship someday, be that with the chubby lazy tourists with their kids that seem to be on ecstasy in the cruise industry or amongst the jaunty sailor boys of the navy is up to her. Apparently her eyes are on the cruises. (I think that’s so she can sneak a cocktail below deck…!)

“So what do you do in the workshop?”

“Filing mostly… You’re given like three bits of metal and you’ve got to make sure it’s all square and cut it and we make a wee wheel and it’s pretty cool in the end … Deck’s a wee bit more boring because it’s data and stuff”

Now I wasn’t sure what to expect from the men around the engineering floor when me and my notepad walked in, so I can imagine her head. When me with two other young women and an adult female entered, heads turned like a meerkat’s. I don’t want to say they’re all perves but that is the stereotype of men, so I guessed either they liked what they saw or they were simply confused and assumed we’d got lost and ended up in the wrong room – or maybe a little of both.

Of course, maybe being the only female in a room full of guys can be rewarding? Not that way! Get your head out the gutter.

“It was quite daunting at first with obviously, me being the only girl, but it wasn’t that bad. We all look after each other so even when we go out of college they all kind of, I’ve noticed them all stand around if there’s someone kinda looking a bit, you know, shifty they’ll get protective.”

In the time it took the three of us to get a quick lap around the engineering floor, the three of us girls were saying the same thing.

“We should’ve chose a trade”

And why didn’t this occur to any of us when we were leaving high school wondering what to do with our Highers in English or maths or whatever that had to be directly applied to our respective careers we were obviously going to find the second we walked out the gates? It seemed to occur to many of the males of my high school, according to Facebook anyway. So why not us?

Is it the wolf whistles or the banter? The ugly outfit? Society’s image of a strong woman not really fitting in with a hard hat? I’d like to think today’s women aren’t so shallow or weak to let any of these issues bother them.

The respective trade for women seems to be beauty, but many guys are infiltrating that now. How come they’re allowed?

For me, it just never occurred to me. Nowadays that seems stupid. In “our economic climate” the obvious thing to do would be to get a long standing job. That means no McDonalds job for the time being but no making-a-name-for-yourself career either, because that takes time, money and energy a lot of us don’t have the pleasure of having – usually getting nothing out of it either.

Engineering is a step between trade and career: doesn’t take as much money or time to get there and gives a lot more back. So surely the image of the idea is outweighted by the prospects.

So what are we waiting for? Grab the big girl boots!

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