Marvel Animation Age Webmaster
- Apr 15, 2002
- The Marvel Animation Age
Yes, unfortunately, there were many ways in which to do adapt this take, and I think the creative team sadly zigged when they should have zagged in several areas. I am personally not fond of scene for scene retellings, but on the other hand, it worked tremendously for The Dark Knight Returns movies, but this was a sheer miss. Given how many times Timm and Burnett have worked with The Joker, one would've thought this was something they'd know what to do with, but follow up interviews with Timm seem to suggest he did indeed struggle with this story.I never watched this film after reading the bad reviews, but I regard the original story as one of the best Joker tales in any medium (what Moore thinks of it now is irrelevant--trust the tale, not the teller). It portrays the Joker a nihilist who regards life as a nasty joke ruled by chance--all it takes is one bad day to turn a man into a monster.
Batman is the Joker's philosophical opposite. He didn't let a bad day destroy him. He used it turn himself into a hero. He is an existentialist who believes you can make yourself into something better and overcome chance. Life is not a sick joke but an opportunity.
Commissioner Gordon is the site of the Batman and Joker's philosophical struggle, their tug-of-war. The Joker wants to drive Gordon mad to prove his point. Batman wants Gordon to triumph and cheer his violent revenge on the Joker. But Gordon ultimately emerges as the sanest man of all three.
TKJ is therefore a very tight drama involving the struggle between these three characters. Adding any other major protagonists immediately throws the dramatic premise off-balance. That's why adding a chunky prologue devoted to Batgirl doesn't make sense except as a misguided attempt to make a more woman-friendly narrative.
Even less understandable is why the powers-that-be greenlit an adaptation of a one of the most famous and respected Batman graphic novels but decided to be cheap with the animation and the very look of it. What's the point of animating an extremely famous and extremely distinctive graphic novel if the animation doesn't come anywhere near the look of the original? They sabotaged their own prestige project and made it look cheap.
If I was in charge, I would have insisted on two things: doubling the budget and adding nothing to the story. No prologue. Instead I would have decided on including a "bonus film" about Barbara Gordon's life after the events of TKJ. This would a completely separate story but available on the same Blu-Ray or Digital package as the TKJ. I would have commissioned someone like Gail Simone to write it, thereby providing a critical exploration of the now-problematic aspects of TKJ. This would allow for a self-contained adaptation of TKJ and a follow-up addressing what people now find objectionable about the book. Lovers and haters would be equally catered to, instead of being fed a tone-deaf botch of an adaptation.
It is also disappointing, visually. I'm aware you have not seen the movie, but it looks so much weaker than the other Direct to video features, which stings more as the book it is based upon is stunningly beautiful. I don't know how old you are, but given how I remember you and I discussing these DC shows during the original airings of Justice League, I imagine you grew up on shows that had occasionally sub par, if not terrible animation, but something with the budget this feature has should look a lot far better than this does.
I might have known Jim would beat me to this!
Excellent interview, too. I especially like how he realises that simply redoing the classics over and over again does the show/characters few favours and occasionally a revamp/update is needed, but with a classic feel. Bourassa is the best in the business, for me.