With its reputation as one of the most iconic and brutal stories in the Batman canon, Batman: The Killing Joke has been on the adaptation wish list of any comic fan worth their ink. So when Warner Bros and DC Comics announced an animated version of Alan Moore's seminal story, fans wondered how loyal the film would be to the rather graphic and brutal material Moore had crafted. Prepare for a lack of surprise, as the film has been officially classified as an R-rated film.
The good news has come down from EW, who recently spoke with the president of Warner Bros Animation & Warner Digital Sales, Sam Register. On the subject of Batman: The Killing Joke's R-rating, as well as its level of authenticity when it comes to adaption the harsh story, Register offered the following reasoning for why the studio was finally going all in on an adult 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.
The biggest moment of brutality from the 48-page one-shot is, of course, the shooting of Barbara Gordon, as part of The Joker's plan to drive her father, Commissioner Gordon, insane. On top of the injury of Barbara's paralysis is the insult of The Joker's photographs of the Commissioner's daughter. Photographs that may or may not infer that Barbara was violated, if not merely brutally tortured, by the clown prince of crime. Considering Batman: The Killing Joke's brutality through Alan Moore's story, as well as Brian Bolland's stark illustrations, the finished product is simply something that really can't be adapted into a PG-13 film.
With an R-rating on the books for Batman: The Killing Joke, the audience has to wonder just how much detail will be brought to the events of violence and torture that litter the entire book. It's true that Sam Register and Warner Bros. are fully backing the rating, but at the same time the fan buzz around the ratings decision really didn't give them another chance. The fans demanded an R-rating, and considering 2016 is also the year that brought the widely divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the decision was pretty clear that Warner Bros would take advantage of the leeway given to the DC Animated Universe and push for the top rating. Here's hoping that the R-rating granted to Batman: The Killing Joke isn't a bare minimum effort, much like when Fox was granted a PG-13 rating for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
Batman: The Killing Joke will be released this summer on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD; which will see the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman, as well as Mark Hamill's Joker. So even if the material isn't as brutal as some would hope, the re-match of Conroy v Hamill will make the film worth everyone's time.