The first trailer for Batman: The Killing Joke has hit, and fans of DC Comics, Batman, and The Joker seem to be happy with what they are seeing. The fact that this Batman animated film got an R-rating also has many fans ecstatic, as The Killing Joke was a story that screams for the heavy adult-only rating. However, giving The Killing Joke an R-rating might be a huge mistake for DC Comics and Warner Bros.
It was just one month ago that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theaters and was met with huge critical disdain, currently ranking at a very low 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it has a 68 percent fresh rating with moviegoers, and has made over $862 million worldwide. The biggest problem that critics have with the movie is that it is too dark, and there is even an R-rated version of the movie that is supposed to be even darker.
If the critics believe Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is too dark, imagine what they will think of The Killing Joke. In that movie, The Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), paralyzing her, and then takes disgusting and revealing photos of her to send to her father, Commissioner Gordon. The reason he does this is just to torment Commissioner Gordon. Entertainment Weekly presented a Killing Joke trailer that shows that much of the darkness remains intact, and the R-rating shows that it probably won’t skip out on the violence.
The idea of The Killing Joke being R-rated is not new to Warner Bros. entertainment, either. Many of the DC Comics animated movies since the New 52 began have been PG-13 and geared more towards adults. This is really pushing out the kids that normally count down the days for the next animated comic book film. If the only people left are adult comic book fans, the audience for this might not be as big as DC Comics hopes.
Plus, if too many parents pick up the next Batman animated film for their kids without properly looking at the rating, this could also cause many parents to consciously move their children away from superhero entertainment in general. While Marvel has won over parents with their safe brand of movies, it is DC Comics offerings that look to suffer. With movies coming out about Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, The Justice League, and much more, losing families might be the nail in the coffin for the company as they try to catch Marvel.
The biggest problem with The Killing Joke is that this is a story that is even too dark at times for creator Frank Miller, the same man who created the world of Sin City, making it clear how violent that The Killing Joke really is. One thing that has always been criticized about The Killing Joke is the “Women in Refrigerators” problem.
This idea was labeled by comic book writer Gail Simone and references the comic book moment when Green Lantern returned home to find his girlfriend killed and stuffed in a refrigerator. It refers to a woman being used as a plot device just torment male superheroes and send them off on adventures. Good Comics quoted Simone as explaining that it will turn female fans away.
“If you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won’t read comics. That’s it!”
This was a very clear plot device in The Killing Joke, and it was worse because Batgirl was one of the few strong female characters in comic books at the time of her death. To use this shooting, and her paralysis, just to torment Commissioner Gordon and Batman was horrifying. The new The Killing Joke movie will actually have some extra scenes so that the viewers can meet and get to like Batgirl before she is shot, making it even more troubling.
Comic News BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE Trailer: And an appearance by Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and THAT scene.... https://t.co/nDi5tbER0O— Golden Age Comics (@TheVintageComic) April 27, 2016
This is a Batman movie, and that means that kids will want to see it. Parents need to understand that R-rating and keep it from younger audiences because this is a very disturbing story. Now, there is nothing wrong with disturbing stories and there is nothing wrong with animated movies geared towards adults. However, DC Comics is struggling right now with public perception when it comes to movies. If this R-rated version of Batman: The Killing Joke turns more families away from the DC Comics movies and Batman, then it will be a huge mistake on Warner Bros. part.
[Image via Warner Bros.]