If the biggest news to come out of DC Comics’ plans to adapt Batman: The Killing Joke as an animated feature was that Mark Hamill would be voicing the Joker (news which we broke, exclusively), the second-biggest news is that the comics company has apparently given permission to aim for an R-rating for the adaptation. For fans of Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel, that probably comes as good news since the animators, actors, and director Sam Liu now have some leeway to adapt the comic properly.
As Batman-News reported from New York Comic Con, the DC Comics / Warner Bros. presentation of their upcoming Batman: Bad Blood video included some interesting news from producer James Tucker. It’s worth noting that Tucker is a producer on quite a few of DC/WB’s TV series and videos over the years, but it’s not clear if he’s directly involved with Batman: The Killing Joke at this point. Here’s what Tucker had to say during the panel (filtered through Stitch Kingdom’s tweets):
DC gave permission to make Killing Joke movie for R rating. #NYCC
— Stitch Kingdom (@stitchkingdom) October 10, 2015
Of course, Tucker himself quickly took to Twitter to clarify his statements:
Never fails that I get misquoted at a con! I’m not directing “Killing Joke” and what rating it gets won’t be decided for a long time.
— James Tucker (@JTuckerAnimator) October 10, 2015
So it seems that DC Comics is being flexible on the rating, saying that an R-rating is not out of the realm of possibility. That certainly makes sense considering that The Killing Joke is rather liberal with its displays of violence, death, and nudity. The Joker’s origin story sees the Clown Prince of Crime brutally disabling Barbara Gordon, takes lewd photographs of her naked body, and then uses them to attempt to force James Gordon to go insane. Could this all be done with a PG-13 rating? Probably, but it would mean making some concessions on the source material, so what would be the point?
However, DC Comics’ animated feature videos have consistently turned in PG-13 ratings and they already get away with quite a bit. There are nearly nude scenes, sexual situations, crude language, adult humor and violence in spades, especially in the recent animated videos that have come out over the last few years. It’s not the R-rating that will allow adult content to be shown in the adaptation that concerns me, it’s the maturity level of the filmmakers behind the scenes and their ability to bring this classic story to life in a meaningful way rather than simply a gratuitous one.
Does Batman: The Killing Joke need to be R-rated? Will you be interested in watching it either way? Let us know in the comments below!