Batman: The Killing Joke is notable for being an adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel and for adapting that work without losing any of the brutality of the source; it was the first Batman movie to be rated R by the MPAA. Sadly, that’s about all it looks notable for based on this new trailer, which looks pretty awful.

A lot can be said about The Killing Joke’s controversial plot, which includes The Joker raping, shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon to drive Commissioner Gordon crazy and prove a point that anyone can be driven insane given the right circumstances. That alone would’ve made this animated film divisive (even Moore has said he regrets about the story’s content), but before we can get into some of the more problematic aspects of the film’s plot, we should talk about how crappy this looks on a visual level.

Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who voiced Batman and The Joker on the early 1990s series Batman: The Animated Series, both return for this movie, yet this looks like it was produced for a fraction of the budget one of those beautiful episodes from over 20 years ago. The animation is so crude and rudimentary it, at times, looks like one of those flash motion comics where a camera pans over a still image. From the opening moments of Batman walking through the hallways of Arkham Asylum it’s clear that something is very wrong; it’s jittery and stilted (Batman barely moves his knees or arms as he’s walking). Later, as Batman talks to Joker in the shadows, it looks as if The Joker’s face has been Photoshopped on in post-production. Even The Joker’s design looks different from scene to scene.

I get that Batman: The Killing Joke is an R-rated movie that is going direct-to-DVD and, as such, will have a limited budget, but this is an extreme example of budgetary restrictions.

There’s no doubt about the fact that The Killing Joke tells an ugly story, but it didn’t have to be such an ugly movie.

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