Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review - Batman: Assault on Arkham


Batman: Assault on Arkham is the latest from DC Animated.  Like all the DC Animated features it runs a little less than 90 minutes (75 in this case), and as usual this is just about right.  Of all the DC animated movies the only one I found to be too long was All-Star Superman; 75 to 85 minutes seems to be the right amount of time to fit everything in.  The storyline has a few twists in it, but nothing absurd or forced.  While it is a Batman movie, the main focus is on the Suicide Squad.  We also get some quick cameos from several members of Batman's Rogues Gallery, and some solid screen time from Amanda Waller.  Kevin Conroy is back as the voice of Batman after a few movies with someone else doing the voicework.  Conroy is the definitive Batman for a lot of people; some even put him ahead of all the actors who played the role in live action films.  That's an apples and oranges comparison to me, but I understand why some feel that way.  Conroy's performance is the only one that no one picks apart; everyone else from Adam West all to Christian Bale has some detractors.  CCH Pounder, who voiced Amanda Waller in the Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited animated series, reprises that role here. If I could sum this up in one word, it would be.....WOW.

The story starts off a cat and mouse game between the Riddler and Waller; while they are trading riddles and answers a Special Forces Unit closes in the Riddler to take him in.  They are interrupted by Batman, who takes them down so he can capture the Riddler himself.  He does so, because what are a bunch of special forces guys to the Batman, and takes Riddler to Arkham.  We then go to the capture of several DC Universe bad guys - Killer Frost, Deadshot, King Shark, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, KGBeast, and a new guy, Black Spider (basically a bootleg Bronze Tiger - later on it becomes obvious why they went with that).  They get the usual spiel from Waller that pertains to Task Force X, the Suicide Squad; the reason they were put together, the bombs in their neck that will go off if they care captured or try to escape, etc.  Their mission is to get into Arkham Asylum and get to the Riddler, who downloaded the identities of all the past and present Suicide Squad members onto a thumb drive stored in his cane, which is being held in the room that houses all of the possessions of Arkham's inmates.  They are also told to use Batman to their advantage while he's out doing his normal Gotham work.  Now anybody who follows the Suicide Squad knows that the mission is never what it seems to be, and that's the case here as the real reason Waller wants them to get to the Riddler is entirely different from what the Squad was originally told.


This movie is another home run for DC.  There's a lot of action, a good story, and all the twists are for the better.  Deadshot and Harley Quinn emerge as the key players on the team here, and Quinn's portrayal captures all the trademark loony-tunes behavior we've come to expect.  Deadshot is a real badass here, a step above the second level player that he usually is in the comics.  Waller is the double dealing, manipulator that is always changing the facts to get what she wants from her operatives.  And Batman is......Batman!  One of the final twists is the kind of thing that only he can pull off.  Be warned: this is not a kids' movie.  There is a lot of violence, a pretty high body count for an animated movie, the most adult language yet for a DC animated film, and even an offscreen but obviously occurring sexual encounter.  DC is really taking a risk here with what they're doing in their animated universe.  Of the four New 52-esque animated movies they've done (Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League: War, Son of Batman, and this one), two (Flashpoint and this one) have gone heavy on the language and killing, and Justice League: War had some unnecessary profanity.  I'm not trying to be a prude here, but the language and the sex scene really aren't necessary; they don't add to the story and seem to be added just for the sake of putting some edginess in the movie.  It doesn't feel as forced as it has in prior films, but I would still leave it out.  People my age (40) still dig the older DC animated films that didn't have all that just fine.

But minus that, this is a good one.  DC remains light years ahead of Marvel in the animated movie department.  I give this 4.5 out of 5.

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