Sep 8, 2014

[Movies] Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

I realize that I haven't been regularly documenting my thoughts on the various DC Universe Animated Original Movies released over the past year for one reason or another. I guess it's easy t forget about such direct-to-video projects as being legitimate movies to still discuss and review. So once again I'm playing catch-up starting from the last one that I watched and trying to work my way backwards.

Batman: Assault on Arkham was a somewhat surprising movie given that it's set in the universe of the Arkham Asylum video games instead of the established cartoon continuity or even the somewhat Elseworlds-like continuity of these movies. Despite the Batman tag right there there in the movie title, this is really a Suicide Squad movie more than anything else with Batman really just a bit player in things. But hey, the name Batman sells more, right?

I had mixed feelings about this movie at first, but in the end I have to admit that I still enjoyed myself. It's not a perfect animated adventure whether for Batman or the Squad, but it's certainly worth an afternoon at home.

Synopsis: Batman: Assault on Arkham is a direct-to-video animated movie directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding with a screenplay by Heath Corson. It takes place some time after the events in the game Batman: Arkham Origins.

Batman (Kevin Conroy) manages to rescue the Riddler (Mattew Gray Gubler) from an assasination attempt and thus returns him safely to Arkham Asylum at the start of the movie. Thus results in Amanda Waller (C.C.H. Pounder) to dispatch the Suicide Squad (a group of villains who are forced to perform black ops work for the government or face death) to finish the job. This time around the team consists of Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), KGBeast (Nolan North), and King Shark (John DiMaggio). Naturally someone has to test Waller's threat of bombs planted inside them and thatleads to KGBeast's early death in this movie.

At the same time, Batman is still searching Gotham City for the dirty bomb that the Joker (Troy Baker) was supposed to have before he too was returned to Arkham Asylum. Thus for the most part Batman is otherwise occupied while the Suicide Squad meet up with the Penguin (Nolan North) for weapons and eventually find their way into Arkham. But of course it's hard to say what will happen when you put Harley Quinn in close proximity with the Joker again. And we all know that Batman's search for the bomb will eventually lead him back to Arkham where all the action is.

It took me a while to get into this particular line-up for the Suicide Squad given how it featured somewhat lesser known villains, at least in my book. And while I know that the original comic was used to sort of give meaning to a lot of lower tier villains, dredging up the likes of Black Spider and KGBeast seemed particularly odd to me. The Suicide Squad has had more prominent line-ups over in the comics in recent years and it would have made sense to go that route. But hey, that's licensing for you.

Side note: good job with Amanda Waller. Given recent efforts to repackage her as some slim, sexy femme fatale never made sense to me. Her larger than life persona needed a similarly large frame to support it on-screen. Amanda Waller always needs to be the Wall. She was generally on point here, but of course the lack of screen time sort of reduces her to a caricature of sorts.

Voice casting was a little confusing at times with Deadshot often seeming to want to sound a lot like Batman. And Kevin Conroy is Kevin Conroy so he'll always be Batman, really. So everyone else is obviously just wanting to be Batman. But I really liked the tandem of Baker and Walch as the Joker and Harley. They really had a good vibe going there and it was pretty believable that the two were in some strange, twisted relationship.

The overall action was pretty good with the animation style oddly reminiscent of Aeon Flux or something. And that's just as well - the world created by the Arkham Asylum games has always been a pretty dark one and thus the animation style nicely reflected that without necessarily plunging us into total darkness. Beyond that there were just some quirky bits that stood out like a sore thumb - the best example of this being the odd introduction sequence used for the members of the Suicide Squad.

Oh, and I loved Poison Ivy. I wish she had more than just a cameo in this movie.

Batman: Assault on Arkham is a fun enough movie that has our sad villains being placed into a heist situation of sorts. The writing was strong enough to carry us all the way to the end, but not quite there in terms of making the movie something truly memorable.

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