Saturday, August 16, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) - A Review

One of the things that I look forward to the most throughout the year, are DC Comic's animated films featuring Batman. They are almost always phenomenal, and it's a very wonderful break from the Nolanverse and the incessent shouting of "WHY SO SERIOUS" from hordes of fanboys. While the live action Batfilms have their high points, and certainly their lows, nothing compares to the DC Entertainment features. They are not only incredibly comic accurate, but they're just a lot more fun in general. 

Released this week, and previewed last month at Comic Con, Batman: Assault on Arkham is the latest addition to the DC animated franchise and while it differs greatly from previous Batman films it is an extremely fun, adrenaline packed and often hilarious take on a new view of the Bats. 

Title: Batman: Assault on Arkham
Director(s): Jay Olivia, Ethan Spaulding
Writer(s): Heath Corson
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hyndyn Walch, Matthew Gray Gubler
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
Running Time: 76 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2014 (digital); August 12, 2014 (physical)

"When the government teams up a group of supervillains with the code name Suicide Squad and forces them to break into Arkham Asylum to bring back top secret information the Riddler has stolen, Batman soon becomes involved. But things go from bad to worse when one of the Squad (Harley Quinn) frees the Joker, who has the means to not only blow up the asylum, but most of Gotham City as well." - 

First and foremost, one should go into this film realizing that Batman will not be front and center. This one is about the super-villain team-up, or in the case, the anti-hero team The Suicide Squad. The Suicide Squad is a group of super-villain's from across the DC Universe who are forced on government mission's as a requirement of their prison sentence. The consequence if they fail their objective or defect? A tiny bomb implanted in their heads will explode. Sounds pretty exciting, yes? 

So we see Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, King Shark and Black Spider wage war against Arkham Asylum in an attempt to retrieve a top secret file from the Riddler's cane, and of course, things go wrong and Batman shows up to kick some ass and save the day. 

Since this film is not Batman centric, the tone and style of the overall film is greatly shifted. While it is heavily inspired by the massively successful Arkham franchise of video games, the tone is very light and the film borders on a comedic line that I thoroughly enjoyed. I normally cannot stand Harley Quinn (shoot me now, all you Batfans), but I loved Hyndyn Walch's protrayal of her. She was bubbly, cute and very funny in all the right ways. Harley in the games, however, makes me want to punch a baby (and not in the nice way). The Squad had great chemistry, there was a nice balance of comedic relief when things got a bit tense and the writers even managed to build a bit of character sympathy for those supervillains you normally don't care about, i.e. the budding romance between Killer Frost and King Shark. 

One of the fan highlights, and with me as well, was without a doubt the fact that the man himself came in to voice the Bat, Kevin Conroy. There's just something about that voice. While Batman had very little screentime of his own, the film utilized every second with some of the BEST fighting that I have ever seen in any Bat-film. A highlight of the Arkham games is Batman's fighting style, and they brought every bit of that into this film. From inverted take-downs, to cape stuns and smoke pellets, it was glorious. 

If you're a fan of the games, you will be pleasantly surprised to see that you recognize most of the sets, as well as the introductions of several of the main villains. The Joker, is voiced by Troy Baker, who you may recognize from Arkham Origins. I think it's worth noting that the scene's between Harley and her "pudd'n" are definitely some of the better in the film. After all, how could you expect Harley to enter Arkham Asylum and not encounter Mr. J?

So, as a Batman film, it's definitely a departure from previous Bat-based animated flicks. The tone is light, versus dark, and Batman is not the focus of the film. This is a total departure from the usual M.O., and it's pretty obvious that the only reason Batman was used in the title was to boost sales. Still, as an DC flick, it's pretty damn awesome and I'd recommend it to any fan of the comics or the games. 

There are several more projects already on the blocks for DC, including Batman Vs. Robin, which will feature the New 52 "supervillain" the Court of Owls, which is set for release in 2015. If you're interested in seeing more reviews about the animated Batman features, sound off below and I'll start to include these more often, at the very least some more suggestions for you all to dig your fangs into. 

- Rg Lovecraft


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