"...they’ve tried to reinvent the wheel, and failed."

Warner Animation Should Have Kept This Hush Quiet

(081719) In Batman: Hush, an evening of potential romance for Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle quickly spirals out of control when Bruce receives news of a kidnapping. As usual he makes his excuses as Bruce Wayne, leaves the party and goes to save the day as Batman. This time, however, things take a strange turn and not everything is as it seems to be; kidnapping kids for cash isn’t Bane’s usual M.O., evidence leads to Bane being controlled by someone else, and the ransom money is stolen while Batman’s back is turned.

To make matters worse, when Batman chases the thief he’s targeted with a sniper rifle by a new enemy: Hush. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Batman tries to solve the mystery behind Hush’s real identity. Could it be an old foe or a dangerous new player in town? The line between friends and enemies blurs as his investigation becomes personal, bringing him in to conflict with everyone from the Joker to Superman.

Meanwhile, Batman lowers his guard as he takes his relationship with Catwoman to the next level, but can he truly trust her? And can Batman stop Hush, a person who seems to know everything about him… including his secret identity?

If you ask any comic book reader to name the greatest Batman storylines from the past twenty years, one of the most common answers you’ll get will be Batman: Hush. There’s a good reason for that: it’s that damn good. From the intriguing detective story, plot twists and intelligent characterization from writer Jeph Loeb to the stunning artwork by Jim Lee, the nearly year-long story arc is as impressive now as it was then. Adapting it in to a film should have been a no-brainer for Warner/DC. The only question should have been “What took so long?” Instead, this adaptation goes off the rails in trying to fix what wasn’t broken and is ultimately disappointing.

Now, for those who say that this film should be judged on its own merits…I partly agree with you, and so I’ll say straight away that in its own right it’s good. There are some nice touches, and the added focus on Catwoman and Batman’s relationship and their personal issues are great. But since this is an adaptation, it’s also got to be compared to the source material and, in that regard, it’s possibly the most disappointing failure since The Killing Joke’s animated version.

Yes, the artwork here resembles Jim Lee’s work, the animation itself is incredibly smooth and the directing is good. Likewise, the voice work is solid, the music works and it’s a great-looking production. And with a great mystery and Batman and Catwoman’s relationship taking center stage, even the story works… until it doesn’t.

Like several other recent adaptations, including Gotham by Gaslight and Reign of the Supermen, the story has been adjusted for a number of reasons. While it still works, fans of the original will be shaking their heads in disbelief at how they could have gotten it so wrong when it all looks so right.

Some changes to the original story are surface-level questionable, making you wonder why they changed them at all – like substituting Killer Croc for Bane, for instance. Presumably it was done for recognition and name value, and barely has any relevance to the story. Huntress is replaced by Batgirl, probably for the similar reasons, but that’s more important and naturally means Oracle’s role in the story is gone. Slowly but surely, the small tweaks begin to have a big knock-on effect. Important lines of dialogue have been jettisoned, some elements have been removed and some characters replace others just to make this fit with other recent DC animated films.

While it’s good to see DC attempting to re-establish some kind of continuity in their animated universe, for the most part that ship sailed away a long time ago. And was sticking to a vague sense of continuity here really necessary when the source material was so strong? No. Because the cost of doing that is the rest of the film.

By the final third, the creative well-planned mystery, ingenious twists and intelligent writing of the original have been replaced by more mundane, predictable theatrics and pointless changes that simply don’t work as well. Whether it was to try and provide a new mystery to fans who know the original story or to make it fit better with current plans, the end result is the same: they’ve tried to reinvent the wheel, and failed.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to recommend here. Batman: Hush is a decent piece of work that should please plenty of viewers. It’s just also an immense disappointment, because it could have – and should have – been so much better. For anyone who watches Batman: Hush and enjoys what they see (and there should be plenty) but who don’t know the original story, do yourself a favor and read the comics because they’re so much better.

Directed by:    Justin Copeland
Written by:   Screenplay by: Ernie Altbacker, based on the comic series by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Starring the Voices Of:    Jason O'Mara, Jennifer Morrison, Stuart Allan
Released:    072019
Length:    81 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for violence and action, suggestive material, and language

BATMAN HUSH ©  2019 DC Entertainment
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.