I recently watched Batman: Assault on Arkham. Let me rephrase. I didn't so much
watch it as I endured it. A friend of mine asked me if I had seen it yet. I felt
my eye twitch a little like some response in a Pavlov experiment and I said that
I had. He asked if it was any good. I told him, ďI donít think so. I think it
might be terrible.Ē He was surprised by this answer for a couple of reasons.
Number one, itís odd to not be sure of whether or not you enjoyed something as
innocuous as a direct-to-DVD movie about Batman. You either do or you do not.
Itís not like itís Faust and you have to spend a semester examining all the
metaphors and making connections to your inner psyche. Number two, historically,
I really like Batman. Really I do. I even saw Batman and Robin on opening night,
and while I fully understood why everyone in the world thought it was a terrible
movie, I recognized that it had more in common with Adam West than Frank Miller
by design. So when my friend asked me why I wasnít sure, I realized that my
issue was more about what had come before than what was offered now.
Batman: Assault on Arkham is an animated movie starring the Suicide Squad, very
loosely based on the video game series (that has remarkably almost nothing to do
with the Suicide Squad) by Rocksteady that is in turn based on over 75 years of
Batman continuity in comics, television and film. When I say ďvery loosely,Ē
itís because the only similarities between this movie and those very good games
are the fact that they take place in Arkham Asylum. Seriously. If you are
looking for an adaptation, keep looking. Iím not sure why you would want an
adaptation anyway. Those games are great if you like Batman. Just go play them.
Naming a movie about the Suicide Squad something like Batman: Assault on Arkham
is disingenuous at best and false advertising at worst because, make no mistake,
this is not a Batman movie. Batman is in this movie for roughly 1/4 of itís
runtime. Thatís an estimate. I could do the math and come up with an actual
metric for you, but that would require another viewing, and that is just not
going to happen.
So, Suicide squad: The movie tells the story of Amanda Waller throwing together
a team of DC Comics villains and giving them the top secret mission of busting
into Arkham Aysylumís property room to retrieve a thumb drive hidden in the
Riddlerís question mark cane. The script never fully explains what exactly is on
the thumb drive that she wants so badly. That should give you a sense of how
important it is to the actual plot, which seems to really just be about having
Harley Quinn find excuses to get naked. Let me be clear here. I donít have an
issue with nudity. Ordinarily, but in the context of this animated feature, it
comes off as exploitive and cheap. The kind of thing I would expect in a
15-year-old boyís fan fiction Ė NOT the officially sanctioned and produced
product of the Warner Bros./DC Comics animation department. This sort of crap
just spawns all kinds of weird fan art, which while it is momentarily harmless
fun to look at on the internet, sort of seems like the kind of thing people get
all bent out of shape about come cosplay season at Comic-Con. There's even a
scene involving a hint of necrophilia. Yes. A DC animated movie with a
necrophilia gag. Wonderful.
This version of the Suicide Squad is based on their New 52 incarnation. That
right there should have been enough to give me the tip-off that this was not
going to be in my wheelhouse. I find the NEW 52 books to be a desperate attempt
by DC to make comic books edgy and more ďadultĒ by having iconic characters with
decades of child appeal swear, throw up the occasional middle finger and present
side boob whenever possible. While a book like Suicide Squad has every right to
be whatever Jim Lee wants it to be and can certainly aim at an older
demographic, it really doesnít seem right to me to then market that product as
if itís something else. Something like a Batman animated movie starring Kevin
Conroy or an adaptation of a critically acclaimed video game series. Hey kids !
Letís watch that new Batman movie!
The voice direction here is very confusing to me as well. Andrea Romano has done
amazing job directing vocal talent on countless DC animated projects well
before this one, but here, well, this one really feels like a big miss. Deadshot
is played by Neal McDonough doing his best Kevin Conroy as Batman impression.
This maybe would not be an issue if not for the seven minutes of Conroy as
Batman in the movie that makes you wonder, ďHey, are Deadshot and Batman twins
separated at birth? Is this like Fight Club? Is Batman really a figment of
Deadshotís imagination?Ē If they were going to have Deadshot sound like Conroy,
they might have been better served to have Batman sound like Christian Bale.
Itís not like he says anything in this movie that matters anyway. It wouldnít
matter if you couldnít understand him.
Video Game voice-over artist Troy Baker seems to have been directed to play Mark
Hamill doing the Joker instead of finding his own take on the character. I
honestly assumed that it was Hamill until I saw the ending credits. Why would
you not hire Mark Hamill if you wanted Mark Hamill? Did he refuse to be
associated with this terribly dumb and almost instantly forgettable series of
loud explosions and soft-core exploitive titillation? If so, good for him.
Hopefully, Kevin Conroy starts being as selective.
Also on the Suicide Squad roster is the Black Spider. Sigh. 2014 and this guy
still has ďblackĒ in front of his moniker just in case you didnít know. Just in
case you were not aware that the gentleman wearing the mask to conceal his
identity was in fact Ö black. Do you think there is an alternate universe out
there someplace where this movie is called Caucasian Batman: Assault on Arkham ?
I guess itís not THAT big of a deal, but considering the fact that literally no
one even knows who this character is, it might have been a good opportunity to
drop it down to Spider or something else ó or maybe just lose the character
entirely because he sucks regardless of his race.
I realize this is more of a rambling rant than an actual review, but, sadly,
This is what the movie inspired in me. Maybe itís because of stuff like this: At
one point Black Spider needs to create a diversion in Arkhamís kitchen. He does
so by taking a pile of forks and putting them in a microwave. He then starts the
microwave. I think he sets it to 50 seconds. Maybe 30. Who cares? It doesnít
matter except for the fact that nothing really happens until the microwave timer
reaches zero. Then it explodes as if forks and a microwave combined make a bomb.
Just in case you missed that, the microwave was treated as if it were a time
bomb. Am I being nitpicky? I don't think so. Itís dumb. Itís a stupid plot
device dropped here by a writer who knows better, but must be assuming, ďAh, who
cares? Itís a stupid Batman movie.Ē Well, I care. I donít want this stuff to be
stupid or lazy, because titles like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and
Batman: Under The Red Hood, and even the more recent adaptation of the seminal caped
crusader classic Ė an ACTUAL adaptation I might add ó
The Dark Knight Returns show
that these can be excellent movies that appeal to a wide audience without
The bottom line here is that I am disappointed it has come to this. We used to
be able to say that the DC animated releases were top notch. These last few have
really hurt that reputation. If I was Warner's animated division, Iíd be begging
Bruce Timm and Paul Dini to get back in the proverbial Batcave and help right
this ship. You have every right to enjoy this. You have every right to your own
opinion on whether or not this type of DC Animated property works for you.
Understand that I am not trying to change your mind or tell you that you are
wrong for liking this. I personally do not like the direction these animated
movies have been headed and I prefer my soft-core anime titillation where it
In Sailor Moon. (rim shot).