Back in 2009, I remember driving to pick up my copy of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum with just as much anticipation as I had twenty years prior while waiting in line at the theatre for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman blockbuster. I instantly fell in love with the Arkham game series and needless to say, I have played every entry in the series to date.
When the latest film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, Batman: Assault On Arkham was announced, I was both excited and a bit nervous. This being — that I know of — the first animated Batman feature film that was not based on a graphic novel and was being penned from the ground up by writer Heath Corson. After viewing this fantastic film, I can safely exhale in relief. Director Jay Olivia’s (Batman: Under The Red Hood, Batman/Superman: Public Enemies) has absolutely nailed the spirit and universe of the Arkham series and will leave you thirsting for an immediate sequel!
Serving as a direct sequel to the Batman: Origins game, the film wasted no time showcasing its Arkham game roots when we witness the Riddler in his classic game hideout giving out riddles with his latest scheme over his microphone. Even the film’s title logo pays homage to the game’s logo art. Every environmental back drop is practically cherry picked right out of the games. From smoky Gotham streets, rainy sky scraper rooftops, Gotham docks, stinky sewers and even the lightning bolts from a thunderstorm pouring over Arkham Asylum made me smile.
I got a kick out of thinking to myself, these were the same places I actually stomped my feet in while playing any of the Arkham games. I could almost feel the controller in my hand attempting to frantically press the dodge button as I watched a few of the fight scenes with The Dark Knight. Very cool.
Make no mistake, the title in the film does say “Batman”, but it is the awesome Suicide Squad that takes center stage. When Amanda Waller (C.C.H Pounder) recruits and makes deals with criminals: Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), King Sharc (John Dimaggio), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito),Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), and Deadshot (Neal McDonough), to embark on a black-ops mission to break into Arkham Asylum and retrieve a flash drive hidden in the Riddler’s cane that has top-secret identity files.
It was also nice to get to know some “C-list” characters I didn’t even know existed such as Captain Boomerang. During the infiltration of the Asylum, a bit of a “Mission Impossible/Ocean’s Eleven” vibe begins to take shape. Even retro spy music to boot. Everything seemed to go to plan, that is until Harley bumps into her “puddin” aka Mr. Joker (Troy Baker), who still has some serious need of closure issues with her former love. Once sparks, bullets, and explosions start to fly, Batman (Kevin Conroy) takes notice and begins his investigation at the Asylum.
Unfortunately for Batman, he is a bit too late. Once the Joker escapes, all hell breaks loose. The fate of the Riddler, the Suicide Squad’s mission, and half of the lives in Gotham are all up in the air due to a classic hidden bomb by the Joker. The soundtrack was a bit hit and miss for me. I understood what Jay Olivia was going for, but the ’70s funk music seemed a bit out-of-place half the time.
The voice acting was as expected. Top notch. As always Kevin Conroy delivered another masterful portrayal as the gritty and always in control of the situation Dark Knight. Troy Baker in my opinion, is no longer simply a “fill-in” for the retired Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker, and will be my Joker of choice for any future DC animated films. He is the real deal.
Other performances worth mentioning would be C.C.H Pounder’s Amanda Waller, and Neal McDonough’s Deadshot. Amanda Waller sounded just as bossy and bitchy as I imagined her back when I read the comics as a kid. I have never been a huge Deadshot fan. The character always sat on the 50 yard line for me as a “B or C list” DC character. That being said, McDonough’s take on Deadshot was fantastic. I almost found myself rooting for him in a villain with honor perspective.
I honestly don’t have one complaint with any of the cast. We know what to expect with Hynden Walch’s Harley Quinn, and Nolan North voices a great Penguin as well. I must admit, out of all the characters, I did not expect any comedy relief from King Sharc. A very humorous and welcomed surprise.
The last few entries in the DC Original Animated Films have been quite bloody and the latest is no different. Heads explode. Blood drips off your screen. Ears get chewed off. The Arkham series is pretty dark, but Assault pushes the envelope further. One surprise I didn’t expect was in the sex department. If you have ever had a crush on Harley Quinn, then this film is for you, with animated nudity and plenty of side boob in a pretty erotic sex scene. I am not complaining, but might want to let the kids sit this one out.
Also I want to point out something that I felt was pretty cool. In most Batman films, the story is told from the Caped Crusader’s perspective. Just as we saw in Gotham Knight, the story of Assault in seen through the eyes of the Suicide Squad. Looking at Gotham through different characters not named Batman kept me on my toes throughout the film. Never knowing when the Bat might show up was pretty intense at times.
My only gripes would be that the film was a bit short with a 75-minute run time. In addition, I wish there was more of a climatic third act. At the end of the day, I just simply didn’t want this film to end.
I give Batman: Assault On Arkham 3 out of 4 Ninja Throwing Stars!