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Movie Review: Batman Assualt on Arkham (2014)

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Directed by: Jay Olivia & Ethan Spaulding

Starring the voice talents of: Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, Nolan North, Troy Barker & Matthew Gray Gubler

A new photo was released today for next year’s Suicide Squad film and we finally got a chance to see what the likes of Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and Deadshot would look like on the big screen. I like it; it’s certainly divided opinion that’s for sure (especially the new Joker)! That photo actually got me thinking about this. I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while now, and when I saw it on sale in HMV I just had to pick it up. I am a comic book fan, admittedly I’m not the most knowledgeable of fans, but I know enough to get by. Looking at the Squad assembled here; I know who Harley, Deadshot and Killer Frost are, never heard of King Shark or Black Spider and I’m only aware of Captain Boomerang from the Lego Batman games. Previous DC animated films I’ve seen are Year One, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and, my personal favourite, The Dark Knight Returns. If them are anything to go by then this should be a cracker!

The Suicide Squad is a team of villains coerced into government black-ops service by Amanda Waller, under threat of having tracker implants in their neck explode and kill them. Their mission is to break into Arkham Asylum to recover top secret information from Riddler without alerting the guards – or Batman. Harley Quinn ends up freeing the Joker who makes plans of his own to blow up Arkham Asylum and Gotham City causing Batman to spring into action. As it says on the back of the DVD box, get ready to root for the bad guys.

Right off the bat I want to make it clear that this isn’t a Batman film; he’s more of a background character with the spotlight shining brightly on the villains. A more appropriate name would be “Suicide Squad: Assualt on Arkham”. The bait and switch arguably works out for the better. What B:AoA truly is, is a test run for The Suicide Squad as a major DC screen property – and in that sense it is a massive success, because watching this mismatch team of villains comprising of professional killers (Deadshot, Black Spider and Boomerang) and psychopaths (Quinn, Shark and Frost)turns out to be one of the more refreshing DC Universe experiences I’ve seen in a long time. It reminds me of that self-titled Joker graphic novel from a few years ago where Batman played second fiddle to Joker, Two-Face and Penguin (also it was that very graphic novel which inspired the Heath Ledger Joker from Dark Knight).

The other thing that struck me was the references to the Arkham video games. There are a few scenes in the Asylum which are near identical to that in the video game as well as a few areas from Arkham City (Iceburg Lounge springs to mind). Characters such as Penguin, Scarecrow, Bane and Poison Ivy are near identical to their video game counterparts (personally I feel that Nolan North’s cockney accent for Penguin works perfectly. It suits him to a tee, but like I said that the Leto Joker it has divided opinion). There’s also the added nostalgia of having Kevin Conroy providing the voice of Batman just like he has done in both the Arkham video games and that awesome Batman Animated Series of the early 90’s.

Although I picked up the DVD from the Kid’s section in HMV this ISN’T a film for kids at all. Put it this way; in the opening scene Harley Quinn bites someone’s ear off because she tried to take away her IPad (pretty hilarious seeing Harley smiling like a happy child with an ear hanging out of her mouth). There is profanity, tons of violence, some pretty gruesome deaths and even a sex scene. Yes you’ve read that right, a sex scene. The plot is straightforward and easy to follow; the character arcs are engaging, yet always true to the characters themselves (Harley is awesome); and the tensions and conflicts are all fun to watch as the dissension in the ranks escalates as the film progresses.

Bottom line, Batman: Assault on Arkham may not be suitable for children, but for adult fans of DC animated movies it’s one of the best. It’s not every day that DC or Marvel caters exclusively to their adult fanbase.

Don’t miss this one!

Rating: **** (Champion)

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