REVIEW: Batman: Assault on Arkham
Based on a video game, Batman: Arkham, which I do not play, I came into Batman: Assault on Arkham, without any particular predisposition. As the first editor of the Suicide Squad, I was intrigued to see how they would operate. As I feared, screenwriter Heath Corson totally misused the team in this violent, pointless direct-to-animated mess which is unleashed on Tuesday.
Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) played within the gray areas of the DC Universe, picking damaged heroes and villains, as needed for missions. She made sure there was a field leader to keep them in line, and offered the heroes something they wanted and the villains a chance at clearing their records. Here, she collects a motley assortment of villains without a real rationale for each, putting them together for a mission that makes little sense. The silly MacGuffin here is that the Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) has stolen a database of SS operatives and intends to use that information from the confines of Arkham Asylum. Her team has to go in and retrieve the data from his cane so you would want people good at stealth, lock picking, electronics, etc. It makes little sense to bring in a behemoth like King Shark (John DiMaggio) or KGBeast and after Waller demonstrates the effectiveness of the implanted bombs by killing the Beast, does not replace his brawn, sending them in short-handed.
We have, instead, Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), who makes sense given she used to work there; Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), King Shark, and Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito). They have to infiltrate the Asylum, which by this time should really have installed a revolving door given how unsecure it is, armed with materiel courtesy of the Penguin (Nolan North). Killer Frost has also been given the task of eliminating the Riddler once his data has been retrieved, not for offending Waller, but for possessing the know-how to disarm their bombs.
While rated PG-13 for violence, such as heads being blown off, we also see a nude Harley get it on with Deadshot, setting up the triangle between them and Mr. J (Troy Baker), who is keenly aware she’s back in the building, and plays on her malleable mind. Batman, meantime, twigs on to the fact the Asylum has been compromised (again) and joins the fray, eventually taking down Black Spider and impersonating him.
Let’s not forget the dirty bomb the Joker has managed to bring into the asylum and keeps stored in Harley’s mallet, neatly placed in an unlocked box.
There is plenty of action, almost all of it over-the-top and unbelievable; a distinct lack of characterization, and plot holes that really irk me since I am not distracted by rapidly pressing lots of buttons on my controls. No question, director Jay Oliva knows how to handle the action, moving things along at a brisk pace so you don’t really notice what a problem the basic story is. The character design, 2D based on the video game’s 3D version, is fine although Deadshot is way too bulky and Batman’s pupils are visible.
I suppose if you like the game, you’ll enjoy the movie. If you enjoyed the original Squad, this will irk you and if you like the Squad’s current incarnation, you should be satisfied.
The 76 minute movie is presented on Blu-ray, DVD, and as an Ultraviolet digital edition. The Blu-ray comes with two nice featurettes, the first focusing on Harley herself, with Paul Dini, Mike Carlin, and others discussing how she came to be and how readily she translated from Batman: The Animated Series to the current DC Universe. I did miss hearing from Bruce Timm, her visual father. The other piece is longer and somewhat ponderous as Arkham itself is discussed by former DC editor Jack C. Harris (who suggested the name, derived from H.P. Lovecraft’s work) and writer Len Wein to sociologists providing the history of insane asylums and how it informed Arkham. The talking heads acknowledge that residence there tends to corrupt all and yet no one discussed why it is not simply razed to the ground and the inmates (who come and go all too easily) relocated. Instead, much due is given Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel and no mention made of the forthcoming New 52 monthly Arkham Manor (an unsustainable idea but that’s for another time).
There’s a nice 10 minute peak into this fall’s sequel to Justice League War, Justice League: Throne f Atlantis finally giving Aquaman his animated due. Finally, there are well chosen episodes from the archives: “Task Force X” (Justice League Unlimited), “Emperor Joker” (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), “Two of a Kind” (Batman), and “Infiltrator” (Young Justice).