Saturday, September 20, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham Review

Batman: Assault on Arkham Review
It is broken record time once again.
I am in love with the DC animated movies. I think there are a select few that outdo the live-action superhero movies being made each year. They embrace the comic book realm, yet still articulate well-told stories. They are thematically and contextually sound with the characters they bring to life. I have been saying it for years, if the crews behind these animated movies were to ever make a big budget, live-action DC movie, it would be one of the best movies ever made. If "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is anything like the DC animated movies, or if it is anything like "Batman: Assault on Arkham," then we will be in for a treat.
In a lot of ways, "Batman: Assault on Arkham" is my favorite DC animated film. That is saying a lot because I adore almost all of them. This is a movie that revolves around Batman and The Suicide Squad. If you are unfamiliar with the latter, they are a team of super-villains who have been forced to work for the United States government. The government drops these squads into the most dangerous and unthinkable missions. If they succeed, they receive smaller prison sentences, if they do not succeed, they die. If they try to evade the mission, an implant planted in their bodies will go off, killing them as well. Hence, the name Suicide Squad. Many smaller-time villains from the DC pantheon have been recruited for the Suicide Squad. In this movie in particular, we are dealing with Deadshot; a deadly assassin and usual Batman nemesis, Harley Quinn; Joker bubbly female sidekick, King Shark; regular Aquaman enemy, Captain Boomerang; someone who could put Marvel's Bullseye to shame, Killer Frost; a usual enemy of Firestorm, and Black Spider; another lesser-known enemy of Batman.
These super-villains are brought together by Amanda Waller (voiced by C.C.H. Pounder), the leader of the government agency who created the Squad. Their mission is to break into Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison in Gotham City to steal a hard-drive that The Riddler stole from the government. This hard-drive carries very important information about the whereabouts and possible recruitment of Suicide Squad agents. The team has to complete this mission under extreme cover, not alerting the police or Batman. Since Arkham Asylum is the most heavily guarded prison in the world, and Quinn having anxiety of seeing The Joker again, this is a little bit more than a walk in the park, and I haven't even begun to discuss the twists, turns and double-crosses the film features.
I like this movie more than the other DC animated movies because, since we are dealing with a team of super-villains, things are rough around the edges. The action is rougher, grittier and messier than in usual in these movies. The language and style is completely different, fitting into the context of the characters. There are a couple of nice winks and nods through out the film that I really dug. Consider a scene where Harley Quinn stands outside a toy shop, looking into the store from the window. She has both hands on the window and her face is parallel with a big doll-face on the window. Can anybody remember that movie? I also liked the scene where Quinn was riffling through Joker's old junk and comes across the clown mask Joker wore in "The Dark Knight." There are many characters in the Batman mythology who show up in this movie, so many that will make even the smallest Batman fan happy. Despite a huge presence by the Suicide Squad, this is a Batman story at its heart, and a darn good one at that. But it also makes good use of the Squad, and each member of the team has something to do, a certain moment that makes their character stand-out.
The voicework in the film is great all around. Kevin Conroy, who has been the voice of Batman for as long as I can remember, does legendary work once again. Neal McDonough does stand-out work as Deadshot. When I heard the voice of The Joker, I could have sworn it was Mark Hamill. So color me surprised when I read that it was Troy Baker. Baker has an exceptional voice style and it certainly tricked me. Matthew Gray Gubler, Chris Cox, John DiMaggio, Greg Ellis, Gincarlo Esposito and Jennifer Hale all do good work too. I have to personally single out the amazing work done by Hynden Walch, who voices Harley Quinn. It has been awhile since I could it felt an entire character came together through once voice, and Walch made it happen. It is truly stupendous work.
Once again, I am championing another DC animated movie. Hopefully the WB will get a hint soon.

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