Batman is a busy dude. Not only is he busy trouncing baddies in several weekly comic books, but he also has a few excellent games (wherein he trounces baddies) as well as his outstanding movie career (where he trounces…well, Superman). In between of dispatching some serious Justice (note the capital J) in the aforementioned media, he’ll need to put boot to ass in the excellent DC Animated movies. Batman: Assault on Arkham takes some focus off of the Dark Knight and places the emphasis squarely on the villains in which he thrashes. Did the gamble pay off? Yes. Yes it did…
Batman: Assault on Arkham is the story of Amanda Waller (played by the oft Waller performing CCH Pounder) assembling a new Suicide Squad, aka Task Force X, to grab a highly sensitive flash drive from the Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) who happens to be locked up in Arkham Asylum. This version of the Suicide Squad consists of mainstays Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis) and Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch). Newcomers Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), King Shark (John DiMaggio), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) and KGBest (Nolan North) round out the motley crew. There is a total Guy Ritchie/Snatch vibe here as the characters are introduced and even during the course of the movie…and I liked it! Things don’t really spice up though until Batman (Kevin Conroy, reprising his perfect take on the Dark Knight) and Joker (played by the voice master himself, Troy Baker) enter the fray. The fight choreography is masterful in every scene where there’s a dust up…which is weird to say about an animated movie, but it still matters. The plot kind of muddles towards the end of the flick but nothing that is too outlandish…it’s a comic book movie for Pete’s sake! The finale is quite pulse pounding as a few rivalries heat up. It’s a good ending to a good movie.
The animation is high quality, but may not be for everyone. The art style is becoming more and more eastern in feel and could turn some traditional DC fanboys off. I thought the character models were spot on and they even did better on King Shark than the comics have up to this point. The only thing that really bothered me was seeing Batman’s pupils…I don’t know, but I would prefer an old school pupil-less cowl for the Gotham do-gooder. The dialogue was also very good…for the most part. I could have done without all the “Yahtzee!” shouts, but otherwise everything was fine. I was highly impressed with how well the script was written for Deadshot; he is the main focus of this group and McDonough did an excellent job here. Conroy, as always, does a bang up job voicing Batman; his deadpan delivery and menacing tone are exactly what the Dark Knight needs. Troy Baker continues his impressive reign as the king of voice work. His take on the Joker is as dead on as always and adds the dark undertones to a character that has surpassed nearly every other villain in media today.
Seeing as how this is a prequel story to the Arkham series of games from Rocksteady, you’ll notice several similarities to the game world. The scene in the Iceberg Lounge with the Penguin (with Nolan North again donning his cockney accent) was particularly impressive; everything from the dinosaur in the museum side to the lair of the Penguin himself is spot on to Arkham City. Inside of Arkham itself may be even more impressive. The courtyard is spot on and the catacombs area brought back found memories of the original Arkham masterpiece. Even the character models for Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Bane were used in the breakout scene…I was thrilled!
Since this movie is outside of the new DC Animated continuity, they writers were allowed to think a little more outside of the box. KGBeast, even though he has one of the more unique names in the DCU, got his head removed from his body early on. King Shark, who had several scene stealing moments, didn’t make it to the end of the movie. It’s a shame really. Black Spider, even though his voice acting was inconsistent at best, bit the big one but in a very clever way. Even Killer Frost apparently bites it in the thrilling escape scene. Regardless, these were minor players that had no shot at being in the games anyway and I like the fact that DC isn’t afraid to push the envelope.
Speaking of that, this movie was as close to an “R” rating as it gets. I’ve never seen so much sexuality used in a DC Animated before…not that I’m complaining. Killer Frost comes as close to being topless in a body bag as you can get. Harley Quinn not only has a sex scene with Deadshot, but uses her…ummm, assets…to distract an Arkham guard. Fanboys rejoice! The violence is also supremely graphic. Besides the aforementioned head explosions, you’ll see several very unique death scenes: a grapnel piercing a guards head? Check. A frozen head exploding on impact? Check. A mob informant getting his arterial blood sprayed all over the wall? Check. The Joker juggling a disembodied head? Check! All of this lends to a much more realistic take on the source material, but this is definitely not for the kiddies…be forewarned!
This movie is good…but not elite. I would put it close to the top third of the DC Animated movies list, but I still feel that Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox reigns supreme here. There are some truly brilliant moments, the Joker’s reaction to Black Spider’s severed head (not to mention Captain Boomerang’s response to being kicked in the junk) is quite hysterical, and the action is top notch. Some story elements and a couple of inconsistent voice roles aside, this is a damn good movie. Check it out!