The Suicide Squad. I never thought I’d see a movie staring the Suicide Squad. The 21st movie continues the latest trend of subversively featuring second and third tier DC characters under the banner of Batman, Superman or Justice League. Much like how Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was a Flash movie, Batman: Assault on Arkham is a Suicide Squad movie. Better still, Assault on Arkham is one of the best animated features yet, and it barely features Batman.
Amanda Waller, after her first attempt was foiled by Batman, assembles a team of criminals to sneak into Arkham Asylum to steal the Riddler’s cane. The team, comprised of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, Black Spider, King Shark, and KGBeast, are forced into service, kept on a leash by the monitors/bombs implanted their necks. Succeed, time is shaved off their sentences, fail, they die. They are the Suicide Squad.
Admittedly, I was apprehensive when first hearing that the movie would take place in the Arkham video game universe. Video games crossed with any other medium typically don’t mix. Given the high pedigree of the games, and the source material, comic books, it worked wonderfully. The design of the characters, layout of the asylum, and parts of Gotham, were wonderfully familiar. Every location felt real, because I had spent hours there, hunting down the scum of Gotham, or Riddler clues. This brought with it some of the goofier designs such as Poison Ivy or Bane, but by now, I’m over it.
The sparing use of Batman was smart choice. We rarely see Batman relegated to a supporting role. Here, he was a force of nature, weaving in and out of the story. One of, if not the best scene had Batman finally arriving at Arkham, taking on the Squad. I don’t think I blinked. Though they kept his general design from the game, with his suit being sliding armor plated rather than a singular piece, and a brief appearance from detective mode, part of his design was off. The eyes. They added light pupils, set against the normal blank white slate of his mask. It was creepy.
The voice cast was amazing. What could I say about Kevin Conroy that I haven’t already? Having C.C.H. Pounder return as Amanda Waller was a nice surprise, though her design was a step too far. At least she wasn’t the skinny, New 52 version. Neal McDonough (Terriers, Justified) lead the ensemble as Deadshot, giving an admirable performance. Hynden Walch voiced Harley Quinn, and was serviceable. She sounded more like an impression of Harley. Why wasn’t Tara Strong, who took over the character from Arleen Sorken, cast? It was nice to see Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) return after Son of Batman, now as Black Spider,but once again, he was criminally underutilized. John DiMaggio, Troy Baker, Nolan North, and Jennifer Hale rounded out the cast. My only umbrage is with Baker, who sounds like he’s doing a Mark Hamill impression. Still, Hamill won’t always be the Joker, so if had to be someone, I’m glad it’s Baker.
Despite the amazing story and cast, there were still a few eye-rolling moments. SPOILERS! The worst offender occurred when Batman switched places with Black Spider. Does Batman carry a spare cape and cowl? How did he fit his costume, and the ears, inside Spider’s? Comic books! END SPOILERS!
A word of caution, while all of these featured have been rated PG-13, this is the first one in recent memory that takes full advantage of it. Included is a sex scene, profanity, and a bevy of violence. I only say this because, not knowing what was coming, it was awkward watching it with my 7 & 8 year old.
Batman: Assault on Arkham is the best entry in the DCU animated line in some time. After a few ho-hum releases, I began to lose confidence. This not only reinvigorated the line, but was one of the best entries overall. Make a point to watch it.
Enjoy the spare use of Batman? Like returning to Arkham game universe? Comment below!
Reminded me of Baron Zemo goofiness.