Friday, October 3, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham Review

Batman: Assault on Arkham Review
By Rob Jefchak

            DC routinely sucks at producing good movies beyond “Batman” films, Marvel has truly dominated the cinematic market and any attempt DC is making or planning on making is a feeble attempt at best. However, TV and animation are two departments where DC dominates and while 90% of their direct-to-DVD animated movies have routinely disappointed and dejected me…I have to admit that “Batman: Assault on Arkham” may have, kind of, sort of somewhat redeemed themselves. Despite getting top billing, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and his hunt for a bomb planted by the Joker (Troy Baker) in Arkham Asylum has very little to do with the main storyline.

            The real stars are the Suicide Squad: a group of villains captured by government agent Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) who uses high explosives to force the likes of Harley Quinn (Hynden Welch), Deadshot (Neal McDonough), King Shark (John Dimaggio) and others to break into Arkham to get top secret information stolen by the Riddler (Matthew Grey Gubler) before Batman or anyone else gets to it. While practically every one of the DC direct-to-DVD movies has focused on animating specific comic book storylines (which is one of the reasons I HATE them because it’s a very limited target audience and those who don’t know the comics are left scratching their heads as to what the hell is going on), this one focuses on the recent Arkham video games storyline.

            Thankfully though, knowledge of this video game universe is not required since “Assault on Arkham” does the NON STUPID thing by actually making the movie presentable to people without requiring extensive background information. “Assault” sets up the story perfectly; no big events you have to worry out on missing, no extensive character backgrounds you need to be familiarized with; you can easily be a total newbie to the Batman universe and still get the general gist of this film. While it’s true knowing Batman’s comic history will help you appreciate certain easter eggs and cameos featured, but the Suicide squad’s mission and purpose is explained so directly that you can easily get behind the mission without worrying about missing anything.

            Batman being falsely assumed as the star is a sin but truthfully, it’s one I welcome since I’ve always found the villains to be the more entertaining and interesting side of the coin. Seeing the likes of Harley Quinn, Killer Frost and other costumed wackos being forced to work together creates some of the most interesting interactions imaginable. This film feels very reminiscent of old crime caper films; groups of unlikely bedfellows reluctantly teaming up and using their lethal skills to accomplish a next to impossible goal in order to enrich (or in this case preserve) their lives. The use of a mature rating allows this movie to get more down, dirty and bloody when it wants to; it makes sense considering this is a rag tag group of blood thirsty killers, creatures and crazy people.

            However, sometimes the use of a mature rating doesn’t mean the movie should be nilly willy bloody gutsy for the sake of “because I can” and the film does do that a few times. Now even with a short running time of 1 hour and 12 minutes, there’s definitely enough action, development and palpable tension that the film never feels too rushed or incomplete. On top of that, Batman and Joker’s appearances may be small but they each provide a big enough impact that you feel more than satisfied that they came along for the ride (mad props to Troy Baker pulling off an incredibly authentic Mark Hamil Joker voice). All in all, “Assault on Arkham” is the DC DVD movie I had been waiting for. It’s simple, direct, free from back comic issue baggage, has a great cast of crazies and it all looks and sounds like what I had hoped it would: pure frigging fun.

I give “Batman: Assault on Arkham” 2 and ½ stars out of 4.