Directors: Jay Olivia & Ethan Spaulding Starring: Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough & Hynden Walch Synopsis: “Based on the hit video game series, Batman must find a bomb planted by the Joker while dealing with a mysterious team of villains called, The Suicide Squad.” Rating: 15 Runtime: 75 minutes
The DC animated line of various films and TV shows has been a relative success, and has provided the studio with a success that their live action counterparts have not always managed. Shows like Batman The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, along with films like Batman: Mask of The Phantasm or Justice League: War have drawn acclaim from both fans and critics alike. The latest entry in DC’s list of animated films is Batman: Assault on Arkham, and is loosely tied to the Arkham video games.
In Assault on Arkham, we see a motley crew of villains brought together by Amanda Waller to break into Arkham Asylum in order to steal a valuable USB hidden inside the Riddler’s cane. The various villains were relative unknowns to me. I was familiar with Deadshot and Harley Quinn, but I will be honest and say I had never heard of Captain Boomerang, Black Spider, King Shark or Killer Frost before. So I was a little anxious as to whether Assault on Arkham could work with a cast of c list villains as the main protagonists.
The title of this film, along with the artwork, may suggest that this is a Batman film, but the Dark Knight is really only a supporting character here. This is not a bad thing, as he manages to show up just enough during the course of the film to be a threat to the villains and doesn’t overstay his welcome. Instead it is left to Task Force: X as Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) calls them, or the Suicide Squad to everyone else, to take centre stage. Considering I knew nothing about some of these villains, DC have done a really good job in making them interesting & charismatic enough if a little undeserving of our affections.
The idea of getting behind a team of villains is not completely unfamiliar, but it can seem a little dubious at times. Where DC excels is making these characters likeable enough that you don’t feel as if you are betraying anything in supporting them. Deadshot is the anti-hero of the film and is voiced perfectly by Neal McDonough, and is the most moralistic of the characters on display here. Harley Quinn is as fun as always, and brings a sense of manic unpredictability to the film. She is voiced here by Hynden Walch, who must be given credit for her near perfect replication of Arleen Sorkin’s take on the character, which was made famous in Batman: The Animated Series.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bunch, and some will have an impact on you while others will seem wasted. King Shark (John DiMaggio) and Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) form an unlikely bond, which is quite the feat really, as King Shark attempts to eat Killer Frost the first time he see’s her. Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis) is the hot head of the team, and has a nice back and forth with Deadshot over who is the better shot. Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito) seems a little wasted here, and serves merely as a plot point later in the film. The character also suffers from having a far too familiar look to Deadshot in the film. While the Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) suffers from being nothing more than a sideshow here.
The Joker also makes an appearance here and Troy Baker, much like Hynden Walch does with Harley Quinn, does a fantastic job of channeling Mark Hamill’s work as the Joker from his time with DC. Kevin Conroy again voices Batman, and his work here is as good as ever. In fact Conroy’s work is so good that when I read a graphic novel that features Batman, I can’t help but hear his voice when reading Batman’s lines.
The animation is as strong as ever, and moves fluidly throughout the film. It is also nice to see the animation styles from the Arkham video games make their way into the film. Poison Ivy, Bane and the Scarecrow all make late cameos and are pitch perfect representations to their video game cousins. The only downsides to Assault on Arkham are a lack of characterisation for our anti-heroes and a storyline that serves as nothing more than an excuse to see a bunch of bad guys break into Arkham Asylum. I will also add that the use of dubstep during a few scenes seemed a little crude to me, when maybe a synth or guitar led piece could have worked better.
In summary: Batman: Assault on Arkham is a fast and frenetic addition to DC’s animated film line, and see’s a largely excellent cast of criminals come across as wonderful anti-heroes, who I would have no problem seeing again in either live action or animated form.
Editors note: Batman: Assault on Arkham is rated as 15 in the UK and does, for an animated film, feature some graphic violence and one sex scene. I feel this needs mentioning as most animated films are child friendly, but any vigilant parent would be perhaps best to avoid letting their children watch this film.