Director: Sam Liu
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch & Loren Lester
Synopsis: Batman and Nightwing are forced to team with the Joker’s sometimes-girlfriend Harley Quinn to stop a global threat brought about by Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man.
Rating: 12A Duration: 74 minutes Release date: 29 August
Once again, we find ourselves faced with a DC film, this time albeit an animated one, that fails to cut to the core of what makes its characters great. Batman and Harley Quinn carries on the unique visual style of Batman: The Animated Series, but ends up more like one of its live-action counter parts, with badly drawn characters, an over sexualizing of Harley Quinn and a story that feels like the creators were pissing in the wind here.
Batman and Harley Quinn starts out innocently enough, with Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man stealing files from S.T.A.R Labs in an attempt to recreate the same scenario that birthed Swamp Thing. Only this time they wish to use the formula to take over the world. The set-up and resulting detective work by Batman and Nightwing works well and reminds the audience of the brilliant animated series from the 1990’s, but this doesn’t last long enough and the film soon descends into true cacophony.
It’s hard to criticise a film for wanting to do different things and vary it up, but Batman and Harley Quinn feels like there was a brainstorming session at DC animated HQ and everyone thought each idea was a good one and chucked everything into the blender, nary thinking what the results may be. The visuals hark back to Batman: The Animated Series, but look more like an homage to that great series rather than a well crafted recreation. Oddly, the film off-sets the dark tone of the animated show by then taking the camp comedy route and feeling more like the kitsch tone of Adam West and Burt Ward. Things delve even further with the introduction of Harley Quinn.
Harley Quinn is the films best and worst thing. Her confident, no one is going to fuck me around attitude is surely a sign of a strong female character. But then, we have Harley stripping down to her underwear reminiscent of Suicide Squad, albeit this time with Nightwing tied to her bed. What happens next between the two is either a woman claiming what she wants from a man whose brain is in his pants, or it’s badly thought plot divergence that adds nothing to the story and cheapens Harley’s assuredness previously built up.
There is nothing wrong with different take on Batman or Harley Quinn, but here we have a film unsure on how best to represent these characters. The silliness of the 60’s show, or the harder edge of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight are both fine portrayals and have their place, but Batman and Harley Quinn wants to do it all. It takes bits from various incarnations, but hasn’t stopped to think if it will mesh into a cohesive whole. Unfortunately, nothing really works here. Casual sexism and outdated portrayals of women aside, there are over-long fart jokes, poorly timed song and dance numbers and an ending so frustrating it will make you want to put your foot through your TV.
Simply put, it’s a mess. Not even Kevin Conroy and the other fabulous voice actors can save the film and as this farce drags on you really begin to feel sorry for them.
- A sneak peek at the next DC animated film – Gotham by Gaslight