Saturday, August 9, 2014

'Batman: Assault on Arkham' animated movie review

The fun is back in DC Universe original animated movies. But they haven't lost their edge. With several beheadings, some vulgar language and even a few glimpses of the top of Harley Quinn's ass, "Batman: Assault on Arkham" (which will be released Tuesday) more than deserves its PG-13 rating.

Set between the timlines of the critically acclaimed "Arkham Origins" and "Arkham Asylum" video games, "Assault on Arkham" features the Suicide Squad. (Just throwing this out there, DC: I'd loooooove to see animated movies based on the CGI work in the "Arkham" video games. And I bet other fans would dig it, too!) Batman basically has extended cameos 45 minutes into the 113-minute movie. So the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has it right on its press release: "Get ready to root for the bad guys."

This is the Suicide Suad line-up in "Batman: Assault on Arkham": (from left): Harley Quinn, Black Spider, Deadshot, King Shark, Killer Frost and Captain Boomerang.
What is the Suicide Squad? It's a group of convicted supervillains` who have explosives planted in the base of their skulls whom government agent Amanda Waller assigns devious, "Mission: Impossible"-type tasks. Waller threatens to activate the bombs in the members' heads if they go too far "off script." Needless to say, one of the villains puts her to the test -- and so much for his animation debut.
In "Assault on Arkham," Waller assigns the Suicide Squad to retireve a comprehensive list of the present and past Suicide Squad members which the Riddler has stolen. Here's the trick: The Riddler has stored in it in his question-mark cane -- which now is in Arkham Asylum.

Things get totally nuts when The Joker gets loose from his cell and plans to explode the "dirty bomb" he's made to blow up most of Gotham City. There's plenty of sexual tension: Killer Frost seems to have taken a liking to King Shark and Captain Boomerang seems to infer that he Harley Quinn hooked up previously as he asks her to do something "for old times' sake."

More importantly, "Mister J" has learned Harley has a "new guy" in de-fact Suicide Squad leader Deadshot. This sexual tension makes for a particularly volatile, well, climax featuring Harley Quinn, Deadshot, The Joker and Batman.

The voice cast is solid. That starts with Kevin Conroy, who is back as Batman. Conroy, whom I have called The Batman Voice" years ago, is so definitive, he needs to voice the Dark Knight for each and every animated project, but that goes without saying. ...

Troy Baker basically does Mark Hamill's take on The Joker while Hynden Walch invokes Arleen Sorkin's Harley Quinn. Since each of those voice actors reprised their "Batman: The Animated Series" roles in the "Arkham" video games, why didn't DC Entertainment just hire Hamill and Sorkin for this project? Regardless, Baker and Walch's performances are spot on, yet don't feel derivative.

Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays the shaggy haired, geeky bookworm investigator on "Criminal Minds" does a nice take on the Riddler. Voice veteran Nolan North gives The Penguin (simply known as "Cobblepot" here, although Harley calls him "Pengy" once) a British accent, which doesn't work. Neal McDonough ("Justified" and "Desperate Housewives") is appropriately gruff sounding as Deadshot.

Speaking of Deadshot, he has a been regular in the comics version of Suicide Squad. Since the New 52 debuted, Harley Quinn also is mainstay of the group. For "Assault on Arkham," the roster is filled out by two other Batman villains, Black Spider and KGBeast, two foes of the Flash, Captain Boomerang and Killer Frost, plus a mindless D-list brute I'd never headr of, Land Shark.

In the finale, a few big-name members of Batman's Rogues Gallery make appearances. Also, be on the look-out for a quick shout-out to three C-list Bat-villains as ther Suicide Squad retrieves their weapons and costumes.

There's some clever dialogue in which the Suicide Squad acknowledges it consists of lesser-known villains (aside from Harley Quinn, of course). Deadshot calls Captain Boomerang "a deranged C-lister" during a spat. But more aptly, King Shark sees crates of material in an Arkham storage facility belonging to Maxie Zeus, Killer Moth and Firefly and says, "I've never heard of this guys." Grade: A

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