Review: Batman-Assault on Arkham [SPOILERS]

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WARNING:   Movie and Batman Arkham Game spoilers below.  You’ve been warned.

Following Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, the DC Animated Universe continuity moved to an animated movie model.  The most recent entry is Batman: Assault on Arkham. Resuming roles they’ve played in the past are Kevin Conroy as the one, true voice of Batman.  Troy Baker as the Joker and CCH Pounder as shadowy government official, Amanda Waller. Using the same voice actors effectively reminds you that you’re in the same universe as past DCAU / Batman Arkham games. There are nods to all three Arkham games throughout the movie.

Batman Assault on Arkham

BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM is the first movie set in the “Arkham” universe that has already hosted three very good video game interpretations of Batman and his array of villians.

In Justice League Unlimited, Waller tried to take out the Justice League’s Watchtower satellite by grouping together convicted super-criminals in what she calls Task Force X or The Suicide Squad, putting bombs in their heads and sending them on “dirty” or “black” missions.  Waller uses similar tactics here to bring together a new Suicide Squad which consists of some well-known villains:  Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost, Harley Quinn, along with DCAU newbies Black Spider and Killer Shark.   Their task:  Break into Arkham Asylum, locate the Riddler’s Question Mark staff, retrieve a USB drive contained within and kill the Riddler.  The drive contains information Waller requires.  She doesn’t go through normal government channels due to the sensitive nature of the information and she does NOT want Batman involved.  Her orders are clear:  Get in, get the staff, get out.  Doing anything else risks sudden decapitation.

The bulk of the story focuses on the Squad’s infiltration of Arkham and the interplay between super-criminals.  The dialog between Deadshot and Boomerang is quick and tense with the two angling to see who can be the Alpha Dog.  There are a number of laugh-out-loud moments as well. In one scene, Killer Frost remarks “That gave me the chills” to which Captain Boomerang, in perfect sarcastic deadpan, replies “Ice puns? Really?”

Hynden Walch steals the show in her insane portrayal of Harley Quinn.  Whether it’s her joy at receiving electro shock or the cackling laughter while falling out of a plane, she steals every scene she’s in.  At one point she jabs at Boomerang quipping that “anyone who plays with boomerangs has a real problem letting go”.  Indeed.

Meanwhile, Batman consumes his time by searching for a dirty bomb the Joker plans to unleash on Gotham.  How he got the bomb while incarcerated in Arkham is unaddressed.  As the movie progresses, the Joker escapes (what else is new) and Waller’s plan unravels. The super-criminals discover the true reason for Waller’s mission:  The Riddler has figured out how to remove her head-bombs while Joker goes for Harley’s giant mallet which contains the bomb.

Batman arrives just as the Riddler finishes disarming the Suicide Squad’s head-bomb.  The hectic climax includes the Riddler escaping, the Squad turning on each other, and a knock-down drag-out fight between Deadshot and the Joker before Batman saves the day.

CONCLUSION
While Conroy IS Batman, this story really is Waller and the Suicide Squad.  Pounder is excellent as the “is she good or is she evil” Waller and Baker is great as the Joker but it’s Walch who shines here.  Her heartbroken Harely Quinn is troubled, insane and completely outstanding.

BACKLOG PRIORITY
Priority rating: 8/10.   If your Backlog contains DCAU TV/movies, I’d slot others ahead of Assault on Arkham (ex: Justice League Unlimited, and Superman / Batman Public Enemies) but I’d watch this before others like Son of Batman or Green Lantern : First FlightAssault on Arkham is not the best DCAU ever made but it is really, really good.

– Vrin

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