Batman: Assault on Arkham – Review

Assault on Arkham


Another soulless pile of dreck from WB Animation – but the sad thing is, at this point I’m not even surprised.

So I think I need to give some context here, as to why these failures pain me so – and the answer is, simply, Batman: The Animated Series. For those who don’t know, B:TAS was an animated TV series beloved by critics and viewers alike – but more than anything else, it was the thing that installed in me a life-long love of Batman. And I wasn’t alone in that – B:TAS was a gateway, a first taste that hooked a legion of kids into the vast legacy of Batman (seriously, ask any geek in their 30’s); so no, I’m not exaggerating when I say Batman: The Animated Series opened up a whole new world of storytelling, for me and many others. And that, to me, is what these new animated movies should be about – they should give people a reason to fall in love with Batman; they should be a way in for people who have never read a single Batman comic in their lives (but might just want to start after watching it). I mean, I’m not asking for Citizen Kane here, WB, I just want a fun, solid adventure that’s true to what Batman is all about – not this crap. These movies have gotten so bad they’re literally driving potential fans away – and that’s what makes me crazy. Because I was that eight year old kid, back in the day, who sat down to watch a Batman animated story, knowing nothing about any of it – and what I found was something to love. So that’s what I want, for the eight year old kids sitting down to watch these movies now – and these movies are not it. In fact I know, if my eight year old self had seen these movies, instead of B:TAS, I would have turned around, walked away, and never looked back. And that just breaks my heart.

So let’s get down to exactly why this movie was so spectacularly un-entertaining – and first and foremost, I should probably tell you Batman is barely in this movie at all. I think he has something like eight lines altogether, as he’s essentially relegated to playing one of the many macguffins of the story – a disservice not even the voice of Kevin Conroy can overcome. So instead of being a Batman story, this movie revolves around the Suicide Squad, here consisting of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Black Spider, Killer Frost, and King Shark, as they break into Arkham Asylum to recapture information stolen by The Riddler – and if at this point you’re thinking, Black Spider/Killer Frost/Captain Boomerang/King Shark who? Well, I was right there with you. Those are C list Bat-villains, at best, and not even the presence of everyone’s favorite villain-ess, Harley Quinn, could quite overcome the but-why-am-I-supposed-to-care factor, as Deadshot woodenly stands in for Batman. And there it is, the awful truth – there is literally no reason to care, about any of this movie. The characters are faces and names, and that’s about it – there’s no personality to speak of among the lot of them, as even Harley is essentially a caricature of her character (more on that later). And as a result, there is zero chemistry, zero getting-the-team-together panache, zero fun-fighting-amongst-themselves, or anything of that nature, which all adds up to zero fun. Not to mention, the so-called dangerous plot was limp at best; the twists and turns so telegraphed as to be topped by flashing neon lights; and despite this movie’s clumsy attempt at trying to be an Ocean Eleven‘s type caper (including a painfully long homage to introduce the “gang” at the top of the show), there was no capering in sight. Instead we watch hollow caricatures go through the empty plot motions, until it’s over. And much as this movie tries to distract us with hand-waving and hamster-wheel spinning, there really is just no hiding the fact that this is a spectacularly boring affair.

And to make matters worse, Harley Quinn is painfully misused in this story. She’s essentially a blow-up doll – I think she gets one joke-y punchline to say throughout the movie, which she repeats over and over again, to ever lessening effect, almost as if the makers of this film just couldn’t figure out what else she could possible say – or couldn’t be bothered to try. And so Harley flounces around in a sad approximation of her usual antics, then randomly jumps Deadshot’s bones, for no particular reason (other than to provide the requisite female objectification quotient of the piece, I guess), all the while continuing to blurt her punchline at random intervals – and really there was nothing funny about it. Because much as I love Harley Quinn, this character was a sad imitation, at best.

So, to sum up: they tried to get the band together, and failed miserably. A flaccid affair from beginning to end, as once again DC Animation seems to hope that if they do enough hand waving, we won’t notice the total lack of character or story in the piece. But hey, it’s not like they have any great comics they could base these movies on, right?

Wow was that boring.