Saturday, May 27, 2017

Batman: Assault on Arkham - A Better Suicide Squad

Last year, Warner Bros. released Suicide Squad, the third film in the DCEU. While Suicide Squad had promise, it failed to fully connect with its audience due to its odd pacing, overabundance of underdeveloped characters and poorly written script. Two years prior, DC and Warner Bros. released a direct-to-video animated film also based on the Suicide Squad, but this time set within the Batman: Arkham universe. Though its existence is perhaps not as widely known, it does manage to handle the concept of the team much better.

After Batman (Kevin Conroy) rescues Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) from a black ops assassination and returns him to Arkham Asylum, Amanda Waller (C. C. H. Pounder) invokes Priority Ultraviolet, which involves capturing and gathering a group of villains for the Suicide Squad. Said group is composed of Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), KGBeast (Nolan North), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) and King Shark (John DiMaggio). Their mission is to break into Arkham Asylum and recover a thumbdrive hidden in Riddler’s cane, as the drive contains information about the Suicide Squad that Riddler acquired while employed by Waller and intended to make public. To keep the group in line, Waller has implanted nano-bombs within their necks, which KGBeast unwittingly demonstrates. At the same time the Suicide Squad set out on their mission, Batman is searching Gotham for the location of a dirty bomb planted by Joker (Troy Baker).

The Suicide Squad (Left to Right): Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis),
Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), King Shark (John DiMaggio), Deadshot (Neal McDonough),
Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito) and Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch).

The plot, though simple, is executed well and does a good job at tying its two main threads together and balancing its core cast of villains. There is enough screentime for each Suicide Squad member, apart from KGBeast, to get a sense of who they are and how they interact with each other, even for the lesser-known characters. For example, there is sense of a budding romance between Killer Frost and King Shark as well as a competitive rivalry between Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. Naturally the 76-minute runtime doesn’t allow for any one of the characters to be fully fleshed out (especially KGBeast, Black Spider and Amanda Waller) and the audience is expected to already be familiar with characters and relationships as presented within the Batman: Arkham universe. Still, the story is at least accessible for the uninitiated.

The animation is also done very well and is faithful to the style of the Batman: Arkham games, including the more muted color palette. While the designs of the characters are very distinct from one another, Deadshot and Black Spider have somewhat similar designs when unmasked. Befitting its PG-13 rating, the movie also doesn’t shy away from hints at nudity, mainly with Harley Quinn and Killer Frost, or use of swearing. On that note, the voice acting is also pretty good, particularly the performances of Kevin Conroy and Troy Baker, the latter of whom does a convincing Mark Hamill impression.

Batman: Assault on Arkham is pretty good overall. Although the plot is simple, it does a good job of highlighting the characters and giving the audience an idea of who some of the more lesser-knowns are. The action does a good job of portraying each character’s abilities and the animation stays true to the style of the Batman: Arkham Universe. If you’re a fan of the Batman: Arkham games, then this is a worthy entry to watch. If you’re a fan of the Suicide Squad but found the 2016 DCEU film lacking, then consider viewing Assault on Arkham.

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