I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Batman: Assault On Arkham

tn_batmanaoasummer2016originsBATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM is one in a long series of DTV animated movies based on the super hero works of the DC Comics company (#20 out of 26 so far, according to Wikipedia). This is a particularly too-PG-13-for-kids one (a sex scene, exploding heads, a few naughty words, bullets going into a decapitated body, unceremonious deaths of characters your kid may love if he or she is weirdly knowledgeable of third-string DC villains), and although it’s marketed as a tie-in to the Batman Arkham City video games it’s actually a Suicide Squad cartoon with Batman as a supporting character.

We all know the concept of Suicide Squad now, thanks to this summer’s live action version. It’s a DIRTY DOZEN type team but instead of army troublemakers the members are the enemies of various super heroes. This version starts when shady government official Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder, FACE/OFF) oversees her SWAT team getting The Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler, EXCISION) snatched out from under them by the fucking Batman (Kevin Conroy, YOGA HOSERS). They want Riddler for some secret black ops something or other, but Batman gets him into the regular legal system, locked up in Arkham Asylum.

So Waller decides to put together “Task Force X” to break into the place. Members include Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch, GROUNDHOG DAY), a woman insane enough to have dated the Joker (Troy Baker); Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton (Neal McDonough, WALKING TALL), a seemingly kind of honorable assassin and expert marksman; King Shark (John DiMaggio, THE POOCH AND THE PAUPER), a giant guy with metal jaws; Killer Frost* (Jennifer Hale, Sonya Blade in MORTAL KOMBAT: THE JOURNEY BEGINS), a lady with ice powers; Captain Boomerang (Jonny Rees, TITANIC), an Australian guy with a boomerang; KGBeast (Nolan North, Port Charles), a Russian guy without a boomerang; and Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito, SCHOOL DAZE), a goggled ninja vigilante guy.

*I accidentally typed “Kid Frost” at first because of the rapper and I’m not sure it was the right decision to correct it

mp_batmanaoaWhy would they do it? A promise of shortened sentences, and of not detonating the bombs that have been implanted in their necks. There’s a great moment in the scene where Waller gives them the rundown. KGBeast – a major enough character to have been a henchman in BATMAN V SUPERMAN – decides to call her bluff and walk away. BOOM. No head.

It’s a fun Snake Plissken type of concept, and we can root for these bad guy characters partly because the government is so casually cruel to them, doing things like not letting them know they are even in a plane before suddenly dumping them out without giving them the power to open their own parachutes, so that Waller can tell them over their headsets that she has complete control of their lives. (Of course, Harley giggles the whole time.)

Deadshot kinda seems like the lead. I think he’s an assassin, but he’s as much a good guy as any movie where the protagonist is some kind of hitman or something. Harley and King Shark both provide comic relief. Harley is funny because she’s introduced playing a Bugs Bunny video game and then biting somebody’s ear off. King Shark is funny because he’s a dude with a shark head. Ha ha. I like sharks.

There’s some dick-measuring that has to occur before they can gel as a team. In a bar, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot get into a ridiculously show-offy game of darts to assert marskmanship dominance.

Stylistically the animatists definitely mimic a modern live action movie that’s trying to be hip. With drawings they sort of re-create a handheld camera style and quick cuts, and they have lots of fast electronical music when they fight.

They have fun with making it take place in the DC Universe (or Det Com Univ for short). When they have to get information from a guy it’s not just some guy, it’s The Penguin (Nolan North). When they bust into evidence storage to get weapons it’s, like, The Joker’s playing cards and Mr. Freeze’s famous what-killed-the-dinosaurs-the-ice-age gun. When they let out a bunch of inmates to cause a riot it’s Bane and some guys like that. They can do that kind of stuff easier in animation because they don’t have to worry about casting actors who could carry a spin-off movie and sign for sequels and all that. They can just draw them.

I’m not seeing the live action version until tonight, but I get the feeling it took some influence from this. There’s a moment in the trailer where they hear the Joker’s laugh echoing from somewhere in the building and everybody, especially Harley, is like, oh shit. Same thing happens in this movie. I know Batman makes an appearance in SUICIDE SQUAD, and maybe he has a similar sort of lingering-but-not-the-main-character-at-all presence. It would be cool if they copy the gimmick of having him pull tricks like being in disguise among them and even the audience doesn’t know it’s him.

This is a solid super hero – or actually super anti-hero – story. These tried and true action movie formulas are tried and true for a reason, and it’s fun to see them play out in this comic book world. I gotta say this is a pretty cool cartoon although it doesn’t have a crying part like a Pixar.

History: The Suicide Squad name was originally introduced in comics in 1959, but the version that is made up of super villains started in 1987. The team has appeared on the cartoon Justice League Unlimited, the live action shows Smallville and Arrow and some video games before having its own live action movie opening this week.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2016 at 12:28 pm and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Comic strips/Super heroes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “Batman: Assault On Arkham”

  1. Wasn’t expecting you to ever review one of these types of things. So pleasant surprise there. I really enjoyed this one and I haven’t been the biggest fan of these direct-to-video DC cartoons as I think they range from okay-ish to not terribly good (my favorite is the Wonder Woman one, I really love that one).

    I have not been blind to the serious issues the DC Extended Universe movies have had but I’ve enjoyed them anyway (so like many of us here). Therefore I am hopeful that I’ll enjoy Suicide Squad. If that Hollywood Reporter article is to be believed, I should get my enjoyment out of these far-reaching but deeply flawed movies while I can since it seems they will be making them closer to the dependable Marvel mode that I enjoy but don’t find terribly memorable. Oh well, great for every one else and only okay for me I guess.

  2. I also was not expecting a review of the Suicide Squad direct to video cartoon. This is definitely one of DC’s better animated movies. I also agree with Geoffrey that the Wonder Woman one is one of the best. The New Frontier is also pretty great. I usually save these sorts of movies for after a hard day of work. They don’t require too much investment, and they’re relatively brief.

  3. Also wasn’t expecting a review of one of these, let alone a positive one! But yeah, really liked this one myself. I think I’ve posted this before too, but I love the moment where Deadshot psyches out The Joker by telling him there are no more bullets in his gun.

    (On another note, Nolan North and Jennifer Hale could also be credited for being in every video game ever. And Troy Baker could be credited for being in no-seriously-every-single-game since about 2009).

    Looking forward to seeing the live action interpretation this weekend.

  4. New Frontier would be a great Summer 2017 (or whenever Just-tits League comes out) origins pick from this series.

    It’s a great getting the band together piece based on the late great Darwin Cookes book of the same name.

  5. This is probably my favorite of the DC DTV cartoons (well, maybe behind All-Star Superman) and I kinda wish the live action movie was just an adaptation of this story. The way they use Batman and The Joker as mythic supporting characters who work as antagonists to the Squad is genius, and the character development and action is great. I’m still going to see SS this weekend but the reviews have definitely lowered my expectations (which could be a good thing)

  6. They do handheld animation now? Sounds like it’s subtle, but man, that’s a depressing thought…

  7. Normally it’s funny when you do it Vern but referring to legendary in the video game world voice actors like Nolan North and Jennifer Hale by obscure roles is not so funny, Bradley Cooper deserves to always have THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN after his name but Nolan North and Jennifer Hale, not being big time Hollywood celebrities, deserve more respect, in my opinion.

  8. You could also have gone with Nolan North (Captain America, Superman, Batman, Alfred, Optimus Prime, Splinter, Rocket Raccoon, Deadpool, Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Conan, Ant-Man, Thor, Green Lantern, Penguin, Scarecrow, Green Goblin, Magneto, Vulture).
    I heard he got bitten by a radioactive parrot when he was a kid, endowing him incredible vocal abilities but also left him with a soft feathery plumage all over his body that prevented him from becoming a screen actor.

  9. The only two DC Animated Movies that I’ve seen are WONDER WOMAN and BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD, which were both good, but nothing that’s high on my rewatch list. Still, I appreciate the effort that Warner’s DTV animation department is putting into these movies. (All in all the WB DTV Animation output is pretty good, although I enjoyed the Scooby Doo movies of the last few years more than their superhero stuff. But that’s just my personal taste.)

  10. I have seen SUICIDE SQUAD. This sounds A LOT like SUICIDE SQUAD. Only much, much, much, much better.

  11. Mixalot – you would be right.

  12. A bad movie no matter the intention is never preferred to good movies played “safe” in my opinion.

  13. Bravo on the musical selection. Don’t do it!

  14. Fuck me gently with a chainsaw!

  15. Hey Vern, I noticed you tweeted something about DOTA 2 and said you didn’t understand it.

    Allow me to say as a hardcore gamer, I don’t fucking understand it either lol

  16. AOA at the time I thought was a good demo for a good live-action SUICIDE SQUAD movie. And I’m still waiting for that movie.

    (Among other things, AOA had 2 things over SS: tension and stakes.)

  17. This is definitely in the top tier of DC animated movies (along with WONDER WOMAN and NEW FRONTIER). It was this film, combined with the choice of director and cast list, that got me very excited about the potential of a SUICIDE SQUAD movie. Sadly the DC animated movies seem to be getting worse. The last few I’ve seen have ranged from forgettable (SON OF BATMAN) to bloody awful (JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR) and the animation, at least to my untrained eye, looks noticeably cheaper.

  18. You know, Bruce Wayne could have prevented more crimes than Batman with his philantropist acts. Just saying.

  19. Ancient Romans

    May 3rd, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Arman – Totally agree. And, while Superman is good for averting cataclysms, space stations don’t fall out of the sky every day. But political corruption and social injustice are evergreen. That’s where Clark Kent, Daily Planet, comes in. Because you can’t throw graft into the sun.

  20. CrustaceanLove

    May 3rd, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Look, Bruce Wayne has infinite money, so just take whatever amount you imagine he spends on fancy gadgets and assume he donates at least double that to charitable foundations and crime reduction initiatives. Besides, philanthropy isn’t going to help when Joker’s dumping a bunch of Smilex into the water supply or whatever. Sometimes you need to put on the cowl and start punching.

    Golden Age Superman, back when he was a dude with super powers trying to do his best and not Space Jesus, used to help out orphans and exploited poor people all the time. Morrison’s Action Comics revamp went back to that for a while, before spiraling off into typical Morrison 5th Dimensional batshittery.

  21. The Daily Planet is #fakenews

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