This is the sixth part in our Batman Week series, where we review a series of Batman films leading up to our review of video-game Batman: Arkham Knight, which will be published on 27th June. To read previous reviews or to check the schedule, click here.
(C) Warner Bros., DC Comics
In Batman: Assault on Arkham, which is set after Arkham Origins but before Arkham Asylum, Amanda Waller assembles the Suicide Squad, comprising of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Black Spider, King Shark, Killer Frost and KGBeast. They are tasked with retrieving the Riddler’s staff from Arkham Asylum, which is said to contain sensitive information that Waller wants, all while trying to prevent the Joker from detonating a series of bombs that will decimate Gotham City – and of course holding off Batman himself.
The plot of Batman: Assault on Arkham is easily one of the film’s strong points. It tells a character-driven story and devotes time to building relationships between characters, particularly between Harley Quinn and Deadshot, which helps make the characters more believable and the viewer much more invested. The film plays out quite like Guardians of the Galaxy in that a team of ragtag misfits must learn to work together to defeat a common goal, which I really liked. It has the guts to introduce characters that aren’t as well known in the DC Universe such as King Shark and Black Spider, and it was very refreshing to see new characters on-screen. However, the end of the film is much too bloated with action scene after action scene, which is disappointing when considering the amount of time that had gone into developing the characters prior to this, undermining the efforts put in by the mostly solid script, which is good aside from a few jokes that don’t quite hit the mark. It makes the film very unbalanced and is definitely my least favourite part of the 1 hour and 15 minute spectacle. However, there are plenty of Easter eggs and references made to the Arkham-verse that keep this film very interesting and at times captivating to watch, although I won’t spoil them here.
The characters are, on the whole, just as good as the plot, aside from a few that don’t fit in. Particular standouts are Harley Quinn, played here by Tara Strong, who is just as good as in the Arkham games, portraying the insanity yet innocence of her character fantastically. Other highlights were Troy Baker as the Joker, who was splendidly psychotic and almost as good as Mark Hamill, and Batman himself, played by the legendary Kevin Conroy. These characters are true to their comic roots and remain consistent with the Arkham games, helping this film slot perfectly into the mythos. However, the film is let down by Captain Boomerang in particular, here played by Greg Ellis. Boomerang is supposed to be Australian, and Ellis – who hails from England – just can’t pull the Australian accent off, and it really isn’t helped by the script, which tries to pack in as many Australia-related puns as it can, making this character stick out like a sore thumb.
From a technical standpoint, the film is simply incredible. The music is fantastic, mixing a blend of techno during the action scenes and splendid opening credits to rock at other times, and it gives this film the unique feel that Guardians also had. Action scenes are handled fantastically by directors Jay Olivia and Ethan Spaulding, with the camera always managing to keep up with the action and let the viewer see the best parts, in what is a much more brutal film than other DC animated entries. The film is also generally well edited, with some of the transitions between scenes fantastic, and the tight editing during the action scenes allowing their intensity to remain even after cuts. However, every now and then a scene goes on for far too long, perhaps focusing on a character for a number of seconds after they had finished talking, which left these moments feeling awkward and particularly jarring.
Batman: Assault on Arkham manages to maintain the legacy of the Arkham series thanks to well-developed characters, captivating action scenes and a fantastic soundtrack, although is let down by a bloated third act and a few characters that don’t quite fit in. However, it is brilliant tale nonetheless that I highly recommend.
I give Batman: Assault on Arkham 8 out of 10.