Batman: Assault on Arkham, 2014.
Directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding.
Featuring the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Troy Baker, Matthew Gray Gubler, CCH Pounder, John DiMaggio, Jennifer Hale, Hynden Walch, and Giancarlo Esposito.
Based on the hit video game series, Batman must find a bomb planted by the Joker while dealing with a mysterious team of villains called, The Suicide Squad.
I’ve been on record before as a fan of the DC Animated offerings. Marvel seems to have perfected the theatrical experience while DC has managed to successfully parlay their characters into television, animation, and video games. The newest animated movie from DC takes a cue from the extremely successful Arkham video game series to deliver a fairly good offering in Batman: Assault on Arkham.
Fans of the video games will be happy to see this rich world given a little more exploration, though to be honest the title seems a little misleading. Batman is very much a part of this story, but the protagonists here are most definitely the Suicide Squad, a group of super-criminals recruited by the Government to take on secret missions. I’ve always been a fan of the Suicide Squad concept and it is executed very well in Assault on Arkham.
The story takes us into Gotham City where the Riddler is being pursued by the nefarious Amanda Waller. He has information she needs and will do anything to see it recovered. While trying to extract Riddler, Waller’s goon squad encounters Batman who makes quick work of them before delivering Edward Nygma into the revolving doors of Arkham Asylum. With conventional methods proving ineffective, Waller assembles a Suicide Squad with some veterans and some new recruits. Among the veterans are the master assassin Deadshot,the deadly Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang. Joining them are Black Spider, Killer Frost, King Shark, and for the a brief moment KGBeast.
With the squad assembled, they head into Gotham to invade Arkham Asylum and retrieve Riddler’s cane. If they don’t do Waller’s bidding, a small bomb implanted in their neck will permanently separate their head from the rest of their body. For most, that’s enough motivation. Once inside Arkham, the Squad learns that the mission might not be as cut and dry as they first thought.
Assault on Arkham ends up working because enough time is taken to let us know the characters that make up this group of lovable losers. There some nice time devoted to Deadshot and Harley Quinn who deliver most of the drama in the film. Deadshot is a cold blooded killer with a single, solitary tie to this world: his daughter. Harley’s internal struggle is more present, having to return to Arkham where her former mentor and partner in crime The Joker spends his spare time. Batman has little to do with the central plot, other than be another piece to this moving puzzle. As the Squad invades Arkham, he tries to uncover the real motivations of Waller and The Joker. It wouldn’t be an Arkham story without the Joker I suppose.
The other standout feature of Assault on Arkham is the humor. There is some dark happenings at play and some really morbid moments. There’s no punches pulled whether it comes to the violence or some relationship building moments between the sheets with Harley and Deadshot. The character work is excellent with quality voice over actors bringing these characters to life with Giancarlo Espositio’s Black Spider and Greg Ellis’ Captain Boomerang being the standouts. Speaking of characters, directors Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding do a great job of making these villains the bottom barrel scraping beasts they are. Surprisingly, amongst all these killers and thieves it’s Amanda Waller who comes the most monstrous. She’s portrayed as a morbidly obese, morally vacant agent who unapologetically does her job and has no issues sacrificing the members of her Suicide Squad.
Assault on Arkham is a fun little distraction, but lacks some of the gravitas of previous DC animated films. I still consider Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The New Frontier, and Batman: Under the Red Hood as examples of the pinnacle these projects can reach. Assault on Arkham is a fun effort that captures the concept of the Suicide Squad well. It feels like a really good pilot episode for a Suicide Squad series featuring Batman as a special guest.
If I had any complaints, it would be the glee and subsequent disappointment I experienced seeing KGBeast in the opening credits thinking one of my favorite, underused characters would get some screen time. While it’s nothing to lose your head over, he’s barely more than a bit player.
The DC animated offerings continue to be entertaining films. Batman: Assault on Arkham is a fun movie that should entertain DC fans. If you’re expecting a lot of Batman, you might be disappointed, but fans of the Suicide Squad are in for a good time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.