Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: "Batman: Assault on Arkham" One of Best Batman Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) – Video
Running time: 76 minutes (1 hour, 16 minutes)
Rated: MPAA – PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language
DIRECTORS:  Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding   
WRITER:  Heath Corson
COMPOSER:  Robert J. Kral
EDITOR:  Christopher D. Lozinsk
ANIMATION STUDIO:  Moi Animation Studios


Starring:  (voices) Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, Matthew Gray Gubler, CCH Pounder, Troy Baker, Chris Cox, John DiMaggio, Greg Ellis, Giancarlo Esposito, Jennifer Hale, Christian Lanz, Nolan North, Martin Jarvis, and Andrea Romano

Batman: Assault on Arkham is a 2014 straight-to-video animated superhero film from Warner Bros. Animation.  It is the 20th film in Warner's line of DC Universe original animated movies.  This film is set in the universe of the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, and occurs after the events depicted in Batman: Arkham Origins (2013).

Batman: Assault on Arkham, of course, features classic DC Comics character, Batman, but here, he is really a supporting character.  Assault on Arkham focuses on a new version of the Suicide Squad, in particular, squad members, Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who are Batman villains.  In Batman: Assault on Arkham the film, a team of six villains breaks into an infamous prison to recover vital information, but find the mission complicated by the inmates and Batman.

As Batman: Assault on Arkham opens, shadowy U.S. government operative, Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder), sends a black ops team to kill Batman villain, The Riddler ( Matthew Gray Gubler).  Batman (Kevin Conroy) rescues his old adversary and returns him to Arkham Asylum.  Determined to kill The Riddler and to recover the dangerous information he stole, Waller reforms “Task Force X” (also known as the Suicide Squad).

She kidnaps the super-criminals:  Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), King Shark (John DiMaggio), and KGBeast (Nolan North).  Waller presses them into her service, even having bombs surgically implanted into their necks to force them to serve her in Suicide Squad.  The survivors of Waller's training sneak into Gotham City, where they will infiltrate Arkham Asylum.  Meanwhile, Batman races across Gotham to find a dirty bomb planted by The Joker (Troy Baker), who is currently imprisoned at Arkham, which will soon be the sight of a lot of action.

I think that if the team of directors Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding and also writer Heath Corson had been the brain trust behind some of the Batman live-action movies, those movies would have been much better than they were, that includes Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  Batman: Assault on Arkham is one of the best original DC Comics animated movies to date and one of the best Batman media adaptations to date.

It is not a bad thing that the Suicide Squad are the stars of this movie, because the team is presented in a way that makes them perfectly capable of carrying a good movie.  It's starts with the writing.  Heath Corson's script summons forth a group of engaging characters that are every bit as interesting as Batman, and Corson imagines a scenario that allows each character to show his or her colorful side, both in words and in deeds.

Directors Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding build tension through the Arkham mission, forcing the characters to reveal much of themselves to the audience, as they try to survive and win.  The big action and fight scenes build naturally; they don't seem like bunches of conflict badly sewn together to evoke de facto titillation in the audience.  Of course, as a work of fiction, this is contrived.  However, there is a sequence that begins on a helicopter and moves from Arkham to Gotham, and includes the “Batplane.”  This sequence seems like a logical extension of the drama and does not come across as something forced for the sake of creating a big chase scene.

The voice acting is truly good; these are fine performances.  Kevin Conroy, the classic Batman voice actor since “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992), reminds us why it is a special occasion to hear him as the Dark Knight and why many fans always want him to be Batman's voice.  However, in this film, Neal McDonough is the standout as Deadshot, and with a powerful deliver, full of character colors, he is the actual lead in this movie.

Hynden Walch is slinky goodness as Harley Quinn, and Troy Baker is pitch-perfect as the Joker.   CCH Pounder is a noted character actor and supporting actress, and she has also done some fine voice-over acting, which shows in her delicious and thugged-out turn as Amanda Waller.

Wow!  Can a brother get a sequel – from the same team?  If not, at least, we have Batman: Assault on Arkham.  It is an assault on any mediocre Batman media.

9 of 10

Monday, January 26, 2015

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