DVD Review - Batman: Assault on Arkham

Given the success of Marvel's The Avengers, a film that combines a group of superheroes in a big adventure, Sony developed the idea of doing a movie that combines a group of villains in a big adventure. The idea was tentatively titled Sinister Six. Anyone curious about how a movie like that would work can look to this one.

I don't know too much about the DC Comics Universe. I also don't know all that much about what's referred to as Batman's Rogues Gallery. This is a hindrance because the villains who band together here are not major villains who have been depicted countless times in movies or TV shows.

Written by Heath Corson, and directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding, the movie actively introduces us to the villains, but there is a prerequisite of knowing them from the comics. Guardians of the Galaxy did a good job of presenting unknown or not widely known comic book characters. Being live action, it needed to do a good job. This animated movie doesn't feel that burden. Yet, the character design, dialogue and plot are enough to carry it.

Amanda Waller, voiced by CCH Pounder, is a heavyset, black woman who is a government agent who has created the Suicide Squad, a collection of criminals from Gotham and beyond. She's able to use technology to threaten these criminals to do what she wants. Ironically, her current mission is to send the Suicide Squad into Arkham Asylum, the institution and prison in Gotham city designed to house the criminally insane.

Six villains comprise the Suicide Squad. They include Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost, Killer Shark and Black Spider. Deadshot, voiced by Neal McDonough, is the de facto leader. He's comparatively the least evil and psychotic of them all. He's probably the closest to being like Batman.

We don't learn too much about his back story or anyone else's. The exception is Harley Quinn, voiced by Hynden Walch. She used to be a psychiatrist who worked at Arkham Asylum. She fell in love with Joker, Batman's archenemy, and now dresses like a demented clown too or sexy, twisted, court jester. She's the most mouthy, the most flirtatious and is second in command because she knows the ins and outs of Arkham.

The funny and craziest thing about this movie is how adult it is. The characters curse, dropping the four-letter s-word. Characters in Guardians of the Galaxy might drop the same word once, but this animated movie does so more frequently. This movie also pulls no punches when it comes to the violence. Guardians of the Galaxy gets somewhat intense, but it shows no blood.

Not only does this cartoon show blood and pools of it, literally, it also has some pretty horrific gore, and gruesome deaths of innocent people. Oliva and Spaulding seem to have a predilection with decapitations, and not just people getting their heads sliced off their bodies in some way but people getting their heads exploded with chunks flying every which way.

What also proves how this movie is so adult is how it treats sex. Guardians of the Galaxy does have a shirtless Chris Pratt and has dick and ejaculation jokes. This cartoon actually shows Harley Quinn fully nude and has Deadshot's naked body on top of her. It's not crude or pornographic but it goes for it.

Speaking of Harley Quinn, she does have a love triangle here. Joker, voiced by Troy Baker, learns of Harley's affair with Deadshot and aside from his green hair, he also becomes green with envy. That on top of his other plan to cause chaos, mixed with the Suicide Squad's mission and its many twists and turns forces all Hell to break loose.

Half-way through the movie, all one can wonder is for whom should one root. For about 40 minutes, there is no hero. All the characters are villains, so it's a question if the audience should care about the Squad's mission. Even when Waller threatens and basically blackmails them, it's still difficult to care about them.

However, the filmmakers are able to turn it around and make the audience invested. I was even caring about the resolution of the love triangle. The final shot of the movie is questionable about how one should feel. The final shot is meant to be celebratory of revenge and of murder, which can be satisfying but in a very disturbing way.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 15 mins.


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