Batman and Nightwing are forced to team with the Joker’s sometimes-girlfriend Harley Quinn to stop a global threat brought about by Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man.
There’s something really nostalgic about revisiting the world of Batman: The Animated Series after all these years. Though I regularly rewatch the series it has been a long time since we’ve had anything new in this regard.
Fans who grew up watching the show will at times find this film a little tough to watch. There are moments which push the PG-13 rating by adding swears and a little blood. But then there are moments which take the film in a more Batman ’66 direction, camping it up to the extreme.
I would be lying if I didn’t say this film has a bit of everything in it. Action, drama, comedy, scenes of a sexual nature and even two musical numbers. All of which add up to an enjoyable cinema experience if one that did leave me scratching my head.
The story of Batman and Harley Quinn is incredibly simple: stop Poison Ivy, save the world and bring Harley along for the ride. It could easily be the plot of a 22-minute episode straight from the TV series. The complexity of this film, if there truly is any, is in the character and not in the story.
Batman (Kevin Conroy) is the character we’ve all known for many years. There’s a little more edge to him here but also a softer side. We get to learn he enjoys the musical stylings of Harley Quinn but is also not afraid to make threats to get the job done.
Conroy owns the role as he always had. His voice booms from the speakers with pure authority and it still sounds like he loves to embody this character.
Bringing back Loren Lester as Nightwing is genius. Having the original animated Dynamic Duo together again is pure gold. Lester barely sounds like he has aged a day. Thankfully is Nightwing (or Nightwink as Harley calls him) has had a haircut.
Joining Conroy and Lester in the role of Harley Quinn is The Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rauch. She takes over from the formidable voice talent of Arleen Sorkin. As a fan of Rauch’s character in Big Bang it was difficult at times to separate the two when her voice is so distinct. That aside she is able to give some of her own unique spin to the role and I think she does a fine job of not being a clone of Sorkin or any other voice actress to take on the role.
Similarly mastermind Bruce Timm keep the Harley he created 25 years ago alongside Paul Dini without giving her a Suicide Squad style makeover.
The positives in this film are numerous. The classic animation style, the great voice acting, some excellent music cues by Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis and Kristopher Carter. There are also some great action sequences. The alley fight between Nightwing and Harley is a particular highlight. Much like the rest of the film there are more edgy, adult quality to the fights which really help to set the film aside from the cartoon series.
There are, however, a couple of low points. Case-in-point the awful, drawn out fart joke during the Batmobile drive to Bludhaven. It’s vaguely funny and will appeal to the young audience who in my opinion probably shouldn’t be watching the film. The decision to draw it out only makes it worse, even Conroy chiming in with the appalling line ‘it smells like discipline’ can’t save the scene.
The films slightly questionable ending could also be sighted as a low point. It’s clearly meant to drive home the point that this film is more about the comedy than the story but I couldn’t help feeling it could have been wrapped up much better.
Timm is clearly trying to make up for the missteps made with The Killing Joke which angered so many of the comic books fans. Going back to his roots and updating them to fit with the age of its audience is a good move and one which could be called an almost rousing success.
Batman and Harley Quinn is an interesting twist on the BTAS mythology. Part continuation, part reimagining. Bar a couple of shaky moments it’s overall an enjoyable film with some good laughs and great action.
Batman and Harley Quinn is released on digital HD August 15, 2017.