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FILM REVIEW: ‘Batman: Assault on Arkham’



The Suicide Squad - 'Batman: Assault on Arkham'
'Batman: Assault on Arkham'  Cover

Cover art for the ‘Batman: Assault on Arkham’ DVD/Blu-ray

Batman: Assault on Arkham‘ is the latest in a long line of DCUAOM (DC Universe Animated Original Movies) released direct-to-video; it all started out almost seven years ago with ‘Superman: Doomsday‘. UK fans you might be saying something along the lines of ‘What, there are lots of these movies?!’ and our answer is yes there are but sadly many of them don’t get to see the light of day over here but thankfully many of the releases are region free and simple to import from the US.

Assault on Arkham‘ does seem to be seeing a release for the UK on 11th August and you can pre-order your copy on Amazon on DVD or Blu-ray. The only downside is that UK releases tend to be stripped of some special features and never come in combo-packs with digital copies so we still chose to import which you can do here.

Let’s start with the important bits:

Directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding

Written by Heath Corson

Starring Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, Matthew Gray Gubler, Troy Baker, C.C.H Pounder, Greg Ellis, Giancarlo Esposito, John DiMaggio, Jennifer Hale and Nolan North.

The film is based upon the Rocksteady ‘Arkham‘ games series which see’s the release of it’s third (and presumably final) title ‘Arkham Knight‘ in quarter one of 2015 and set as a sequel to prequel game ‘Arkham Origins‘ which ended with Amanda Waller (Pounder) putting together her Suicide Squad.

The stories of ‘Assault on Arkham‘ are entirely original to the film and I say stories as there’s a lot going on here. The official synopsis for the film reads:

When Amanda Waller and Harley Quinn get together to form the Suicide Squad, whose number one ambition is to break in to the Arkham Asylum to retrieve information from the Riddler, the accidental freeing of the Joker results in Batman being alerted to their premeditated crime. Can the caped superhero stop them before serious damage is done?

The main story focusses on the Suicide Quad and their mission to break in to Arkham and find Riddler, Batman is on a hunt of his own searching for a dirty bomb planted somewhere in Gotham by Joker before his incarceration and Waller has her own agenda outside of the Squad’s mission.

The film balances out the stories well with all characters given a fair share of screen time, when I first saw the trailer for this film I was worried that the use of Batman in the title was to help promote the film and that his appearance would be fleeting but actually his ability to appear and disappear from the movie works brilliantly for the story. The Suicide Squad do spend more time on screen than the man himself but they carry the film throughout.

The introduction sequence at the start of the film is a brilliant way to bring unfamiliar viewers up to speed on who the main players are and it’s done to a brilliant soundtrack provided by Robert J. Kral (‘Batman Gotham Knight’, ‘Angel’). The soundtrack compliments the film throughout and brings a more modern, gaming twist to the music of other DCAU films of the past. Audibly this is one of the best films of the series and I look forward to the soundtrack release in the near future as part of the Batman 75 celebration at La-La Land Records.

The script for this film is top-notch, the characters are all pitch perfect to their appearances in the games and in turn to their comic originals. There’s quips, jokes and snappy one liners abound and throughout the film I held on to Joker and Harley’s every word. Again each character has their moments to shine with Batman almost acting as a catalyst to allow them each to come to the forefront of the story.

Corson previously worked on the screenplay for ‘Justice League: War‘ which although was not as well received by all fans still had a great script which really brought the focus of the piece on to the story and the characters personalities rather than just relying on the familiarity of viewers with the heroes.

The artwork, as it so often does in DCAU films, leans on the side of anime. I have no issue with this but it does mean that the films continue to languish in the here-and-now rather than pushing the boundaries of what modern animation can do. I’m not hoping for a CGI animated film any time soon but I think there’s more than can be done with the visuals to take the film from great to groundbreaking.

The colour palette is very similar to the games with much of the film taking place at night and also inside the asylum itself. Most of the locales in the film are direct from the games and they are well rendered to translate to the 2D world. The character designs also echo their game counterparts right down to Batman’s gadgets which separate this film from others in the continuity.

There’s room in the film for cameos from several of the other characters who have appeared in ‘Arkham‘ games, some feel more forced than others purely to give fans a chance to see the immersive world of games translated on to film but overall their appearances do add to the overall atmosphere of the film and help to make it feel like a well populated representation of the Batman world.

The film runs to approx 1hr 15mins but felt like it was over in seconds as it was just so enjoyable from start to finish which is great to see after the lacklustre receptions of ‘War’ and ‘Son of Batman‘ both of which I felt had pacing issues in comparison to this title. You have to watch out for visual nods to other incarnations of Batman that are littered around this film, I’ll give you one to watch out for: the mask of one of the Joker goons from ‘The Dark Knight‘.

For me this is the best DCAU film since ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘ so I highly recommend you get yourself a copy and check this out.

A GYCO 4 stars

4 stars

Checkout the trailer below:

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