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A mysterious villain puppeteering Gotham’s most dangerous forces leads the Dark Knight into uncharted waters in Batman: Hush, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies. An adaptation of the seminal DC classic tale, Batman: Hush centres on a shadowy new villain known only as Hush, who uses Gotham’s Rogues Gallery to destroy Batman’s crime-fighting career, as well as Bruce Wayne’s personal life—which has already been complicated by a relationship with Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman.
Following the huge success of The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, just where did DC Comics and Warner Bros. want to go for their next animated feature? Why directly to one of the most revered Batman stories of all time of course…
Batman: Hush is based on the comic book of the same name, written by Jeph Loeb with artwork but the absolute legend that is Jim Lee. The story arc kicked off in December 2002 and ran for twelve issues of the Batman series, ending with issue #619.
Adapting the story for animation are director Justin Copeland (Batman: The Killing Joke) and writer Ernie Altbacker (Justice League Dark).
From the outset Batman: Hush challenges fans of the source material with a number of potentially divisive changes. On first watch I found some of these a little perplexing but that is entirely the reason why I waited until I had seen this movie twice before reviewing it.
Plenty of the changes are in order to contextualise the movie in the shared universe of DC’s animated movies. This isn’t a standalone piece like The Killing Joke or Gotham By Gaslight, this movie is entirely set in the same continuity as The Death and Return of Superman. In fact one of the changes enables this movie to follow on from that film in the timeline.
Switching out Huntress for Batgirl (Peyton List – there’s two of them in this movie!) felt entirely logical given that Batgirl has been setup as part of this universe in previous movies, albeit only in a cameo, whereas there is currently no trace of Huntress. Faced with the choice between a lesser known, previously un-introduced character and someone already established I know which one I would choose.
There’s a reverence to books like Hush and Killing Joke going as far back as to when DC /Warner first adapted Darwyn Cooke’s seminal piece Justice League: New Frontier. These properties are held in such high regard that producers must feel immense pressure to get things right and, on the whole, I feel like they have been able to achieve that here.
At first it felt disingenuous to the source material to update the artwork to match the rest of the DCAU series. But putting the fan in me aside the rational side understands this movie needed to fit with continuity and that means following the same style. That being said I was very happy to see the writers worked in a way to put Batman (Jason O’Mara) in his blue, Hush-era style cowl. Small touches like this are littered throughout the film and go a long way to showing the writers have that same aforementioned reverence as us fans.
Overall the character design work in Hush is excellent. Nightwing (Sean Maher) has a beefed-up role and an excellent take on the classic black-and-blue costume to go alongside it. If you look back over the DCAU you can also see how his character has aged and matured over the course of this series, not quite on the same level as Young Justice but still an encouraging level of dedication to the characters.
I really enjoy Maher’s take on the character as well. The writers have given him a great sense of humour which plays well with O’Mara’s Bruce Wayne. But here he’s also given the chance to verbally spar with Jennifer Morrison’s Catwoman.
Geoffrey Arend has the unenviable task of trying to play two roles in the movie, appearing as both Edward Nygma/The Riddler and also as Hush. In a moment of truly excellent subterfuge, Thomas Elliot is voiced by Maury Sterling. You’ll be thrown so far off the scent you won’t see what is coming.
Fans of the comic will remember that in a big reveal Riddler has been pulling the string, manipulating Elliot’s Hush around the chessboard against the rogues gallery and Batman.
His Riddler is calculating and maniacal, just as you would expect him to be. Whilst Hush is much more muted and menacing. Watching the movie you wouldn’t expect these two to be the same voice actor and that’s a sound endorsement to Arend’s voice acting abilities.
A special shoutout has to go to Jason Spisak for playing The Joker for the first time. Fans will know him as a voice actor on Young Justice but here he’s getting to flex his muscles in one of the toughest roles in comics.
Joker’s appearance is little more than a cameo, as it is in the comic, but we still get the recreation of an iconic Hush cover and the trademark laugh. It was a great first appearance for Spisak in the role and I hope we get to explore his take more in the future.
But the true MVP of Batman: Hush is Jennifer Morrison, her Catwoman is electric. The character design is excellent, bringing her 00’s era costume to life in animation with an accompanying voice which makes her every scene electric.
Morrison plays her version of Selina Kyle with a great strength to her voice. Fans of Once Upon A Time will know just how much warmth she has as an actress and though that is still clear, she evokes Selina’s colder side brilliantly. Whilst in her Catwoman persona she brings out a more sexual and playful side to her voice which, at times, make her unrecognisable.
Her scenes with Jason O’Mara also exude chemistry. When they first run in to each other as Bruce and Selina it’s very innocently playful. It capitalises on Bruce’s knowledge of who she really is whilst she is utterly in the dark as to his alter-ego. It culminates in a rare moment of humour for Bruce which was a nice touch to his character.
When the two are together on screen as their costumed counterparts then things take a darker turn. The playfulness twists to become something more sinister and once again more sexual. I was very happy to see the famous kiss scene recreated as it is one of the most iconic Bat/Cat moments and one of Jim Lee’s most notorious pieces.
It loses some impact with the less stylised animated but the emotion of the scene is still there and that’s what matters when looking at this film as its own entity.
Before we move on I’d like to warn you now this next section contains spoilers for the film’s story.
This adaption seeks to explore the source material for a much more romantic angle. The movie, rightly, belongs to Batman and Catwoman rather than to Hush himself. Given the runtime (81mins) much time is dedicated to building up these two characters and their relationship.
But there’s still plenty of other things going on. Hush plays a similar role to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight in the he weaves in-and-out of the story to cause chaos. But whilst his role is reduced it is still vital to the story and he remains a formidable villain.
Several of the most brutal scenes in the film involved his character and that is what matters here. He is still portrayed as a different kind of villain for Batman and it still impacts his character in ways which feel original and organic to the story.
The biggest twist is a major change to the ending. A change which, on first view left me scratching my head and on second viewing I applauded. Hush is not who we think he is, he’s not who comic fans know him as and it will come as a complete surprise. But that is the whole point.
Knowing that much of the audience for the film will have read the comic at least a handful of times DC/Warner has gotten creative and switched up the ending and left all of us in an uncertain position. As a fan it was great to suddenly understand the position this put me in, I no longer knew the ending and a comfortable watch rapidly became something much more interesting.
I won’t spoil the surprise as to who Hush is this time around, but I will say that it makes sense in the world of the story and works well for the film overall.
Finally, I don’t often comment on the score to these animated releases but Frederik Wiedmann has done an excellent job here. His score is epically sweeping and at times very gothic, it creates a very strong audio landscape which is not what I had expected for Hush at all. I was equally surprised and impressed and cannot wait to listen to the soundtrack album.
Despite some potentially divisive deviations from the source material, Batman: Hush is one of the most solid entries in to the DC Animated Universe. Jennifer Morrison steals the show as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and her chemistry with Jason O’Mara as Batman is explosive.
Whilst it will be a difficult watch for some, if you can park your preconceived ideas it’s an incredibly enjoyable Batman experience.
Batman: Hush stars Jason O’Mara, Jennifer Morrison, Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Sean Maher, Bruce Thomas, Stuart Allen, James Garrett, Maury Sterling, Geoffrey Arend, Vanessa Williams, Jason Spisak, Adam Gifford, Dachie Alessio, Peyton List and Tara Strong. The film arrives on DVD, Blu-ray and digital later in 2019.