Friday, August 12, 2016

Batman: Assault on Arkham

   Despite the fact this is just an elaborate tie-in to the Arkham games, dropping right after Arkham Origins more or less,  it's honestly not even a Batman movie. Sure, he's in it, but this is a Suicide Squad flick. Obviously they couldn't just call it that though. Where's the brand recognition in that? And, without stars like Will Smith and Margot Robbie in it, people would've been like Suicide What? Squad. Suicide Squad. By now most people have already seen the new movie, and despite the amazingly negative critical reception... the secret is out! People actually really like the movie. A lot. So if you're one of them (I definitely am) then you could do worse than this little animated feature to tide you over until we get more on the big screen. 

   I liked the Arkham games, but I always felt they leaned a bit too far into excessive territory when it came to character designs. Batman looks like a WWE pro-wrestler in his outfit, and as the series goes on, he looks more and more like a Transformer or something. He's just one bad day away from getting the full Michael Bay treatment, and getting an anatomically correct bat suit to wear. And you thought bat-nipples were bad? Ho-boy. So, if anything, that's my chief complaint about this little flick. It's restricted to fit inside the established 'look' of the Arkham games. Not a fan of that look. King Shark here looks nothing like a shark, and instead looks like Jaws (the James Bond villain) juiced on Bane's venom serum. 

   Worse yet, Amanda Waller looks like Shrek. There's no two ways about that. I get that she's frequently portrayed as an overweight woman, and that's fine. But THIS?
She calls Bell Reve her 'swamp'.
I almost burst out laughing. That's absurd. Otherwise, most of the other characters fare alright. Batman looks better here than he does in the games, and they got Captain Boomerang perfect- as well as Deadshot, Black Spider, and Harley Quinn. The Joker is also here, because... what's anything called 'Batman' without the Joker in it. Ugh. Fortunately, he's actually a highlight of the movie, spouting off lines like "I'm here, bitches!". Or when he has a standoff with Deadshot, which ended with Captain Boomerang saying "Woah... Mate, you just out-crazied the Joker!" Great stuff.

   Unfortunately the last act devolves into a big mess when all the inmates at Arkham are released. You'd think they'd take this opportunity to show us more characters that don't often see the light of day, but nope. It's like a highlight reel of the fights in the game. Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Bane, boring. We've seen all these characters in the movies before, both animated and live action and frankly- this isn't anything new. They're not around long enough to contribute anything much to the plot or the action, and at best are a detour in the story. It's obnoxious enough that a Suicide Squad animated movie couldn't be made without being a tie-in to a video game franchise, but then they don't even fully commit to the concept.

   Casual fans looking for a legitimate Batman flick are going to be confused and upset. He's barely in the movie because it's genuinely not about him. Making this a tie-in to the games was a bad idea, and then calling it "Batman: Assault on Arkham" is even worse. It's not a Batman flick. He's a supporting character at best. It just feels like he has a series of consecutive cameos. Even more deceptive, there isn't really an 'assault on arkham' in the movie. The squad breaks in to retrieve something for Amanda Waller, which of course is just part of a larger scheme she's orchestrated. I mean, there's a big fight at the end when all the inmates are released, but even then. Wouldn't "Arkham Breakout" be a better sub-title? Or how about going the super smart route and titling the movie "Suicide Squad: Arkham Asylum". It's the best of both worlds without being deceptive in the slightest.

   Batman does hijack the movie towards the end though, doing stuff we've seen him do a million times- but Deadshot fighting the Joker was pretty golden. Whenever the movie sees fit to focus on the actual Suicide Squad, it does alright. And, while the main story is pretty weak, it's climax is pretty solid. As much as I get tired of seeing the Joker in just about everything, he really worked as the main antagonist for the movie and it just goes to further illustrate the point that he should've been the main antagonist in the new Suicide Squad movie as well. When all is said and done, the action is breezy, the story is uncomplicated, and the animation is actually pretty good. It's a decent companion piece to the comics, and (unfortunately) the games too. I enjoyed it, for better or worse.

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