Batman is such a bankable name that Warner Bros cannot resist putting his moniker on a movie title, even when he isn’t the film’s protagonist. Sure the Caped Crusader has a decent amount of screen time in Assault on Arkham, but the flick’s limelight is squarely pointed at the Suicide Squad – a team of lesser-known villains who have been coerced to do the government’s dirty work. On this occasion a band of seven hoodlums have been ordered to infiltrate the titular high security asylum and locate some incriminating evidence that is being housed there. You’d think Amanda Waller could use her political connections to peacefully search through Arkham’s stores for the item in question, but if common sense prevailed we’d miss out on some top-notch action.
Assault on Arkham’s colourful cast of whackos includes the likes of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, Killer Frost, Black Spider and KGBeast. Waller has recruited the superhuman criminals under the promise that their cooperation will be rewarded with reduced jail time. If that isn’t motivation enough she also implants explosives inside their craniums. The core line up is similar to the recently released David Ayer live action film, although there are a few changes. King Shark for example replaces Killer Croc as the team’s muscle whilst El Diablo’s pyro-kinetic talents are substituted by Killer Frost’s freezing powers. If you loathe bad gags worry not because on the one occasion that Frost tries to deliver an Arnie like Mr Freeze pun she is promptly silenced by her companions.
Even if Batman plays second fiddle to the Suicide Squad he still has a prominent role in this seventy-five -minute feature. Bruce Wayne’s alter ego is patrolling the penitentiary in search of a dirty bomb that the Joker has planted. Despite possessing a numerical advantage, the Suicide Squad would be wise to avoid the master detective because a bunch of b-list crooks are no match for a guy who can go toe to toe with Superman. Rooting for the bad guys may sound weird, but somehow it works. It’s hard to dislike the hilariously twisted Harley Quinn and Deadshot is surprisingly honourable for someone who makes a living assassinating others. I dug his professionalism and hoped he would escape the mission unscathed, as early on it’s revealed that he is a single parent.
My rating for Batman: Assault on Arkham is a four out of five. It’s a fun heist caper featuring a plethora of stars from DC’s rogue’s gallery. If the mixed reviews I have read are to be believed you might be better off spending your cash on this DVD rather than paying for a Suicide Squad cinema ticket. The artwork is stellar (even if Batman looks weird with pupils) and the voice acting is also excellent. Kevin Conroy continues to prove that he is the definitive Batman whilst Troy Baker demonstrates that he is a capable Joker stand in whenever Luke Skywalker isn’t available. Hynden Walch also impressed me in the role of Harley Quinn. Aside from delivering comical lines with aplomb she also expertly handled the scenes dealing with the character’s complicated love life.
Like most direct to DVD cartoons based on DC properties I wish that the film was a little longer. An extra fifteen minutes could have gone a long way in giving underutilized characters like Black Spider something to do. For the most part the onus is on Harley’s zany antics, Deadshot feuding with Boomerang and the relationship that forms between Frost and Shark. Those character interactions and the visceral action are what drive the story forward. Be forewarned that Assault on Arkham features gruesome deaths and even an off camera moment of sex. Nothing graphic is shown, but it should go without saying that the movie is not suitable for younger audiences. Unlike Marvel, the folks at DC like to be dark and edgy. That strategy has worked for animated releases like Assault on Arkham… shame that the same cannot be said for their live action output.