DVD/Blu-Ray Combo Review: Batman: Assault On Arkham (2014, Dirs, Jay Oliver/Ethan Spaulding)

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 “I’m here, bitches! And I got favors for everybody” —-Joker

I understand why DC always does animated movies based only on Batman, Superman and the Justice League; plain and simple, they sell, and apparently they learned that when their solo Wonder Woman movie did not sell well, so their only recourse now, if they want to do standalone flicks based on characters outside of Bats, Supes and their iconic league, is to have them in the movie as supporting characters. Their first test of this was with last year’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, where Flash was the center, now they’ve done it again with Assault On Arkham, but this time the main characters are the members of the Suicide Squad, and the success rate is even higher, so high I’m going to make a bold statement here and say this is the best DC animated movie ever made and you can take that to bank!

We start off with a rousing opening where the Riddler is under siege by Amanda Waller, who’s sent in a SWAT team to take him down, and Batman (uber-popular Batman voice, Kevin Conroy, returning once again). Both Waller and Batman want him for different reasons, reasons we don’t know yet. Batman wins this round and takes Riddler into custody and into Arkham.

Waller retaliates by activating her Task Force X team (aka the Suicide Squad), which implies there’s something either Riddler has or knows that’s so important she’s going to risk a break in at Arkham to get it. You don’t put a Suicide Squad together when you’ve got a soft target in your crosshairs. Riddler’s a “hard target” and the stakes are high, and that means she needs expendables, super villain expendables, which is what by nature the team is made up of.

And where does one find her super villain expendables?

In prison, of course.

No one volunteers for a Suicide Squad. Waller picks them, drugs them and they wake up in a special holding cell. If any of them do survive they get leniency in their sentences. To ensure they stay on target and do what they’re told, Waller has explosive devices implanted in the base of their necks that can be triggered remotely to blow their heads clean off. The team this time out consists of returning vets, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot, and newbies, Black Spider, King Shark, Killer Frost and KGBeast.

The mission: To infiltrate Arkham and steal Riddler’s cane. He’s stolen a file from Waller that’s lists all Suicide Squad members past, present and future, and he’s put it on a thumb drive and hidden it in his cane.

Sounds relatively simple, doesn’t hit?

This movie wouldn’t be any fun if “complications” didn’t arise and after a certain point that’s all there is. That point starts the moment Quinn breaks into a toy store to retrieve a doll she wants (part of the plan; she wants to get caught and sent to Arkham), but it’s Batman that shows up and starts questioning her about something the Joker has. Neither she nor the rest of the Squad know what the hell he’s talking about until leader of the team, Deadshot, asks Waller, which brings me to complication #2—Joker’s hidden a dirty bomb in Gotham that’ll kill millions when it goes off.

And complication #3 arises when Deadshot, disguised as a cop, escorts Quinn into Arkham and she catches site of her old beau, Joker, and flips out. She grabs Deadshot’s sidearm and tries to shoot him dead in his cell.

I can’t go into much of the story, or the myriad level of other “complications”, beyond this point because there are a few twists in the tale. As there should be when dealing with a squad full of super criminals.

The only time I’ve seen the Suicide Squad animated is on that Justice League Unlimited episode, “Task Force X,” which is included as and extra on the blu-ray. That episode was excellent but this movie goes further showing you exactly why the team is called the Suicide Squad. That’s right, not every member makes it out alive. In fact one doesn’t even make it past the requisite Waller-telling-it-like-it-is scene in the beginning.

I was not prepared for the “sex scene” with Quinn and Deadshot where Quinn flashes some side-boob, or some of the deaths of the squad as the movie went along. The action is quite brutal in this one with the squad’s first encounter with Batman inside a warehouse within Arkham after he figures out something is wrong at the asulym.

As for the carnage you get a ripped off ear, fatal gunshots, 3 explosive decapitations, which, I believe, was a first for a DC animated movie, Joker even fools around with one of the victims’ heads, death by grappling hook cranial impalement, and some painful looking stabbings in a final encounter fight between Deadshot and Joker.

Fans of Harley Quinn should take note that she plays a big part in the movie and she’s hilarious. The animation (character & action) is executed in DC’s usual style of being smooth, detailed and dynamic. The story and plotting is the best I’ve seen in one of these animated movies and puts to shame a lot of the live action flicks DC and Marvel put out.

At the very end, when things have gone totally off the rail, you get cameos from some of Bat’s iconic villains, namely Scarecrow, Bane and Poison Ivy. Penguin makes a short cameo in the beginning, as he’s a crucial contact for the squad. I’ve never been a fan of Poison Ivy, mostly because I’ve never seen her as a truly menacing villain. That all changed with this movie. She has, like, three scenes spaced out near the finale and her animation and actions are genuinely creepy.

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I’m also going going on record and stating this has the best ending of any DC animated movie I’ve seen. Actually it’s got two endings, even the penultimate one is damn cool.

Swearing wise you get the middle finger, bitches, shit, asshole, douchebag, and finally an almost full motherfucker (the scene cuts at motherfu…); it’s always fun seeing animated super villains and heroes swear in these flicks.

On August 12th Warner Brothers released Batman: Assault On Arkham in separate DVD and DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy versions.

Video/Audio/Subtitle Specs: 1080p 1.78:1 high defintion widescreen—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Frech 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0, Portuguese 2.0, English 2.0 (Commentary)—English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese subtitles.

Here are the extras you get on the blu-ray:

  • Sneak Peek At Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (9:10): According to this featurette this was initially scheduled for a Fall ’14 release, which would explain why there’s so much finished footage included. This DC animated movie is a direct sequel to Justice League: War and here the leaguers finally meet Aquaman, for this is his origin tale!
  • The Joker’s Queen: Harley Quinn (13:50): Until now I always thought Quinn was a character from the comics. Nope, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created her for one of their Batman toons and her popularity has been on the rise ever since.
  • Arkham Analyzed: The Secrets Behind The Asylum (27:15): An in depth look at how Arkham began. I had no idea it was initially called, Arkham Hospital, before it became a haven for super powered psychos.
  • A commentary with Mike Carlin (Creative Director Of Animation), Heath Corson (Writer) and James Tucker (Exectuive Producer)
  • Four episodes from 4 different DC toons: Justice League Unlimited (Task Force X), Young Justice (Infiltrator), Batman: The Brave And The Bold (Emporer Joker) and The Batman (Two Of A Kind).

For those buying just the stand alone DVD, the only featurette you get is the Sneak Peek.

This is a keeper and and a high water mark for these series of movies. The next one I’m really looking forward to is Bruce Timm’s Justice League: Gods And Monsters next year, and generally every toon and animated movie he has his hand in is exceptional, well, since seeing this movie, he’s got a lot to live up to now, and I’m expecting greatness from his film.

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