DC’s animated films tend to be adaptations of their classic comic-book works, with this story in particular being one of their remaining crown jewels. As originally written by current Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb and drawn by DC co-publisher Jim Lee, the Hush storyline first appeared across 12 issues of the Batman comic book in 2002-03. That’s a lot of story to compress into one 82-minute film, so it’s understandable that some changes have been made in this adaptation, although most of the principal beats are still intact.
Batman is faced with a new challenge in the form of unknown villain Hush, a mastermind who finds ways to manipulate Batman’s greatest enemies and even an ally into aiding him in his diabolical plans. With most of his rogues gallery attacking him, including Joker, Poison Ivy, Bane, Harley Quinn, Clayface, and Scarecrow, Batman is fortunate to have Nightwing and Catwoman on his side as he explores the mystery of Hush’s identity before Gotham falls. Unfortunately, even Superman temporarily falls under evil control, making for added excitement as Batman is forced to battle his friend.
The biggest change in the film is a much larger focus on a budding relationship between Batman and longtime foil Catwoman, to such an extent that the movie sometimes feels more like a romance than an action adventure. That new focus may have been influenced by recent events in Batman comic-book issues that found the unlikely couple on the verge of a successful trip to the altar, but whatever the motivation, the new emphasis robs the villain Hush of his impact on the plot, ultimately making him feel like an afterthought. A meaty subplot from the comics involving Jason Todd has also been excised from the film, although it does include a throwaway scene with current Robin and son of Batman, Damian Wayne. In spite of the changes, the film moves well and is unmistakably the basic Hush story, leading to satisfying plot development and conclusion.
The 4K HDR picture quality is superb, although the best aspect is the increased HDR color fidelity rather than the bump in resolution, since the animated images are so basic that there’s little to gain from fine detail enhancement. On the sound front, the 4K disc carries the same primary DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as the Blu-ray, and while it’s suitably enveloping during the frenetic action sequences, it won’t maximize any top-end home systems with 7.2 and Atmos capabilities.
Bonus features are extensive, a continuing strong point of the DCU animated films. The lead feature is a 17-minute look at the romantic history of Batman and Catwoman, further enforcing this aspect as a large plot motivation for the filmmakers. The next best feature is a wholly unexpected and totally unrelated 15-minute animated short starring DC combat hero Sgt. Rock, seemingly only included here as a passion project for its director and veteran DC animation executive producer Bruce Timm. As written by comic-book industry legends Louise and Walter Simonson, along with frequent DC animation contributor Tim Sheridan, the grisly tale finds the good Sgt. battling a reanimated crew of his previous squad mates, along with the Nazis that created them. Viewers eager for another dose of Timm animation also get an episode of the original Batman: The Animated Series included from the vault.
The rest of the bonus features are ads for other projects, with the best being a 10-minute behind-the-scenes look at the next DCU animated film entitled Wonder Woman: Bloodlines. Oddly, the other film to get an extended “preview” on the disc is Batman: Assault on Arkham, which was released way back in 2014. Bonus features are rounded out with standard trailers for the already-released Justice League vs The Fatal Five, Shazam!, and the upcoming live-action Joker movie.