Batman: Assault on Arkham Blu-ray Review: Better than Its Straight to Video Release Implies

A title that should have more appropriately been called Suicide Squad: Assault on Arkham is never-the-less an enjoyable entry into the DC animated universe.  Batman is nothing more than a secondary character here used mainly to move some plotting along.  No doubt the marketing people had a play in the title knowing that Batman is a much more marketable name than Suicide Squad.  I can’t say it doesn’t work as I never would have been interested in reviewing it as until now I’d never heard of the Suicide Squad.

To catch up those not in the know, the Suicide Squad is a government-employed group of supervillains tasked to perform extremely difficult missions that would almost certainly end in failure and death.  The villains would usually be given a lesser sentence if they successfully completed the mission.

This particular squad was put together by Amanda Waller to snuff out the Riddler who was rescued by Batman from a black-ops assassination attempt and put into Arkham Asylum.  The Squad consists of Black Spider, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, and KGBeast.  They are forced into the assignments by means of a bomb surgically implanted into their spines.

They hatch a plan to have Harley Quinn captured and admitted into Arkham where she can then cause a kerfuffle with her ex-lover Joker, which will distract the guards and allow the rest of the squad into the Asylum.  Why a government agency couldn’t just kill the Riddler in Arkham on their own I don’t know, nor barring that why they couldn’t just put Harley Quinn into the Asylum with a transfer or something I know not either, but who needs answers when the action is so much fun?

The plan works and the Squad are inside Arkham ready to kill Riddler when he informs them he knows how to disable their bombs.  The Squad decide to help Riddler escape in exchange for dismantling the bombs inside each of them.  Meanwhile, Batman has been searching frantically for a dirty bomb Joker planted somewhere in Gotham before his capture.  All of this eventually converges into a big battle and some pretty cool action ensues.

I was not at all familiar with the Suicide Squad before watching this movie, nor did I know any of the members except for Harley Quinn, but I was able to quickly get a handle on each of their characters and enjoy the show.  The animation is quite good, the direction aptly handled, and the voice actors are all quite enjoyable (well except for Harley Quinn who was rather obnoxious, but that’s the character’s fault more than the actor).

I’ve only seen a few of the DC animated films but all of them have been really well made.  I don’t imagine they are converting a lot of non-comic book fans into watchers but they are great editions to any DC fans’ collection.

A parental warning:  though animated and featuring a comic book superhero, this film is intended for mature audiences.  The violence gets quite graphic at times (includes an explosive decapitation), there is some near nudity, frequent mild cussing, and a sex scene.  It’s nothing to heavy, but probably not appropriate for especially young kids.

The 1080p/AVC encoded video looks mostly very good.  Colors are sharp and bold, details is excellent, and the contrasts are good.  There’s quite a bit of banding present throughout that will likely annoy many, but I didn’t find it too distracting.  Audio is likewise quite good.  This isn’t a $100 million Hollywood blockbuster so my expectations are lower, but it still puts out plenty for a straight-to-video film.

Extras include commentary from some of the filmmakers, a short feature on Harley Quinn, a slightly longer one on Arkham Asylum, a sneak peak at the upcoming Justice League animated film, and several episodes from other DC comics shows.

Batman: Assault on Arkham isn’t a revolutionary film, nor will it likely be seen outside of its DC fandom base, but it is a lot of fun and should make those (millions) of fans quite happy. 

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Mat Brewster

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