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Batman: Assault On Arkham Review

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The Suicide Squad has their latest task: break into Arkham Asylum. When Batman and Joker are brought into the mix, you can bet their mission won't be easy.

Right when Batman: Assault on Arkham hits you with its character introductions, you can tell this is a totally different kind of DC animated movie and it's one that the team likely had a total blast creating. When dealing with the Suicide Squad, one might expect a movie that has an overwhelming dark and gritty atmosphere. And while there is plenty of violence and twisted material to go around, writer Heath Corson and directors Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding focused on making this an entertaining adventure that is heavily influenced by the comedic heist genre.

Because of the amusing tone (which of course has an appropriately funky or energetic and upbeat score at times), Batman: Assault on Arkham is able to feel like a mostly unique experience while also including everything we've come to expect from a DC animated film. There's great action, Batman definitely has his moments, and there's a ton of fan service. Fans of the video game franchise will absolutely recognize several locations and, well, let's just say they bring a lot of fan service with the final scene at the Asylum. For the most part, the celebration of the comedic heist genre works very well, but I will admit the occasional tonal shift was a little jarring (if we jumped from from intense electronic music to a score that matches the Arkham franchise's environment). Still, the focus on making this group's suicidal mission enjoyable instead of bleak really allows it to stand apart from other DC animated movies.

Sure, the recent project Justice League: War was also about big fun, but that was done through spectacle and popcorn entertainment. This one is embracing that same level of fun and excitement but in a totally different way. There's plenty of heist tropes to go around (the team walking together at a way slower pace just looked a little odd instead of cool), but it's still a good ride and you can really tell they had a great time directing this one and really tried to spice things up with different kinds of shots.

I won't spoil anything, but let's just say this Deadshot fan is very pleased. Batman gets his due and has quite a few cool bits (especially when he fights the team), but Floyd Lawton (voiced by Neal McDonough) leads the way and they gave this guy a bunch of jaw-dropping moments. From his increasingly violent rivalry with Captain Boomerang to his conflict with Batman's most famous fiend, the team behind this one did a stellar job putting this assassin front and center. Truthfully, some of his dialogue felt a little cliche, but overall, they more than succeeded in making him this movie's true badass and memorable lead. In the end, this really feels like a love letter to Deadshot. As for the rest of the cast, the movie basically celebrates the primary characteristics you'd expect from them. Harley's always enjoying the madness and this produces more than a few amusing gags; King Shark's blunt and John DiMaggio makes sure some of his line are hysterical (I loved his chanting as two teammates were fighting); Black Spider there's for thrilling melees; Captain Boomerang's arrogant and sarcastic; and Killer Frost's there for her powers and to give King Shark a little more depth. Truthfully, it feels like Frost received the least focus out of the main group, but she still has a moment or two to shine. There's a number of other characters, but don't worry, I won't spoil the cameos!

As expected, Kevin Conroy is awesome as Batman and Troy Baker continues to prove he's a terrific Joker. Don't worry, Batman is a secondary character but they're still able to give him a proper amount of time and Conroy's stern and formidable performance lives up to expectations. His action scenes are ridiculously enjoyable, too. Watching him systemically take down armed forces was beyond exciting and there's some very well executed hand-to-hand fights. It's a little odd to see Batman somewhat struggle with a nameless soldier, but honestly, the scene is presented so well and it's delightfully frenetic. Baker's so charismatic as the Clown Prince of Crime and does a stellar job finding the right balance between levity and horrific darkness. There's a few lines from him that had the audience erupt in laughter and applause. This movie's all about the Suicide Squad, but the minds behind this movie truly did a praiseworthy job implementing these two iconic characters and making sure their inclusions are a ton of fun.

There were a few noticeable inconsistencies in action scenes and they were a bit distracting. They aren't a big deal -- not by any means -- but they're worth at least noting. For example, King Shark's durability is all over the place (he goes from being harmed by melee attacks to being bulletproof to having bullets penetrate him). There's another brute force character that goes from needing to block bullets with gauntlets to charging through a sea of assault rifle attacks like its apparently nothing. It's also a little odd to establish Deadshot as this supremely gifted marksman but then have him essentially spray and pray at times or miss with some shots that would seem easy for him. Minor gripe: they made a point of telling audiences Black Spider thinks he's a vigilante, but then he apparently snaps an Arkham employee's neck and is cool with killing others in an explosion? You'd think he'd be against that and try to find another way to accomplish his part of the plan?

Honestly, the narrative here isn't ever that compelling and the twists definitely won't surprise you. There's on moment where Riddler's talking about how he's surprised the team hasn't solved something yet, but the twist was made pretty obvious several scenes back. Now, it's obvious this movie's all about giving us a good time, but it's worth noting that it often feels like the plot exists solely to move us from one action scene to the next.

Parents, this one certainly earns its PG-13 rating. If you're not cool with your kid witnessing some graphic violence, cursing and sexual situations, I'd strongly recommend watching this one without them.

Batman: Assault on Arkham is absolutely worthy of your time and attention. It embraces the popular video game franchise with open arms and has a ridiculous amount of fun playing with the world's various characters. The story may not blow you away and there's a few static moments, but it's a thrilling ride that's packed with exciting action and massively amusing relationships between characters. They took a risk making this latest effort so heavily influenced by movies like Ocean's Eleven and Snatch, but it paid off and the end result is an exhilarating and memorable adventure. This is a movie that I'm absolutely going to rewatch once it comes out on Blu-ray.

Batman: Assault on Arkham becomes available digitally next Tuesday (July 29) and its Blu-ray/DVD goes on sale August 12.

100 Comments
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Edited by PunyParker

Cool!

Posted by NukeA6

Can't wait

Posted by longbowhunter

I'm a pretty big Suicide Squad fan and an even bigger Deadshot fan. I have high expectations for this movie. Glad to hear Gregg enjoyed it.

Posted by Saren

But does Croc show up?

Moderator
Posted by NinjaWarrior268

I saw this at Comic Con last night. Deadshot and Batman were awesome in it. Batman fought the entire suicide squad single handedly. Deadshot was great as a leader

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@saren said:

But does Croc show up?

Croc is always there lurking in the darkness where no one can see him Job

Posted by NightFang

I might pick this one up.

Posted by GraniteSoldier

Sounds good to me.

Posted by ULTRAstarkiller

I'm glad people like it! I can't wait to see it.

Posted by SilverPool

Hope I enjoy it. DC's last two animated films were a steep drop in quality, I hope this one picks it up.

Posted by Justthatkid

It came out?

Posted by micah

Sweet, can't wait to watch it.

Posted by TommytheHitman

Nice! I'm looking forward to watching it.

Posted by entropy_aegis

Glad to see Floyd get his due.

Posted by AllStarSuperman

Can't wait

Posted by Jayc1324

@justthatkid: Read the bolded part at the end of the review

Can't wait for this. Love batman animated movies and it being based off of Arkham is awesome. Happy to see good reviews

Posted by SupBatz

Oh boy. Another overly-violent, completely action driven movie. I had pretty high hopes for this one.

But it sounds like it'll just fall into the same category as Justice League: War, Flashpoint, and Son of Batman.

Posted by Maddpanda531

This looks pretty sweet. Might just order it once it's out.

Posted by micah

@supbatz said:

Oh boy. Another overly-violent, completely action driven movie. I had pretty high hopes for this one.

But it sounds like it'll just fall into the same category as Justice League: War, Flashpoint, and Son of Batman.

Never know until you watch it.

Posted by Justthatkid

@jayc1324: I should really quit skimming stuff :/

2 days can't wait!

@micah: Trailer looked better then War and the voice actors sounded better I'm sure this will be great.

Posted by patrat18

Woot Woot.

Posted by TheAcidSkull

@saren said:

But does Croc show up?

Croc is always there lurking in the darkness where no one can see him Job

Posted by SupBatz

@micah: I'll give it it's fair chance. But I'm skeptical going in, given the little information we have so far and the quality of the previous three movies.

I do hope I'm wrong though. I really want another great DC animated movie.

Posted by micah

@supbatz said:

@micah: I'll give it it's fair chance. But I'm skeptical going in, given the little information we have so far and the quality of the previous three movies.

I do hope I'm wrong though. I really want another great DC animated movie.

The last two movies were okay. But I thought Flashpoint was incredible, it almost shocked me they went from that to War.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@thecheesestabber said:

@saren said:

But does Croc show up?

Croc is always there lurking in the darkness where no one can see him Job

You talked to me :OOO

You know I'm leaving soon right?

Posted by StMichalofWilson

Can't wait to watch it!

Posted by Jake Fury

Sounds good.

Posted by johnny_blaze

Not a fan of Batman. Pass!

Online
Posted by Wolverine08

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttttttttttttt!

Online
Posted by TheAcidSkull
Posted by TheCheeseStabber
Posted by TheAcidSkull
Posted by TheCheeseStabber
Posted by TheAcidSkull

@thecheesestabber: I'm flattered but you're not dying yet :P

you're getting a new start.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

@thecheesestabber: I'm flattered but you're not dying yet :P

you're getting a new start.

Fine I'll leave The Ban Hammer to someone who wants it :P

Posted by TheAcidSkull
Posted by TheCheeseStabber
Edited by TheAcidSkull
Posted by SuperiorBeast

@supbatz: flashpoint!? Are you kidding me? That movie is incredible for far more then just the action!

Posted by mak13131313

So excited for this!

Posted by TheCheeseStabber
Posted by SupBatz

@micah said:

@supbatz said:

@micah: I'll give it it's fair chance. But I'm skeptical going in, given the little information we have so far and the quality of the previous three movies.

I do hope I'm wrong though. I really want another great DC animated movie.

The last two movies were okay. But I thought Flashpoint was incredible, it almost shocked me they went from that to War.

Flashpoint was better than War and Son of Batman, but I still thought it lacking in several departments (admittedly, part of that is because I had just finished playing Injustice and Flashpoint felt like a weaker version of that story). War was really nothing more than a big action scene, for me. Okay for what it was, but definitely disappointing if you were expecting more. And Son of Batman, while okay, was so lacking in meaningful development of a father-son relationship that I walked away from watching VERY disappointed (especially given how big a fan I am of Damian and his dynamic with Bruce and Dick).

Hopefully, Throne of Atlantis and Assault on Arkham will be a step in the right direction. I really miss those days of eagerly anticipated the next DC film, and the last year has made me a skeptic in that regard.

Posted by SupBatz

@supbatz: flashpoint!? Are you kidding me? That movie is incredible for far more then just the action!

Admittedly, my opinion of the movie was impacted by the fact that I'd just played through Injustice before watching. And Flashpoint just felt like a poor rehash of that cliched alternate universe story.

The action was fine, if not a bit overly grotesque (a category a lot of the previous movies have fallen into). And there were some interesting ideas (Thomas Wayne as Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman at war), but I just didn't feel like any of those interesting ideas lived up to their potential. All it felt like to me was "Look how different the world is! References galore!" Thomas Wayne was really the only one who got any meaningful development, in my opinion. And the animation for Flashpoint was just cringeworthy...whoever designed those character models should never work for DC again...

Flashpoint was better than War and Son of Batman, but still paled in comparison to its predecessors, in my opinion. We need more story/character-driven stories and less action-packed movies.

Edited by BlackLight135652

@supbatz: I respectfully disagree. It never felt like it was just showing how different characters are for the sake of it, nor did they put too much focus on that. It felt very organic. They didn't do Scythian as simplistic "Look how different the world is!" is just was what it was. The references it did had have were fun, or never intruded on the plot in anyway. The animation was the best at that time, the characters design was the issue. characters other than batman felt like they were true characters and not just a different version of the mainstream counterpart. Batman had the benefit of being with Barry the most, the others didn't, but i believed they held their own. The overly grotesque nature left a sense of desperation and danger that other films could not manage to create. For me, it then fully lived up to it's potential by making you feel like everything was on the line and these characters all had the capability of being destroyed.

It was better than it's predecessors to me, because it was afraid to head into a very dark place. Even more so than the dark knight returns. At least, that's how I saw it

Posted by SupBatz

@blacklight135652: To each their own. I know Flashpoint was a pretty divisive movie, and that there is generally more love for it than there is hate. I, personally, didn't think it to be an organic flow of events - I also had the same problem with the original Flashpoint comic story, but to an even greater extent. And to me, I didn't feel like there was much substance aside for all of the cameos and references (which were fun, but not enough to save the movie for me).

You're probably right with regard to the animation, but I just wasn't able to look past the character designs (Aquaman practically gave my nightmares).

Again, I suppose it's just a difference of interpretation. There's really no denying that we got some great Batman moments in the movie. But I didn't really think the other characters got their due respects. Take Aquaman and Wonder Woman, who were given their most development during the brief flashback. I realize that it was a stylistic choice to make it that short a flashback, but I honestly didn't feel like we got any real motivation or substance behind that. We just got an instant attraction between the two characters, an immediate affair, and then the death of Mera. None of that really felt like the Aquaman and Wonder Woman of an alternate universe.

As for the gore, I might be inclined to agree with you (regarding the over-use of gore to reinforce how desperate and hopeless this reality is) were it not for the preceding and following movies. DC animated movies have always been guilty of over-doing the gore at least a little bit. Even my favorite movies, Under the Red Hood and Wonder Woman, had those ridiculous moments of majorly over-doing it. But at that level, I can look past it. More adult, darker movies, etc. But Flashpoint was the first movie that I walked away from thinking, "Wow, that was REALLY too much gore." And then the following two movies, Justice League: War and Son of Batman, continued this trend. More action scenes, and less character moments. Ridiculously exaggerated use of blood (especially Son of Batman). Violence to the extreme to the point where it actually takes away from the movie, in my opinion.

I felt that all of the DC movies were dark in their own ways, but that how dark a movie is does not determine its merit. Flashpoint was certainly darker than its predecessors, but that doesn't mean that all that came before it was campy. I can accept darker if the story is benefited from it, but I don't think Flashpoint offered enough additional material to hook me in. All in my opinion, of course.

Posted by Teerack

This in the video game universe?

Posted by Dedpool

Sounds great! Does it connect well with the game universe?

@teerack Yes. It's 2 years before Arkham Asylum, and about 3 or so years after Origins.

Edited by BlackLight135652

@supbatz: I Gotcha. Imo when those previous movies used gore, it was at a smaller fewer in between level. Same with that of war, and that of son of batman. And i don't think the later too were nearly as well used. The move they made with Diana and Arthur was the smart one for the sake of time. Then later on during the final battle, they expanded on it as more than just a simple a fair. I think it offered enough to read between the lines. It wasn't an instant thing, they knew of each other before that event. I think Diana and Arthur were always the more battle ready members of the group. With the way they explained who a simple distortion and time can change everything, they still felt like those characters. Admit tingly, it was expanded upon more in the comic. Sometimes it not about development for these characters who aren't the true focus, it simply about the, feeling live. Which is something I think is different.

In war and son of batman, definitely, but for Flashpoint, Imo every conflict felt like it had it's place and it had it's purpose. Same for it's cameo's and refernces which didnt subtract, but add to the whole. I definitely dont believe they waved it in our faces. As opposed to superman and green lantern (and defiantly shazam) being complete dickheads. I wont even get started on impostor deathstroke.

Combining that with the darker colors of the art, I felt that darkness did determine it's merit. In my opinion, it had the right amount of material to keep me hooked and invested in it's story, it's characters, and it's actions. As you said though, that's just my perspective. It's the movie that got me invested in dc, when i was more casual about it before.

Posted by patrat18

9/10 very good.

Posted by SupBatz

@blacklight135652: I always felt that each movie had a few particularly over-gored scenes (ex. Ares' head being cut off in Wonder Woman), but that it didn't start getting crazy until Flashpoint. After that, I just couldn't help noticing the over-use of blood to the point where it took away from the movie for me. The biggest example is Son of Batman with those random splats of blood that would appear in the air every time a character was stabbed/punched/kicked/shot and would just fly all over the place for a second before miraculously evaporating into the air. That really took me out of the viewing experience.

Fair enough point. I think I need to give the movie another watch sometime. I know it'll never be my favorite movie, but perhaps a second viewing will give it a better rating in my mind - especially now that I have the epitome of mediocrity that is Justice League: War / Son of Batman to compare it to. Perhaps I will find certain things (such as Arthur and Diana's conflict) more appealing the second time around.

Nice to know that Flashpoint was what invested you into DC. Under the Red Hood was my "investment" movie, so that always holds a special place for me.

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