Gotham is in great danger when the government assembles a group of villains — code named the Suicide Squad — and forces them to break into Arkham Asylum to retrieve top secret information stolen by the Riddler. Things take a turn for the worse when one of the Squad members (Harley Quinn) frees the Joker, who is intent on blowing up Arkham Asylum and Gotham City. Batman must use his super hero wits and strength to thwart the wicked plans of the Joker and the Suicide Squad. Set in the world of the best-selling Batman: Arkham video game series, this action-packed film takes place between the Batman: Arkham Origins and Batman: Arkham Asylum video games.
After releasing high quality animated features for a few years, DC has seen a particularly eventful 2014. The company began a new shared universe for some of these titles with the release of Justice League: War, which was shortly followed by Son of Batman. Sequels to both films are set to release next year and will expand this world. In the meantime, DC has released its third movie for the year, and it has nothing to do with the other two installments. Batman: Assault on Arkham is DC’s first animated film influenced by a video game, taking place in the world of the acclaimed Arkham series. How does DC’s latest venture fare in comparison to its predecessors?
Mostly due to its strong writing, I found Assault on Arkham to be perhaps my favorite animated DC feature of 2014. While Justice League: War and Son of Batman were both well written, this one boasts a more complex script featuring a number of exciting twists. The character development is also stronger here, and the storyline is overall more unique. As expected, the animation is top notched, and the movie does a solid job adapting the designs of past video game characters into a hand drawn format.
Despite the movie’s title, Batman: Assault on Arkham is very much a Suicide Squad film. It focuses primarily on the members’ recruitments and their interactions with one another as Amanda Waller deploys them into Arkham Asylum. However, Batman is still a key supporting player in this storyline, as he seeks to foil the Joker’s plot to detonate a bomb in Gotham. Of course, he runs into the Suicide Squad in the process, and that’s where the fun begins.
Assault on Arkham‘s voice cast is very solid. The legendary Kevin Conroy returns to voice Batman, and as expected, he is no less than perfect in the role. Simply put, he IS Batman. CCH Pounder is also once again flawless as Amanda Waller, while Squad leader Deadshot is voiced excellently by Neal McDonough. Hynden Walch is spot on as the entertaining Harley Quinn, while Greg Ellis and Giancarlo Esposito are great as Captain Boomerang and Black Spider, respectively. And once again, Troy Baker proves that he is the best replacement for Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker. He kills it in this movie…literally.
Assault on Arkham does a pretty decent job connecting to its video game predecessors. At least one reference to Arkham Origins can be noticed, while villains such as Bane and the Penguin are featured in small appearances. It also offers hints for events that transpired between Arkham Origins and Assault, making it possible for Warner Bros. Games Montreal to make a sequel to the former to tell these events, should they choose to do so.
It is hard to point out any particular flaws in Batman: Assault on Arkham. The movie once again pushes the PG-13 rating, featuring exploding heads and a near f-bomb. Most noticeably, however, is the more prominent sexuality, thanks to Harley Quinn and Killer Frost. Personally, I found that aspect to be too distracting from the story. I’m aware that this is not a kids movie at all, despite being an animated film. However, I thought the sexuality felt somewhat out of place, and the movie could have been a little smoother without it. Otherwise, however, virtually no flaws are present.
In conclusion, Batman: Assault on Arkham is surprisingly one of DC’s best animated features in the past couple years, and it’s arguably the greatest of their three 2014 installments. It made me more interested in the Suicide Squad, particularly members such as Deadshot and Black Spider. Strongly written, superbly animated and wonderfully voice-acted, this is a welcome addition to the Batman: Arkham mythology. Hopefully, we will see more of this world in the near future, whether it be a video game or a film. I highly recommend Assault on Arkham to DC fans in general, as well as fans of the Arkham games.