Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]


It’s about time we return to the basics with Batman and “Assault on Arkham” gets down to the nitty gritty. Batman is a bad ass lone wolf not chasing after a snot nosed brat, his villains are vicious thugs, and the Joker is terrifying. “Assault on Arkham” is an admirably rough and tumble action film focusing on the baddies of the Batman universe, and less on the dark knight. There’s just something about the Suicide Squad I’ve always liked. I enjoyed “Assault on Arkham” mainly because of its sleek and simple storytelling and ode to “The Dirty Dozen.” It also focuses on the demented somewhat perverse nature of Batman’s rogues, all of whom have to work together or die under a clandestine government.

After Batman intervenes in a sting operation to stop The Riddler, he sets out to find crucial information he’s convinced the villain knows about the Joker. Meanwhile, outside of Batman’s general area of information, Amanda Waller begins assembling the worst enemies from Batman’s gallery. Stopping them in their tracks and bringing them together, they’re assigned to the Task Force X program, and have to work as a Suicide Squad. Led by the assassin Deadshot, the team of Black Spider, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, and King Shark has to infiltrate the fortress Arkham Asylum. Using their individual talents and powers, they carefully orchestrate a series of incidents that can get them in to the prison and to the Riddler’s cane.

Along the way the team mixes and squabbles, learning a lot about one another, all the while aiming for their own ulterior motives in the midst of the carnage that ensues when they break in to Arkham. Writer Heath Corson places special emphases on Deadshot’s sub-plot where he decides to take on the role in the team for the sake of seeing his daughter again. His mission becomes difficult when he finds a particular affection for Harley Quinn, who is insistent on getting him in to bed. The animation for “Assault on Arkham” is fantastic, lending an almost anime style that feels appropriate for the carnage that ensues. And despite it PG-13 rating, “Assault on Arkham” is very much an adult animated actioner, doling out moments of gore, and sexual scenarios that show off how truly amoral these characters tend to be.

There’s also great sense of action that compensates for the clear lack of story, giving every villain in the Suicide Squad their own moment to shine, while also giving them their very own nemesis in the form of the Joker. There’s a strong cast present with Neal McDonough, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kevin Conroy, who returns to reprise the role of Batman. Troy Baker is also shockingly great as the clown prince, offering a performance that’s almost identical to Mark Hamil’s. Batman is mainly a supporting character in the film, given his own mission to find a dirty bomb the Joker is hiding, and he becomes a thorn on the side of the Squad, when he quickly realizes what they’re attempting within the belly of Arkham. At barely eighty minutes, “Assault on Arkham” is tight, and exciting, and really offers something more than another monotonous Batman adventure.

Featured on the Blu-Ray release is a nine minute preview of the upcoming “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis,” touching on the evolution of the movie from the original source material; it also features interviews with cast members for the upcoming animated movie. There’s also the thirteen minute “The Joker’s Queen: Harley Quinn” which explores the origins of Harley Quinn and how she’s evolved since her introduction in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

There’s the twenty seven minute “Arkham Analyzed: The Secrets Behind the Asylum” which explore the ins and outs of the dreaded prison that houses some of the worst criminals in Gotham’s history. There’s “From the DC Comics Vault” which features four episodes from past DC Animated series. This includes “Justice League Unlimited” starring Task Force X, an episode of “Young Justice,” an episode of “Batman The Brave and the Bold,” and finally “The Batman’ where we meet their version of Harley Quinn. Last but not least there’s an optional commentary with Mike Carlin, writer Heath Corson, and producer James Tucker.