I have mentioned this film a couple of times during the course of my reviews and discussed it quite heavily when I took a look at Suicide Squad, I said then that sooner of later I’d have to give Assault on Arkham a full review and today is that day. The film was released in 2014 and is an animation that stars (amongst others) Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Frost and other familiars from the Batman line-up.
If you’ve read my Suicide Squad review which I wrote before this one, you may remember that I said this film was awesome, and now I am going to tell you exactly why. However, before I get too far ahead of myself let me bring you up to speed on what is going on…
The film opens with the Riddler being cornered by a SWAT team who have orders to assassinate him but he is later captured alive by Batman. He is arrested and taken to Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
Meanwhile, Amanda Waller (a character that has appeared in animated form in Batman/Superman Public Enemies and live-action in Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad) is looking to recruit convicts for the Suicide Squad, a black-operations group, that are ultimately expendable. She is given authorisation and assembles some of the more and less familiar villains in the Batman roster. As mentioned above amongst them are Harley Quinn, and Deadshot. Each character basically gets around a thirty-second intro, which summarises who they are and what they do. Harley Quinn for example is shown to be in a home for mistreated women, and has her handheld computer toy taken off her by one of the nurses, moments later that same nurse runs from the room and the camera cuts back to Harley showing her spitting out the woman’s ear as she resumes playing her toy.
The group are taken from wherever they happen to be and awaken in a room, with Waller informing them that they are now working for her, and each one has a bomb in their neck, which will detonate and kill them if they step out of line. KGBeast decides to call her bluff and walks out of the room, only for the explosive to detonate and kill him. Waller informs the survivors that their mission is to infiltrate Arkham Asylum and recover a thumbdrive from the Riddler’s cane. She has arranged for them to stay at the Iceberg Lounge in Gotham City for the night so they can prep and infiltrate the asylum the following night.
Whilst this is happening Batman is tearing up the city searching for a dirty bomb that the Joker has set. The Joker himself is in Arkham, and Deadshot is more than a little worried about Harley being in proximity to her ex.
There are going to be some comparisons to Suicide Squad, simply because this film is what Suicide Squad was trying to be and spectacularly failed. The intros, whilst short immediately tell you everything you need to know about the different villains, some, like Deadshot I was familiar with whilst others like King Shark and Killer Frost, not so much. Still in moments I had some idea of who they were and naturally they are all badass characters.
The film is set in the Arkham-verse (the same universe as the Batman Arkham computer games) so people who have played those will be familiar with some of the Asylum’s layouts as well as the look of several characters. The Penguin looks like his game counterpart and so does his club the Iceberg Lounge, plus the way the characters interact with one another (Harley and Penguin especially) demonstrates that they have met one another before even if we may not have seen it. It gives the world more depth as the villains have crossed paths before and when Harley was with the Joker, she naturally was around when causing mayhem so the Penguin is holding a bit of a grudge towards her even if she and the Joker aren’t together anymore.
Now unlike Suicide Squad in which Harley Quinn was a pointless edition to the group (except as eye candy) in Assault on Arkham she has a purpose. As a former doctor who used to work at the Asylum she has an intimate knowledge of the facility plus numerous pass-codes to help the group get around undetected. The group’s goal is also to find the thumbdrive from the Riddler’s cane, they are not trying to stop the end of the world or any major catastrophe, they have a simple goal: Retrieve the Tumbdrive – plain and simple.
Now things do get a little more complicated later on with Weller having alternate objectives for certain members of the team but I won’t say anything more as I don’t want to spoil.
The group doesn’t want to be under Weller’s thumb and as the film goes on they try to break away from her control.
One of the things I especially liked about this film was that Batman is not in it a huge amount, yes he twigs something is wrong at the Asylum and heads there to check things out, but this is not a story about him. The Joker also appears and there are some cameos from big-Batman villains like Bane, Two-Face, and Poison Ivy but again the focus is on the Task-Force characters and not on anyone else.
Plus at no point in Assault on Arkham do the Suicide Squad of this film become a “family” of sorts like in the live action Suicide Squad, basically they are forced to work together and buy and large they hate one another. A couple of them, like Killer Frost and King Shark do bond, but generally they all rub each other up the wrong way and generally get on one another’s nerves. There is a sequence when Captain Boomerang is trying to infiltrate a facility whilst posing as a morgue worker, Killer Frost is in a body bag and because she has no body temperature when she is scanned appears to be dead. To reiterate the point Boomerang smacks the bag, just to annoy her. Now whilst I am talking about that scene, the morgue worker that opens the bag to reveal the topless Killer Frost inside, smiles in a bit of a necrophilia-type way, as if suggesting that he likes to get freaky with the corpses when everyone else has left. So even the normal humans are a bit creepy but even they show way more personality that anyone in Suicide Squad.
The female characters (with the exception of Waller) are also sexy as hell, Killer Frost and Harley Quinn are everything an adolescent teenager would want, firm bum, big boobs and the whole bad-girl thing as well.
Quinn tries it on with Deadshot a couple of times during the initial meeting, but he rebuffs her advances. But later when she turns up in his bed, and straddles him, totally naked he decides that he might as well give her a good fuck as that is what she clearly wants. Thing is even after they’ve had sex they don’t really give much more of a crap about one another than they did before.
The biggest point in this film’s favour is that the characters stay true to who they are, and whilst Batman does have a larger role in the latter part of the film, the focus stays on the villains. Some of them do end up being killed. When the shit hits the fan they all split up, it is “every man for himself” none of this whole – we have become a family bullshit that Suicide Squad shoved down our throats. To ensure their own escape they will happily throw any one of the others under the bus if it means they get away.
Basically Assault on Arkham is what Suicide Squad wishes it could be. The child friendly 12A of Suicide Squad prevented it from being as sometimes brutal as Assault on Arkham. None of the characters in the animation are pointless when so many of them are in Suicide Squad. The actors portraying these characters (with the possible exception of Margot Robbie) just don’t fit and resulted in Suicide Squad being the jumbled disappointment it was.
Ultimately Assault on Arkham is an awesome film, which portrays the members of the Suicide Squad as they should be and gives them the respect they deserve. I am naturally awarding the film a Thumbs Up and I urge anyone who was disappointed by Suicide Squad to check it out. Watch Assault on Arkham and you will be left wondering why a shot-for-shot live-action version of this film wasn’t made, instead of the shambles that was Suicide Squad
9/10 – One of the best Batman animated films that doesn’t have a huge amount of Batman in it. The characters are all stone cold badasses that put their live-action counterparts to shame.