Movie Review: ‘Batman and Harley Quinn’


Director: Sam Liu

Cast: Kevin Conroy as Batman; Loren Lester as Nightwing; Melissa Rauch as Harley Quinn; Paget Brewster as Poison Ivy; Kevin Michael Richardson as Floronic Man; and John DiMaggio as Swamp Thing.

Plot: Poison Ivy and Floronic Man attempt to turn all humans into plant hybrids. Batman, Nightwing and Harley Quinn set out to stop them.

DVD Release Date: 29th August 2017

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Just an average crime-fighting excursion with Batman…

There’s something odd going on from the very beginning of the latest DC animated film Batman and Harley Quinn. At first, it seems to be the style of the animation – a nod to Batman: The Animated Series in which Harley Quinn was first introduced. However, as you progress past the film’s admittedly enjoyable retro opening and into the plotline, you realise quite suddenly that there isn’t much of one, or at least, there’s not much new about it. Batman and Harley Quinn is, in short, a sketchy remake of the 1994 Batman: The Animated Series episode ‘Harlequinade’, complete with a scene of Harley serenading a group of thugs onstage and nearly ending with Batman and his sidekick being tied up by Harley and dumped in-front of the key villains, just like in the original. Only distinct difference is, in the new film Batman and Nightwing are recruiting Harley to stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from turning all humans into plant hybrids. In the 1994 episode it is Batman and Robin that enlist Harley’s help to find the Joker’s atomic bomb.

The film starts well. The problem is introduced, the characters are set up, and we get a glimpse of Harley’s backstory. Released from Arkham Asylum on probation, she’s working as a waitress in a themed bar in which the girls dress skimpily in superhero themed uniforms. As she later explains to a belittling Nightwing, she does this only because no other job will accept her applications due to her history. As she dumps her massive pile of rejections on the floor, we get the sense that we will see a good solid story featuring Harley in her honest attempt to leave a life of crime behind her.

 

 

 

 

We are set up to be vaguely disappointed. From this point on Harley degenerates into a trivial, child-like character whose significance in the film is cheapened by a provocative dance around the stage to get information, spectacular tantrums, and the ability to convince anyone into letting her do what she wants by puppy-dog eyes and tears. To make it worse, the script presents an indifferent and at times abrasive Batman who constantly dismisses Harley, reinforcing the persona of a petulant child that has been created for her in this animation. Nightwing is reduced to comic relief, with little to none input to the actual story. The story itself is also dangerously balancing on a precipice, with outstanding comedy moments being overshadowed by poor dialogue, odd tangents, and demeaning portrayals of main female characters. With Harley being such a beloved female character in the DC universe, I think they could have afforded to downgrade the objectification a little. At certain points in the film, you are left feeling that it has been scripted for male viewers only. Considering that around 40% of the cinema’s audience was female, I can’t help but feel as if that was a poor choice.

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Why did I get the feeling this film would end in a cliched girl fight from the very start?

You can however almost forgive all these misgivings when you consider one aspect of the film; the voice acting is outstanding. Batman veterans Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Loren Lester (Nightwing) were excellent as always, and I think Melissa Rauch did particularly well as Harley Quinn. The animation too is very clean and an honest interpretation of the original Batman: The Animated Series look. In all, it’s not a bad film; but, I wouldn’t call it a great one either. The ending is abrupt, and post-credit scenes leave you wondering why you even bothered to stay. In short, Batman and Harley Quinn is the kind of film you would watch once for the laughs, before placing it firmly back on a shelf to gather dust. Worth seeing, not worth really keeping. I’ve heard many say that this film was meant to make amends for The Killing Joke.

The Killing Joke was better.

Score: 6 out of 10.

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