Batman: Assault on Arkham is the kind of film that 2016’s Suicide Squad should have been. I’m not afraid to admit this as I’m also not afraid to admit that Suicide Squad let me down when I originally saw it. Assault on Arkham succeeds where Suicide Squad failed in regards to execution but it has plenty faults on its own. There will be some minor spoilers in this review so if you haven’t seen the film yet then I suggest you go see it before reading this review.
Amanda Waller has a specific need for the Suicide Squad and calls on them (more like kidnaps them) in order to achieve this task. Her character in the film really annoyed me throughout the film but I believe that this is intended. Every time I’d hear her voice I’d wish Deadshot would just shut her up. Once the Suicide Squad is together they are told to sneak into Arkham Asylum, assassinate a target, and do so without letting Batman know, otherwise Waller would be all too happy to just detonate the implanted explosive inserted into their necks. This goes about as well as you’d imagine. This is a simple point A to point B type of plot.
Assault on Arkham has no real character development. Each character leaves the story the same way they arrived (except for those that die), no one has a true arc, and everyone is pissed to be where they are. The group constantly bickers with one another which is what makes them interesting. As a group they tend to be fun but as individuals they are quite weak. We follow the squad as a whole throughout the entire film but our pseudo protagonist is Deadshot. The voice acting for his character felt so bland and stiff even though he was probably the best-written character of the squad besides Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn was extremely eccentric throughout the film even though I feel like they did her character well. She’s meant to be the comic relief of the group and some of that humor can be a bit dark. There are some aspects of her character that annoyed me but I’ll get to that later. Captain Boomerang provided some pushback for Deadshot but came across quite blandly. Killer Frost, King Shark, and Black Spider were extremely dull. Killer Frost and King Shark had a few scenes but this film does well in making you not want to root for anyone in the Suicide Squad (outside of maybe Deadshot who showed an ounce of morality). Joker was used really well and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Harley. It was fun getting to see a film from the perspective of the villains, as Batman is no more than a secondary character.
The animation was on par with most DC animated films that I’ve seen in recent years but some of the facial expressions just looked strange. I couldn’t tell if Harley was deadpanning or if something just didn’t get animated right in several scenes. The fight scenes were animated well and it was nice to see some expanded sequences.
My main issue with the film, beyond the lack of character development, was a few scenes where it felt like the animators were trying too hard to be edgy. I think Harley Quinn was a bit too sexualized. This made for an interesting exchange between two characters near the end of the film but the tension between these characters felt a bit unnecessary and forced. This film could have easily been PG-13 instead of R without missing any of the major beats of the story. It just felt like DC was trying way too hard with that.
At the end of the day, I still think this is one of the best DC animated films and shows us what a live-action Suicide Squad film could have been if it had been executed better. If I compare this to some of my favorites like Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox or Batman: Under the Red Hood then this film falls just short of those. I’m curious to see how well DC fleshed out animated films after this one because this seems somewhat experimental, especially after seeing Batman: The Killing Joke. Regardless, I still think everyone should check this out. Batman: Assault on Arkham gets a 7/10.