Movie review: Batman & Harley Quinn

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last summer, I branched out and reviewed a straight-to-DVD animated movie because it was an adaptation of a famous graphic novel – Batman: The Killing Joke. This summer, WB/DC has released another Batman animated film, and the reason to review it this year is Batman’s co-star – the highly popular character of Harley Quinn. The Joker’s girlfriend has definitely broken the boundaries in which she was created and become a favorite of both niche comic fans and mainstream audiences (Suicide Squad is mostly to blame/thank for that). So, let’s see what Batman & Harley Quinn have to offer!

IMDb summary: Batman and Nightwing are forced to team with the Joker’s sometimes-girlfriend Harley Quinn to stop a global threat brought about by Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man.

Writing

Batman & Harley Quinn is an original story, written by Bruce Timm (Jim Krieg helped with the script too). Timm has earned the respect of fans by co-creating Batman: The Animated Series. However, recently he lost some of the said respect by doing something ‘original’ with Batman: The Killing Joke (his producing gig resulted in the ruin of the Batgirl character), so I was preemptively concerned about where his originality will go in this film. And I was right to be worried.

The core story of Batman & Harley Quinn certainly wasn’t bad. The eco message was actually quite interesting, while some of Harley’s character development moments were neat too (seeing her ‘going straight’ and being compassionate). However, a lot (and I mean really a lot) weird choices were made with the details of the narrative and the humor. And not weird in a good kind of way, but in a way that made me wonder ‘what?’ and ‘why?’ a lot.

Let’s start with the biggest problem of the film – the sexual references (both obvious and hidden) that lacked all subtlety or sophistication. The therapy joke, the super-babes bar, the freeze frame kiss? Not only were they quite tasteless but also quite meaningless details. They were just there for some reason and didn’t contribute much to the plot.

Another elephant in the room (movie) was that implied Nightwing/Harley sex scene. It seemed really weird but at least it raised a few problems/questions. First, it allowed the film to analyze the sexualization of Harley Quinn as a character (the line about the job offers as well as the interplay of cuteness and sexiness in the portrayal of the character were two fascinating additions)). Maybe, then, that sex scene was quite fitting, knowing how the character has been perceived? Her partner of the scene – Nightwing – has also been involved in a fair share of adult themes too prior to this picture. Another, more real-world, problem that this sex brought into the forefrunt was the fact that our society still can’t comprehend romantic or sexual pairings where the woman is older than a man. In general, age gaps are a big topic even if the consent is there.

 

Speaking about the non-sexual part of the humour, it wasn’t that good either. The fart joke and ‘smells like discipline’ line were bizzare. I can’t even call them childish – that was something else. The singing in the bar scene was odd too. My favorite joke in the movie wasn’t actually part of the movie – it was the post credits scene with the Ask Dr. Harley TV show. It was a smart jab at reality TV and doctor shows and I also appreciated its meta qualities.

Directing

Sam Liu, who has directed my favorite DC animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths as well as already mentioned last year’s The Killing Joke, helmed Batman & Harley Quinn. I though that he did an okay job. I really liked ‘the Pink Panther meets James Bond’ type of credits. The action was quite campy but I thought that it was an intentional omage to the 1960s Batman TV show. The animation style itself was fine too – the familair 2D of all the WB/DC animated projects.

Voice work

It was lovely to hear Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne as well as Loren Lester as Nightwing/Dick Grayson. These role have become synonyms to their names. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch voiced Harley Quinn/Dr. Harleen Quinzel. It was her first time doing that and I wasn’t completely onboard with the choices she made. Frankly, she sounded quite annoying and I wasn’t sure about the southern accent (if it even was a southern accent).

In short, Batman & Harley Quinn was a uncohesive and strange mess of a movie. It’s kinda hearbreaking to write that, as all the characters involved in the picture are loved not only by me but a lot of people.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Batman & Harley Quinn trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Batman: The Killing Joke

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have been reviewing movies for almost 3 years and, throughout that time, I tried to branch out as much as possible – I wrote about big blockbusters and small indie films, Hollywood flicks and foreign pictures. All of the movies had one thing in common – they all have been theatrical releases. Well, this time, I’m widening the spectrum and reviewing an animated movie that was released on streaming and had only a limited theatrical run – Batman: The Killing Joke.

IMDb summary: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

  1. The Killing Joke is the newest addition to the DC Animated Universe. Lately, I have been watching a lot films of that franchise – I’m done with Justice League films and I’ve also checked out the Wonder Woman animated feature. All of the DC Animated films are beloved by the fans, so The Killing Joke was also highly anticipated. The original graphic novel was written by the genius Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, so that’s also a few of the reasons why the nerds couldn’t wait for it. I haven’t read the original comic book  but really want to and will do in a near future.
  2. Writing: the comic book writer Brian Azzarello penned the script for the film and did quite a good job. However, the story did seem uneven. The first half an hour of original material, regarding Batgirl and her relationship with Batman, did not have any connections to the actual narrative of The Killing Joke, so the feature seemed like 2 different shorts in one. I understand why they wanted to add more backstory and development for Barbara, but I think they could have found a more cohesive way to do so. Nevertheless, I really liked the ending of her story – The Joker might have broken Batgirl, but Barbara survived and moved on to better (?) things. I also liked that they kept the ambiguous ending and that they also played fast and loose with The Joker’s backstory: even though the visual flashbacks told one story, the lines of dialogue sorta contradicted it.
  3. The theme of insanity and loneliness during madness was explored in the film. I have a weird interest in insanity as a concept for creative cinematic stories (that’s why I love Gotham’s Arkham Asylum episodes), even though I understand what a serious, awful, and important real-world issue it is. Nevertheless, the dark portrayal of insanity in The Killing Joke was respectful and sophisticated – the film wasn’t just dark and crazy for entertainment sake. I also really liked the deeper dive into Batman’ and Joker’s relationship and the similarities they share. The Joker has always been my and a lot of people’s favorite comic book villain and it is quite easy to see why. He is so iconic and well-rounded, both physically and psychologically: his distinct look is instantly recognizable, despite the plethora of variations throughout the years, and his emotional stance as a villain is amazing: he is frightening, yet humorous; efficient, relentless and threatening; unreliable yet still scarily charming.
  4. Sam Liu directed the picture – he has a lot of experience with animated comic book properties and didn’t disappoint this time either. The animation was good, it was done in the same style as the majority of DC Animated Universe films. I don’t know if would look good on the big screen but it definitively worked on a small one. The action scenes were also realized nicely and I appreciated the recreation of the comic book panels – even though I have yet to read the original material, its graphics are familiar to me due to how iconic they are.
  5. The voice cast did an amazing job, but it is no surprise when you see who actually voiced the characters. Kevin Conroy returned to voice Bruce Wayne / Batman and did a perfect job, as expected. Mark Hamill shined as The Joker once again. I just love that slight crack and the edge in Hamill’s voice – it is so appropriate for The Joker and I cannot imagine a different actor who could do this job. He performed the infamous memory monolog perfectly: it wasn’t too flashy but just the right amount of terror and intimidation. Tara Strong, who has plenty of voice work experience did a nice job bringing Barbara Gordon / Batgirl to life, while Ray Wise was also good Commissioner James Gordon, even though it is his only second voice role.

In short, Batman: The Killing Joke was a nice addition to the magnificent DC Animated Universe. It might not be the best feature of the franchise but it is definitely enjoyable. I would love to hear the thoughts of those who have read the comic – how does the film compare to it?

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Batman: The Killing Joke

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