So, yes, there is another DC animated film out and, rather like the Killing Joke last year, it did get a brief cinematic release, despite the fact that the film did not meet the requirements to receive a cinematic release. In case you are wondering, they tacked on a load of ‘behind the scenes’ footage and creators talking about the creation of Harley Quinn on to the end of the film in order to pad out the run time to meet said requirements. The film once again is directed by Sam Liu who seems to be one of the revolving directors behind these DC animated projects, but it’s very clearly a Bruce Timm story, he has developed the story and co-wrote the screenplay with James Krieg, and as you well know, I personally believe Bruce Timm is one of the best creative staff that DC has working with them.
Now Bruce Timm didn’t have a brilliant outing last year when he produced the Killing Joke, but this one felt like he was going back to his roots, it looked like it would be a harken back to the 1990’s Batman animated series which was one of the greatest shows ever made and once again, Kevin Conroy would be returning to the role of Batman. Though, Harley Quinn is getting to a stage where I think she is getting a bit over played by DC, they seem to be wanting to turn her into DC’s answer to Deadpool, and while there are similarities between the characters I don’t think it’s a real ‘apples to apples’ deal. I often think Harley Quinn works better when she is put into a more serious tone. However, I went into this with a fresh mind to see how well this could do and could this stack up with the two really good DC animated films that have already come out this year?
Batman and Harley Quinn is a very simple story. Jason Woodrue, aka Floronic Man, (played by Kevin Michael Richardso)n along with Poison Ivy (played by Paget Brewster) are stealing technology in order to create a new formula to turn all the worlds people into animal plant hybrids. They are pursued by Batman (played by Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing(played by Loren Lester) but are getting nowhere with their associates. With nowhere else to turn, they turn to Harley Quinn (played by Melissa Rauch) to find Poison Ivy and potentially stop her.
Ok, simple question, did you like Batman the animated series? If the answer is yes, they you will like this, it’s kind of an extended episode, though in reality, it’s not quite. At times it certainly does feel like that, however, at other times it feels a bit too goofy to be like that. That’s one of the biggest issues I have, this film has a massive tonal shift issue. They are trying to take the upbeat idea of telling a Harley Quinn story and mix it with the darker elements of telling a Batman story. That being said, however, you will be very surprised to find out it doesn’t have as much of a tone issue as I was expecting going in. In fact, I felt this film was really good. In reality, Batman is only along for the ride, this is a Harley Quinn movie in every sense of the word. Harley is pretty much in control of everything from start to finish with this film and while personally I think she has gotten to a stage where she is a bit overplayed, it kind of works in this scenario. The film ends up becoming a real love letter to the character.
So how do I think the whole thing stacked up overall?
Well, in some senses, the plot is kind of interesting for the most part, however, it’s also got a lot of moments that are rather head scratching. I am kind of please, for once, that they went with a rather obscure villain. Granted, Poison Ivy is a well know character, but how many people know the Floronic Man. Until Linkara had mentioned stories that he had been in for the Atop the Fourth Wall mainly noted his appearances in the New Guardians and the really bizarre storyline he had in Batman Shadow of the Bat, but I had never heard of this character. Though it makes sense for Ivy and him to be teaming up, considering that both are plant based villains and both have similar views and goals. Granted, they are both very good villains and they have a decent villain plan, especially considering the last time these two teamed up, in Batman Shadow of the Bat, their plot was to get the world stoned and take it over like that. No, I am not joking, that was genuinely the plot, look up Atop the Fourth Wall, Batman Shadow of the Bat for more details of that, trust me, it’s hilarious. This is certainly a step up. Now, they are good villains and the whole thing kind of works and they are pretty fun, all things considered. The downside really comes in the pacing of the plot, this is a really unfocused film at times. Now, granted Harley Quinn stories are usually very unfocused and that works to its advantage, but when you are trying to mix Batman and Nightwing in there, it comes off as rather bizarre. You can tell there are a few homages to the 1960’s Batman series, with the now late Adam West. But they don’t fit the tone considering that this story could easily take place in the Batman animated series universe. For example, the plot stops dead for Harley Quinn to track down and take down a guy who you initially think is connected to Poison Ivy, but actually turns out to be the guy who dumped her at her prom. Now it may take up a lot of the time, but at least it was hilarious. There are also a few cameos in there, but I won’t give away all of them, though I will say that Bruce Timm gets a small cameo as Booster Gold, which was one of the funniest parts of the film.
I will say I kind of commend the film in most senses, but I just didn’t really know what to think. On the one hand I personally think the film is rather well done, very funny, very well acted, the animation is done well and it really has the fans in mind. On the other hand I feel the film is a bit unfocused and doesn’t blend the two styles brilliantly well. I am going back and forth on the films constantly, but I would say I lean more towards the side that I think the plot is very good. I can’t talk too much about it because this is a film that only lasts one hour and ten minutes and I wouldn’t want to give away too much, but let’s say, the climax, whilst hilarious, it is frankly rather underwhelming and a bit anticlimactic.
As for the actors. Well, Kevin Conroy is Batman, I have said it on several occasions, I am not looking forward to when he decides to finally retire from that role for good. Kevin Michael Richardson is brilliant as Floronic Man, and he is obviously not getting sick of working for DC considering how many roles he has taken to date with them. I swear that eventually two of his characters are going to run into each other!! Loren Lester is actually a surprise, I really enjoyed having him back as Nightwing and a surprising element came from the fact that I didn’t know he could still do the voice as well, he is seriously one of the better actors to take up the role, and you can tell he is having a ton of fun. Paget Brewster is really good as Poison Ivy, actually one of the better actors to play the role in a long time. Of course there are tons of performances from well know voice actors including John DiMaggio, Rob Paulsen and Mindy Sterling. The stand out performance, as to be expected is Melissa Rauch as Harley Quinn, who you may recognise as having played Bernadette in Big Bang Theory. One of my friends asked me after I saw the film “can she pull off a Boston accent” and the answer is “yes she can” she really embodies Harley Quinn and I forgot it was her playing the role as I was rather immersed in it.
As for presentation, thankfully, for once, I can actually talk about the animation in a DC animated film. Put it simply, once again, it Batman the animated series, it’s the exact same style, more akin to the designs and layout of the fourth season had, when the characters got redesigns to play some more in line with Superman the animated series, which admittedly I didn’t think it was as bad as a lot of people made it out to be. It certainly doesn’t match the ultra-realistic style that the first three seasons had, but I still think it works quite well, even if the characters feel do a bit “pointy” at times. Something that I felt was kind of adjusted and improved for this film, though I still think Batman has a bit of a “pointy” feel to him. The character designs are virtually accurate, though Nightwing gets a slight redesign of his costume to fit more in line with changes to the costume in recent years. The only character who is majorly redesigned is the Floronic Man, who is much more thinner, weedier character and this one is more put in line to match up with Swamp Thing and yes the character is directly referenced in the film, the character, which means he is a lot more bulkier in this instance than his comic counterpart, which was a lot more thinner and weedier, no pun intended!!!
The soundtrack is also very good, it’s a rather kinetic and jazzy element, which its in with the character of Harley Quinn quite well. There are even a couple of musical numbers including Harley Quinn trying to get a favour out of a friend at a henchman’s bar by performing ‘don’t leave me hanging on the telephone’. It’s a Harley Quinn story remember, there is some weird s… in her storylines.
Batman and Harley Quinn has a few tone issues, but overall, it’s a very enjoyable film. It at one point harkens back to the 60’s series, but at other points harkens back to the Bruce Timm animated series of the 90’s, but I think that while it doesn’t blend well all the time, it at least blends better than I was expecting. It I going to be out on BlueRay and DVD soon and I seriously think it’s worth checking out. Props especially to Kevin Conroy and Melissa Rauch’s performances.
Only one mini review this week
was what I wanted to say because I did manage to see the Netflix Definite series, however, I just released an anime amigos blog on it, so if you want my thoughts, along with my friends Reece Imlioeck, Elliott Chapman and Ren Bromiley, you will have to check out that video, though be warned we are going to go into spoilers on that one, but we will give you a warning and we will go through our thoughts on the film without spoiling it beforehand.
Come back next week where I will be reviewing the latest Victorian horror drama “The Limehouse Golem”.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hoped you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and I am going to go back and watch Batman the animated series now.
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