Yes, I know, I apologise, it was meant to be ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’, but a last-minute scheduling conflict meant that in order to attend an event in Birmingham, I had to give up reviewing the film. I fortunately have been given the chance to review the latest in the DC Animated Universe. Grant you, I did not get around to reviewing the last one, however, in both cases, I fully intend to watch both films before the end of the year and will potentially be giving my thoughts on them.
‘Batman Hush’ is an interesting movie. It is once again in this shared DC Animated Universe, the last film of which I reviewed was ‘Reign of The Supermen’. Rather like last time, this is yet another storyline that’s being set in this universe, which was meant to reflect DC’s reboot from 2011, nicknamed ‘The New 52’, but was published and takes place prior to said reboot. I was complaining a while back that I felt DC animated films were becoming a bit stale, since it seemed like every single one was either Justice League or Batman. Though fortunately, with the announcements of several of the projects in the works, including the upcoming ‘Wonder Woman’ film, it seems like they’re definitely diversifying what characters which be eligible for this film series. Another Batman film therefore actually seemed like it would be rather welcome considering it’s probably the set of characters we’ve been following the most since the beginning.
‘Batman Hush’ is an excellent storyline, and it was a real turning point for the character in the comic, so to see a film adaptation was genuinely interesting. I was expecting the returning director Sam Liu to reprise his role, but instead we have the directorial debut of Justin Copeland, who previously worked in the art department for all these films. The screenplay has been written by Ernie Altbacker, another regular in the making of the DC animated films, who wrote the previously reviewed, ‘Teen Titans: The Judas Contract’ and ‘Justice League Dark’. He has a really tough task to do since one of the big reasons I read ‘Batman Hush’ was because it was written by Jeph Loeb, one of my favourite comic writers given that he does an amazing job with almost any character he’s given. (I highly recommend reading his book, ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’, which he does a tremendous job on.) The thing is though, ‘Batman Hush’ was a very long, complicated storyline, and was trying to be more of a turning point for the character, so how does this film achieve that? Now unlike ‘The Death of Superman, this is not a film that would really require two movies to achieve its goal; Batman Hush is a storyline that can easily be done in one film, though the hour and 20-minute runtime meant some things had to be cut. The storyline of ‘Batman Hush’ is very similar to the comic. It takes place a few months after the events of ‘Reign of The Supermen’, with Batman played once again by Jason O’Mara, trying to settle into a more reflective state. He’s trying to reconnect with his friend and renowned brain surgeon, Thomas Elliott, voiced by Maury Sterling, and also is beginning a proper full-blown relationship with Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, voiced by Jennifer Morrison. Meanwhile, there’s a new villain named Hush who’s been coercing various other Gotham City supervillains into very elaborate schemes in order to send a particular message to Batman, almost as if to break him.
Now I actually watched this film with three of my friends, and we all kind of had the same complaint – there are way, way too many characters in this movie. This is particularly noticeable with the villains; I think there are very few Batman villains who don’t appear in this film. Even the Penguin appears in a single still shot. You’ve got the Joker, Scarecrow, Bane, Lady Shiva, while not many of these characters were that involved in Hush, the comic. Look, if you want to adapt the Hush storyline, you have to have Poison Ivy, since she plays one of the most pivotal roles in it. But good God, they didn’t need half of these guys. Not to mention the cast also feels rather bloated as a trip to Metropolis means we have the returning Lex Luther, voiced once again by Rainn Wilson. Harley Quinn is added into the mix too. There are an awful lot of people stuffed in here. Though, of course, obviously some of that was based on the comic.
As a result, we obviously get one of the more famous confrontations between Superman and Batman, and once again, this film gives another example of how to do a Superman and Batman confrontation much better than ‘Batman v Superman’ ever did. That being said, despite the sheer number of villains who appeared, I do object to my friends’ comments that it was worse than ‘Spiderman 3’ in that regard. In ‘Spiderman 3’ – and I think Amazing Spiderman 2 shares this distinction as well – they try to give too much character relevance to the plot with these villains, and as a result, they’re all juggling and wrestling for screen time when any one of them would have done. So in the case of ‘Spiderman 3’, you’ve got Harry Osborn’s revenge plot, then also the Sandman and his connection to Peter Parker, and then you’ve also got Venom, who they have to introduce about 30 minutes before the film’s over and as a result, it all ends up being a bit of a cluster. ‘Batman Hush’ is fortunately rather stable in that regard – the villains are only ever shot by one or two scenes, the focus primarily on the film’s main villain, Hush himself, who was surprisingly brought in from the comics rather well. The first third of the film does a really good job with Hush. The thing is though, fans of the comic are going to get the biggest bait and switch in recent memory, since they’ve actually changed Hush’s origin story for this film, and I did not really care for the new one. See, Hush is one of the most personal Batman villains; he knows everything about Batman and he’s out to use that against him. Some of the very best Batman villains share that quality. Because they’ve actually changed a lot about Hush and his origin story, he went from someone who’s been a big part of the life of Bruce Wayne to someone who just happens to know about Batman and his entire life because of a plot device.
I’m being rather negative about the film, but actually where the film has its greatest positive is in Batman’s character arc, and more specifically, the relationship between him and Catwoman. A lot of writers really don’t nail this that well but Ernie Altbacker’s script really understood what Jeph Loeb was going for in the comic with the relationship between these two characters. I’m not normally a fan of the writing as it never felt like Catwoman was as much of a match for Batman as Talia Al Ghul, so there was more sense of synergy, but Altbacker understands what can make it work, and it translates into one of the better storylines involving the pair. This honestly feels like there’s a sense of salvation for Batman in this version, and the pair do have excellent dialogue amongst each other.
The voice cast once again is excellent. Jason O’Mara is really coming into his own as Batman throughout these movies, and I really thought Jennifer Morrison gave an excellent performance as Catwoman. Much of the rest of the cast are pretty much the same as I’ve talked about in previous films, and I did appreciate newcomer Maury Sterling. If there’s one voice that stuck out for me, it was Jason Spisak as the Joker. He is a really excellent voice actor, having voiced several of the DC characters throughout various projects, including Kid Flash in ‘Young Justice’, as well as Hal Jordan in ‘Green Lantern’, even a few more obscure characters, and is even the current voice of Loki in the new Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game. But I’ve got to say, I’m really not a fan of his performance as the Joker – he just doesn’t quite feel right in the role, and it’s a real shame as most of his other voice acting performances have him well cast. I’ve already talked about the animation in previous films but to give more of an update for people who haven’t heard about it, I do like the animation in these movies. I think the action scenes as usual are shot very well, although not too many of them stand out this time like they did with say, the Superman vs Doomsday fight in ‘The Death of Superman’. However, I still stand by that they do a good job replicating Jim Lee’s art style. This is even more apparent in ‘Batman Hush’ being that Jim Lee actually did the art for the comic this is based on. If there’s one gripe I had about it, I think the editing sometimes does quite highlight that there were some budgetary constraints when making these films, but it’s not so noticeable that it’s unwatchable, and it does use it to the best of its ability.
Batman Hush is not a game-changing film for the DC Animated Universe, but it is a good movie overall. It’s a bit of a bloated film with a lot of plot points and it definitely feels like it goes on longer than it actually does, but as a whole, it’s pretty good, and a pretty good translation of the comic. They do a decent job translating the comic’s storyline into this current DC Animated Universe. There don’t appear to be many more plans for more from this version of Batman and this cast, so who knows when we’re going to be revisiting them. Still, it’s another good film within this series. The next film in the line-up is going to be a Wonder Woman movie, which I’m actually genuinely interested to see given how much I liked DC’s last Wonder Woman film. Hopefully we won’t get them dropping the ball this time around.
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