BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN: A CONFLICTED AFJ REVIEW


Starring: Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Loren Lester, Kevin Michael Richardson, Bruce Timm
Written by: Bruce Timm (story by), James Krieg (teleplay by)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Bruce Timm have brought us yet another Batman adventure with our favorite Batman, Kevin Conroy. Last week Batman and Harley Quinn was released and it caused quite a division between the fans. I have to say that I too am split somewhere in the middle on this release.

What Batman and Harley Quinn is about is this: Batman (Conroy) reluctantly enlists the help of Harley Quinn (played for the first time by Melissa Rauch) to take down Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson). Ivy and the Floronic Man have a plan to avert the Earth’s destruction, because of man’s own shortsightedness, by turning all living things into plants. That’s right, every person and animal will become a plant hybrid. The key to their plan is finding and using the same formula that turned Dr. Alec Holland into Swamp Thing. Being that Harley and Ivy used to be BFFs, Batman sends Nightwing (Loren Lester) out to bring her in. Can this dynamic trio stop Ivy and the Floronic Man? That’s what we are to find out as the audience.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was fantastic to see and hear Conroy back in his iconic role. Melissa Rauch was competent enough as Harley, and I have been around long enough to know not to even ask why they didn’t get Arleen Sorkin to play the part again (she is retired). Usually, the answer has to do with some studio bigwig wanting a change. I see it as we should be happy we have Conroy back and move on.

What bothered me, as both a fan and as a critic, were the following assortment of conflicts that I had with the story. With Conroy playing Batman again and the style of animation being that of the now-classic Batman: The Animated Series and Loren Lester reprising the role of Nightwing are we to assume that this is a continuation of that story and the portrayal of those characters? In short, why is this more a fun romp of a story instead of the dark animation that set a precedent for the genre? Here are the conflicts:

The Opening Titles -
The recent Adam West animated Batman, Return of the Caped Crusader, had that great mix of tongue-in-cheek humor and action. So imagine my surprise when the opening titles of a Conroy Batman feature fun zany music with caricatures of our heroes and villains popping around the screen.

The Ecological Crusade -
The extreme measure of turning the inhabitants of planet Earth into plant hybrids is a bit much, but comic book villains often have these types of plans. However, Poison Ivy and Floronic Man make a good case for how we have and still are ruining the Earth. Perhaps the Justice League should focus on our Earthling problems instead of some issue in a distant galaxy (which is happening in the film).

Nightwing and Harley Hook Up -
Yep, you read that right. We see them have what we can only assume is a post-coitus tickle fight and that might be innocent enough as is, but there are further indications that it went all the way. First up, Harley went from just panties to full Harley Quinn garb. Did she get dressed to have a tickle fight or did she suit up after she and Nightwing finished? Harley later tells Nightwing that she will call him when her batteries run out. Yeah, put two and two together there. Then, before it’s all over, Harley again states that spend some time with a guy and they think they can tell you what to do, again inadvertently admitting “alone time” with Nightwing. Bear in mind all this come on the heels of Batman and Batgirl hooking up in The Killing Joke, also produced by Bruce Timm, so what is going on over there in the animated Bat Cave?!

The Fart Scene -
Not many superhero stories have a fart joke. Before 1999 that could also be said about Star Wars films. It’s odd and out of place and the kind of humor that is aimed at an audience with a different rating, not one that is PG-13. Why is it here then?

Playing up the Over Sexualization of Harley Quinn -
Bruce Timm, co-creator of Harley Quinn, must have wanted his own shot at playing up the sexiness of Harley Quinn. Certainly, since the Suicide Squad film, we have seen more than our fair share of Harley Quinn. Yet if you watched the original series, Timm got in a ton of sexual innuendos there. Here they are just more blatantly obvious. We have Harley in her undies, bending over. We have her mount Nightwing. She even shakes her goodies to a roaring audience during a musical number. So I have to ask, is Timm doing all of this in the service of the story and his character? Perhaps we are just seeing him giving the fanboys what they want? I believe that Timm may be pushing the boundaries of what he can put on screen. At least I hope that is what he is doing out of all of these.

Final Thoughts -
All in all, I liked the film, it just wasn’t as classy and in the same motif as Batman: The Animated Series, which I believe is the main issue that many fans are having. When you supply us with the same actors and that animation style we are in a mindset of what to expect. There is a certain amount of decorum from those characters, even one such as Harley Quinn. With the announcement of Gotham by Gaslight coming in 2018, all that decorum is out the window. It will be a fresh new animated experience. Without the animation style being identical to the revered animated series, I think more fans would have embraced the film instead of questioning what exactly is going on here.

Batman and Harley Quinn Enhanced Content:

Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Deluxe Giftset, Blu-ray and Digital

The Harley Effect (Featurette): Harley Quinn, has a deep history with the fans of the DC Universe. This featurette traces her humble roots from her creators to those that portray her at Comic book conventions. She is a symbol of strength and beloved by many.

Loren Lester: In His Own Voice (Featurette): This documentary examines actor Loren Lester’s legacy within Batman The Animated Series, Dick Grayson’s character, and the popularity that surrounds Lester’s interpretation of the Boy Wonder.

A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Original Movie: A behind-the-scenes look at the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Original Movies, featuring thoughts from the talented filmmakers and voice cast.

From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “Harley and Ivy” and “Harley’s Holiday”

DVD

A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Original Movie: A behind-the-scenes look at the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Original Movies, featuring thoughts from the talented filmmakers and voice cast.

7.5 Total Score
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