A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman: Assault on Arkham is a 2014 animated superhero movie in which Batman's villains, the Suicide Squad, are sent on a mission to infiltrate an insane asylum. It's based on the Batman: Arkham video game franchise. Even for those accustomed to the cynicism and dark humor of these Batman-themed animated features, this comes off as even more cynical and negative. For instance, the Joker, reunited with his former lover Harley Quinn, finds humor in his strongly implied physical abuse of Quinn. Frequent violence includes dead bodies hanging in a motel room, exploding heads, and gun battles. There's also regular use of profanity (s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," etc.), the middle-finger gesture, and alcohol drinking. Characters are shown on the verge of having sex.
What's the story?
In BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM, the Riddler has been sent back to Arkham Asylum after he's nearly killed in an assassination attempt ordered by A.R.G.U.S. director Amanda Waller. In response, Waller brings together a "Suicide Squad" of notorious criminals like Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Deadshot, Killer Frost, and others. They are ordered by Waller to infiltrate Arkham and retrieve a thumb drive hidden in the Riddler's cane. If they fail to complete or refuse to undertake the mission, Waller will blow them up. Unsurprisingly, considering the egos and selfishness involved, the Suicide Squad doesn't work well together, especially when Harley Quinn sees her ex and very estranged lover the Joker locked up inside Arkham. In addition, they must contend with Batman (Kevin Conroy). Batman is trying to locate a dirty bomb that the Joker has hidden somewhere in Gotham. Batman must find the bomb before it detonates, and the Suicide Squad must find a way out of Arkham before getting killed by either Waller or each other.
Is it any good?
While the other animated movies in the DCU: Batman franchise have their fair share of cynicism and complicated storylines, this one manages to outdo them. The cynicism comes off as excessive and glib. The Joker's sick humor referencing his physical abuse of Harley Quinn when they were lovers comes off as, at best, an unnecessary revelation of the Joker's character (this just in: The Joker isn't very nice), and at worst, mining humor out of abuse. The cast is large and unwieldy; the conflicts between the Suicide Squad are nearly impossible to keep track of. Some of the characters fight each other, others sleep together. They're supposed to go into Arkham Asylum, but there are all these other side conflicts that get in the way of the main story.
The relative lack of Batman to counterbalance all the bad guys and ladies also wears thin in Batman: Assault on Arkham. Animated or not, the enigmatic Batman tends to heighten and exaggerate the flamboyance of his enemies. When the focus is almost exclusively on his enemies, that lack of contrast loses the integral part of an overall conflict that sustains the other Batman movies. The result is an overly complicated, overly cynical production best only for superfans of either the Batman franchise or the video game on which this is based.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Batman: Assault on Arkham's style and tone. While there is often a cynical tone and attitude to these Batman movies, does this one seem like it's more cynical? Why or why not?
Were the Joker's insinuations about his physical abuse of Harley Quinn while they were in a romantic relationship appropriate to the story, or did it seem gratuitous and unnecessary? Did it come off as making light of abuse, or did it do more to show the extent of the Joker's evil and psychotic behavior?
What are some other examples of movies based on video games? What about video games based on movies?
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