Ever since watching the premiere of BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN at San Diego Comic Con over the summer, I’ve been mulling over my opinion of the film. I generally tell people it’s alright for what it is. As Batman’s follow-up film to THE KILLING JOKE (unless you want to count JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK), it’s definitely a pallet cleanser. Although with GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT on the horizon, it wouldn’t have hurt to tweak this film a little longer.
BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN’s plot is basic. Poison Ivy (Brewster) has teamed up with Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) in the hopes of utilizing a scientist’s expertise to turn the world’s people and animals into plants. With few leads to go on, Batman (Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) go looking for Ivy’s best friend, Harley Quinn (Rauch), who may know Ivy’s whereabouts. For a little over an hour, hijinks ensue on a childish and adult level.
Maybe it was the panel of longtime DC Animated Universe voices and creators that kept the crowd lukewarm at best when the film wrapped up, but since that night in San Diego, there’s been a lot of hatred around this film. A lot of criticisms range from complaints about the uninspired script to Rauch’s bland portrayal of one of DC’s beloved icons. I disagree and agree with both sentiments.
BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN is tonally frustrating. There are moments, like Harley Quinn and Nightwing bumping uglies, a scientist being murdered, fart jokes and a titillating song and dance number by Quinn in a dive bar for villains. Those moments on their own, spread out through other films, would work, but jammed together clouds the viewer feelings about these scenes. While I was rarely bored during its runtime, I understand frustrations over the bloat. This is a cartoon episode plot’s worth of content stretched into a film. But I feel that BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN is more like a purgative day at an amusement park than it is a mentally stimulating trip to a museum.
As for Rauch’s performance, she has some big shoes to fill. Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong have captured that unique Quinn voice that’s been replicated on the screen and in other Batman knock-offs. Rauch doesn’t really own the voice, other than replicating people before her. She fails at Quinn’s sinister undertones, but manages to capture that manipulative child-like innocence that makes Quinn dangerous and sympathetic. Rauch delivers a passable performance that jives in conversations with Conroy’s iconic Dark Knight.
BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN, much like THE KILLING JOKE, is polarizing for general audiences of DC’s Animated Universe. Just like THE KILLING JOKE, I enjoyed it, but I’m unsure if I can recommend it since these movies are catered towards hardcore fans and people who’ve managed to catch these on Netflix and other streaming outlets. As an original story, it works as an homage to Batman’s different stylistic choices over the past couple of decades, but when compared to other iconic Batman films, it’s a half-hearted effort.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:78:1) The animation is gorgeous and really comes to life on this blu-ray as we watch the trio crisscross through Gotham and end up in the swamps of Louisiana.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) No problems with the audio on this blu-ray.
A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie (8:30): The next DC Universe film is GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT and this feature does a fantastic job of hyping it up. Batman vs. Jack the Ripper seems like poor fan fiction at face value to me, but the visuals and storytelling quirks they display in this feature make me excited for something I previously wasn’t interested in.
The Harley Effect (21:25): Harley Quinn doesn’t have a lengthy history like most DC characters so there isn’t a lot to delve into, but this feature does a good job of condensing her character and existence into a neat package. This feature conveys to a certain extent how multi-layered, flawed and inspiring she is. It doesn’t do enough to go into what I thought this feature was about, which is her creative impact on comic books and Batman’s world.
Loren Lester: In His Own Voice (11:46): This biographical feature takes a look at the voice behind Robin and Nightwing. It’s an interesting feature because he has been the definitive voice for both characters.
A Sneak Peek at BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART I (12:36): Unless they’re re-releasing this, I’m not sure why this old sneak peek is on here. It could also be they’re hoping to conjure up interest in previous DC Universe films because they’re catalogue is so dense now.
A Sneak Peek at BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART II (6:52): Another old sneak peek.
A Sneak Peek at BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM (7:29): Yet another old sneak peek.
From the DC Comics Vault: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES “Harley and Ivy” (22:23): Bruce Timm, who wrote BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN, had such a guiding hand in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, it’s no surprise to see a few episodes on this blu-ray, as one could make the argument that BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN could be a nod to this style of comedic and dramatic blending for his old series.
From the DC Comics Vault: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES “Harley’s Holiday” (21:25): Another well-chosen episode from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. I have to ask though, how come we haven’t gotten this beloved 90’s show on blu-ray yet?