Movie Review: Batman & Harley Quinn

(Seemed appropriate for #HarleyQuinnDay…Big thanks to Prince Adam for sharing his Bat-thoughts with us. 🙂 xoxo)

“Batman and Nightwing are forced to team with the Joker’s sometimes-girlfriend Harley Quinn to stop a global threat brought about by Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man.” (Warner Brothers)

This movie had me the minute it was set in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Loren Lester as Nightwing, The new addition to the Bat-Family, comes in the form of Melissa Rauch, of The Big Bang Theory fame, as Harley Quinn. To be honest, it was her casting that worried me. I though her name recognition from TBBT and the signature voice of her character, would take me out of the movie and be a hindrance to the character. However, Melissa was fantastic and except for one time when she screamed at someone in the film, did I recognize it was her and get pulled out of the film, otherwise the actress totally disappeared and all I saw and heard was Harley Quinn. Hearing Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester again, felt so right and sounded like the pitch perfect dynamic duo. It’s like they have been doing this for 25 years straight, with no time lapses in between. Giving a voice to Poison Ivy for this film was Paget Brewster. She was okay, but I don’t think she was distinctly Ivy enough. That’s not necessarily her fault though because, she only had one scene where she employs Ivy’s trademark seductive, hypnotic sexiness to get a man to do her bidding. Poison Ivy’s partner in crime n this feature is Jason Woodrue aka the Floronic Man. The inclusion of this villain fits, given Ivy’s involvement and I really like his inclusion, not because I’m a huge fan of the character but because, he’s never really used. Come to think of it, even amongst Batman’s heavy hitters, Poison Ivy was underused. Even when she featured in episodes of Batman: TAS. The Floronic Man is voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. This actor voiced The Joker for four seasons on The Batman but never once did I hear The Joker in this performance, which speaks to his range and versatility. Though, his voice is tailor made for portraying a villain.

As for why Harley Quinn would help Batman and Nightwing, it’s because she’s trying to live her life on the straight and narrow. Especially, since she has separated from The Joker. However, due to her criminal past, no reputable organization would hire someone with a criminal past and record, as a psychiatrist. Though, she makes a point at hinting that late nigh risqué movie producers have shown interest. Instead, Harley take a job at a bar called Superbabes. The waitresses all dress up in skimpy superhero costumes and are often ogled and groped by male patrons. One night Harley is grabbed in the ass, flips the customer over a table and starts a bar fight before heading home. This whole time, Nightwing was tailing her, following her back to a rundown, abandoned apartment. Naturally, there is a scuffle and Harley Quinn not only holds her own against Nightwing but knocks him out. When he comes to, Nightwing realizes that he’s tied up. Harley, changing out of her costume is in her bra and panties. She begins being flirtatious with Nightwing, saying they both have something the other wants. Nightwing protests, in a half assed way, before admitting the idea of being with Harley does sound appealing, The lights go out, the costumes come off and the scene cuts away as the implied sex scene happens off screen. Some reactions online, have people up in arms, throwing a hissy fit over this scene. Firstly, some are calling the moment a glorified rape scene, given that he was tied up and at first refused Harley’s suggestion. If you actually rewatch the scene, you can see that it’s quite clear that Nightwing is more than agreeable to having sexual relations with Harley. Once Nightwing agrees, I view the ropes as some kinky, superhero/supervillain role-play type of scenario. Prior to that scene, when both characters were physically fighting, Harley Quinn was verbalizing that she was tired of people telling her what to be and assigning a label to her. For example, some see her as crazy, others see her only as a villain, while others still, view her as a sex object. She mentions, how she wants to be in control and determine who she is. While some see the sex scene as demeaning, only further objectifying Harley, I saw her initiating the flirtation, and being in control of that situation. I saw it as a moment of empowerment for Harley Quinn. That’s my take on the whole “controversy.”

As for why Nightwing was following Harley and not Batman? The Dark Knight was busy doing detective work, uncovering Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man’s diabolical scheme. Firstly, I love that this film focuses on Batman being a detective. To me, Batman: TAS and issues of Detective Comics, are the only two interpretations, that really key in on this aspect of his character. Speaking of our villains’ plan, it involve using samples of Alec Holland’s (Swamp Thing’s) blood, mixed with a chemical agent, that when dispersed, would turn the human population into plant like creatures, such as Floronic Man and Swamp Thing. I like that the evil plot is perfectly symbiotic with the overall goals and beliefs of our villains, unlike that time when Poison Ivy teamed up with Mr. Freeze in 1997, and their plans were in complete opposition and counterintuitive of each other. Back over at Team Batman, when the Caped Crusader rejoins Harley and Nightwing, he catches them in a compromising position. While he doesn’t say it outright, you can tell he is judgemental of what they did. Nightwing responds with; “Oh right, like you’ve never made out with a villain before.” I loved this line because, it’s a clever callback to Batman’s trysts with Catwoman and Talia al Ghul respectively. It also calls out Batman’s hypocrisy in this moment, but also speaks to the closeness and rapport between Batman and Nightwing, that Dick Grayson can speak to Bruce this way. With Harley assisting Batman and Nightwing, you knew humor would be a key feature of this film and it is. As the three drive in the Batmobile to find Ivy’s location, Harley complains that a burrito she ate earlier isn’t agreeing with her and they should pull over. Batman refuses and Harley retorts; you asked for it, before beginning to fire off some farts. Batman & Nightwing’s facial reactions are hilarious. Yes, I know getting laughs from farts is a bit cheap and childish, but in addition to her sexiness, Harley Quinn has always had a childishness about her, so it works. There’s also a scene where Batman calls the Justice League for potential backup. However, all the heavy hitters are off world, so Booster Gold starts naming a bunch of C and D list superheroes that could help out. As Booster Gold’s voice rattles off names through the intercom of the Batmobile, Harley Quinn and Nightwing shake their head no and make faces in disapproval, before ruffling papers to make it sound like their was static, before hanging up on Booster Gold. This was priceless and had me in stiches. Harley Quinn’s influence is clearly rubbing off on Nightwing. Harley takes Batman and Nightwing to a bar for supervillain henchmen, where she meets an informant, who has info on Poison Ivy’s location. To get info out of an informant, Harley has to sing karaoke. That’s not the fun part though, as Melissa Rauch unfortunately is a terrible singer. However, the henchmen featured at this bar, are ones featured in the Batman 66 TV series, specifically noticeable are Catwoman’s henchmen. They even buy Batman a glass of milk, as a nod to his drink of choice on the Adam West series.

When the unlikely trio finds Poison Ivy and Floronic Man, Harley Quinn pretends to double cross Batman and Nightwing, to gain their trust, However, when she pleads with Ivy to not go through with releasing this pathogen, Ivy realizes Harley lied to her. Even Batman tries to appeal to Poison Ivy’s humanity, pointing out that if she makes even one mistake with the formula, all of humanity will be wiped out. When she still doesn’t budge, Harley Quinn removes her mask and makeup, gives Ivy a “puppy dog” look and begins to cry, lamenting that she doesn’t want to die. Ivy can’t resist Harley crying and agrees not to release the toxin on humanity. She too now turns on the Floronic Man. While some may say Poison Ivy’s turn was too easy, I liked it! It really emphasises the close knit relationship and love that Harley and Ivy share. This is both emphasized in the comic books and animated series. There are a few things, that I didn’t like about this film. Aside from the fight scene between Harley Quinn and Nightwing, which was awesome, the action in this film is extremely limited. And when it is their, the film cuts away from it, When you see the henchman bar fight, you’ll know what I mean. Swamp Thing has a cameo in the third act, condemns Ivy & the Floronic Man for what they’ve done, but refuses to get in the fight. He doesn’t get involved because “It’s not his “fight.” What!? How is it not his fight? They tampered with his blood and what they plan to do, is going to alter The Green, the nature that Swamp Thing is sworn to protect. How is that not his fight? It made no sense. What a wasted cameo. Also, I was let down by the final battle with The Floronic Man and it stems (pun intended), from the reasons I just mentioned.

This film has key voice cast from Batman: The Animated Series, the animation style evokes later seasons of Batman: The Animated Series, which was rebranded The New Batman Adventures but one thing that is different is the tone. Sure, there is some dramatic story telling of the classic animated series, but this is more of a comedy set in that world. So prepare yourself for that but you know what, for me, it really works. I have never laughed so much while watching a DC Animated show, or movie. If you want a good laugh and 75 minutes of fun with characters you love, give this film a buy and a watch. Happy Batman/Harley Quinn Takeover Day everyone!

News Bleed: The “Comic Con Catch-Up” Edition

Ho-wdy, Kinky Kreeps! Another San Diego Comic Con has bitten the dust, but we’re here to give you some of the biggest Noose from the event! In addition to this post, we will also be covering DC’s big reveals and the coolest monster toys of the con! So, without any further A-BOO…

Scream Factory will unleash all sorts of monstrosities, including Silent Night Deadly Night, Drag Me to Hell, The Darkman Sequels, Misery, and Attack of the Puppet People!  :) Daily Dead

Blumhouse & Todd McFarlane makes a deal with the Devil to summon Spawn! DeadlineSan Diego becomes ScareDiego! Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema keep it creepy with IT, the very first footage of The Nun, Annabelle: Creation, Q&As and scene descriptions! Here are the Q&As/scene descriptions! 🙂 Dread Central

The new The Walking Dead trailer gets bloody. 🙂 The Verge

Darkness falls across the land in the new Stranger Things trailer. 🙂 Variety

Robot Chicken takes a bite out of The Walking Dead. 🙂 UPROXX

Harley Quinn takes over Batman Day this year! 🙂 Polygon

Michelle Pfeiffer is The Wasp, Captain Marvel loves the ’90s, Skrulls attack, Infinity War, Black Panther, and new footage… Check out everything Marvel unveiled! BBC

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

(Here, in a nutshell, is my POV on SS. For more in-depth anal-ysis, though, let’s see what BatStan Prince Adam has to say… 😉 Thanks for the enlightening review, Super Fiend!! 🙂 xoxo)

From director David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch) comes Suicide Squad, starring Oscar nominee Will Smith (Ali, The Pursuit of Happiness), Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus), Joel Kinnaman (Netflix’s House of Cards) and Oscar nominee Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt). It feels good to be bad… Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity. (Warner Brothers)

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WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND. PROCEED AT THINE OWN RISK, MATEYS!! 😉

suicide3211Suicide Squad is the third entry in the DC Extended Universe. Where Man of Steel was an alien invasion/first contact movie, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice had the trappings of an epic confrontation, a clash of the Gods. It was the Battle of Troy, but with capes and superpowers. Suicide Squad was more of a traditional comic book film. In fact, while watching, it felt like an issue of the Suicide Squad comic book unspooling before my eyes. In the comics, the formation of Task Force X usually comes about because the government needs them for missions where they don’t want to get their hands dirty or it’s a mission the superheroes are too squeaky clean for. Amanda Waller even mentions this to a degree, but the main reason for assembling this team of the Worst…Heroes…Ever in the film universe, is a reaction to Superman’s death and the fear that more meta humans with an evil agenda are on the way. Thus, the government needs their own meta humans to combat these threats. That makes sense and absolutely works in the context of this story and universe. (“Does it, though? Some of them, i.e. Harley, Captain Boomerang, and even Deadshot would not realistically be a lot of help with the likes of a new Superman-level adversary…Just something to ponder.” -D.P.) The villain our eventual Suicide Squad has to battle is one of Amanda Waller’s potential recruits, June Moone. June is an archaeologist who was possessed by the spirit of the witch-goddess known as the Enchantress after touching a possessed idol. Waller is able to keep the witch in check, by keeping its heart. Enchantress uses an opportunity to steal her heart back and resurrect her bother Incubus to help her destroy the people that imprisoned her, starting with Midway City. Along the way, she kidnaps Waller and turns a group of humans into mindless monstrous zombie like creatures to do her bidding. I will say this, the Enchantress, actress Cara Delevingne, and the villain plot is the weakest part of this film. The story hinted at June Moone’s struggle to keep the witch under control and at bay, as well as her fear of what was inside her, but I think it could’ve been given more time. It would’ve helped both characters. Her actual villain plot was rather generic but let’s be honest, superheroes have been fighting generic mindless drone like villains for some time. It happened in The Avengers with the Chitauri, and Avengers Age of Ultron, with Ultron’s robot horde. So if it’s ok for those to films, I can’t give Suicide Squad a hard time for that. Also, the final battle with Enchantress had a bit of a Ghostbusters (original) flavor to it, so I didn’t mind. Let’s be honest, If you’ve read the Suicide Squad comic book you’ll know it’s not about who the Suicide Squad is after, but the team’s interaction and dynamic. I think this is true of the film as well.

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Let’s get into the team as well as the dynamic. This is the part of the film I loved the most. The introduction to the main Squad members consisted of 20 minute flashback/vignette style sequences that were quick, to the point, and told you exactly what you needed to know. With Deadshot you get that he is an expert marksman, and assassin, but has a certain code of ethics due to his intense love of his daughter. The scenes with the two of them both at the begging and end of the film were full of emotion and gave this film a ton of heart. The scene where his daughter pleads with Floyd to surrender without resisting Batman and urging him to do the right thing, borderline made me cry. The scene near the end where he’s helping her with her math homework, and relating it to shooting someone had me laughing. Even though Will Smith instantly makes Floyd likable, you still consider him one of the villains because of his contempt for authority and hatred for Batman. Another character that added emotion and heart to this film was Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. I expected nothing from this character and he turned out to be a standout. His story was so tragic. The fact that, in a fit of rage he started a fire with his powers, killing his family broke my heart. It gave us a context for why he was so hesitant and reserved about letting loose with his powers. Of the Squad members, he was the most heroically inclined. Part of me wanted to know how he got his powers, but seeing as they don’t explain it in the comic books, I wasn’t bothered that the film didn’t address it much. I was actually bummed out to see him die, but the self sacrificing way he did, I feel helped him atone for his sins, which is exactly what he wanted. Both he and Deadshot had wholly complete character arcs in the film and both were satisfying. Jai Courtney isn’t a leading man, despite Hollywood trying to force him on us as one. As Captain Boomerang though, he plays a supporting character and he’s really good. Using Captain Boomerang as comedic relief was a smart move. He definitely got plenty of laughs from me. I don’t think Captain Boomerang works if played overly serious be it in live action or comic books. His flashback scene gave us another scene with Ezra Miller as the full fledged Flash. Ezra’s one line of banter, coupled with the comic con Justice League footage, has me super excited for The Flash. (“Same here!!” :))

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I found Killer Croc and Katana to be solid representations of their comic book counterparts. Killer Croc starts the film considering himself to be ugly and an animal. He’s kept in an underground sewer like containment area and fed. In his flashback, Amanda Waller tells us of his skin condition, and how after being ostracised by humanity, he went on a feeding frenzy of those humans. He absconded underground, only to be apprehended by Batman. I would have loved it if the film showed us quick cut clips of his skin condition evolving, plus his confrontation with Batman. However, Croc does have a character arc that evolves throughout the film, which I enjoyed. The more time he spends with this group of misfits, he comes to the realization that “he’s beautiful”, despite not fitting into society’s standards. We see the character go berserk and feed on his guard’s, which was cool and he also has a great underwater sequences, even playing a role in the climax of the film, helping to defeat Enchantress. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje looked fantastic in the prosthetics, which lended to the believability of the character’s skin condition. Even the actor’s movement mimicked that of a crocodile. The decision to use a Louisiana accent was a good choice by the actor as it really fits the character.

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Karen Fukuhara was a bad ass modern day Ninja assassin that served as Rick Flagg’s enforcement in the field, on missions. The way the actress (and likely her stuntwoman) wielded the sword had me 100% buying in to Katana’s skills. I loved that the character spoke entirely Japanese, and that the whole back story of her sword being a soul taker, with the soul of her husband, as well as her victims being trapped inside. Seeing Katana talk to her sword had me geeking out. The fact they went there and fully embraced the mysticism of it all was fascinating. I mean I love Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, but after a while, such strict adherence to realism can hinder a superhero film and the genre. Slipknot is nothing more than cannon fodder to prove that Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg are serious about detonating the bombs in the Suicide Squad’s neck if they go off script, or get out of line. Scott Eastwood’s character is also a meaningless “blink and you’ll miss him” role.

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Since I brought them up, let’s look at Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg shall we. There have been 3 other actresses to play Amanda Waller before this film, yet none compare to the masterful work done by Viola Davis. She’s an all-knowing, demanding, pushy and ruthless b**ch, just as it should be, like the character from the comic books. One could even call her the true villain of the film given the fact that she was using and manipulating the Enchantress, putting her in a situation where she could get loose and wreak havock. At the end of the day, Amanda Waller’s actions were the catalyst for the entire third act. She also kills more actual people in this film then any member of the Suicide Squad does. Joel Kinnaman is Col. Rick Flagg, Amanda Waller’s straight laced leader of Task Force X. The actor plays Flagg as the dutiful soldier. He’s essentially a more rough around the edges Steve Rogers, minus the super soldier drug enhancements. While I didn’t think that Cara Delevingne pulled her weight in making me believe that June Moone loved Rick Flagg, I did feel the love from the perspective of Joel Kinnaman’s work. Also, it was great to see Flagg stand up to and show assertiveness towards the likes of Deadshot, Killer Croc and Harley Quinn. Never once did he come off as weak, or inferior to these heavy hitters.

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Speaking of heavy hitters, let’s talk about the two most well known characters in this film, The Joker & Harley Quinn. I really liked what I saw from Jared Leto as The Joker. His Clown Prince of Crime is more of a mob boss. If Jack Nicholson’s Joker is like Don Corleone, then Jared Leto’s is very much like Scarface. It’s David Bowie meets Scarface, with the flamboyant showmanship of the Animated Series Joker thrown in. He’s unhinged, wild and unpredictable. Grant Morrison’s Joker must have had an influence on Leto, as I see plenty of Arkham Asylum, and Batman RIP Joker coming to life here. Plenty of that version of the Joker’s mind games and sexualized nature is brought to the forefront in the brief moments he shares with Dr. Harleen Quinzel, pre Harley Quinn transformation. Unfortunately, 20 minutes of Joker footage was cut from the film, and I suspect a good portion of that time involves his seduction of Dr. Quinzel. The small bits of that portion of their encounter were completely captivating and quite creepy. I like where Jared Leto is going with his performance, but I need to see more of him as the proper villain of a Batman film to really see what he’s capable of.
Speaking of Dr. Harleen Quinzel, her alter ego Harley Quinn, and actress Margot Robbie; she was hands down the best aspect of this film. Margot Robbie is to Harley Quinn what Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine and what Christopher Reeve is to Superman. That is to say, the definitive portrayal, the gold standard. Harley Quinn is a complex character with many facets to her personality. She can be the sex kitten, the seductress, the innocent or the aggressor. She can sometimes be an antagonist or the victim, even pretending to be a ditz on occasion. Margot Robbie wonderfully plays with every one of these character traits in her performance. I especially loved Margot’s decision to alter her voice depending on certain situations, and who the character was interacting with. When she went full Harley Quinn mode with the voice (and it was more often than not), it was the animated series brought to life, and I got chills. The film and actress highlight Harley Quinn’s strength and assertiveness when she is separate from the Joker, but also highlight’s Mr. J’s hold and pull over her. While Margot and Jared had intense chemistry, Ms. Robbie had a great rapport with Will Smith. There was a friendship and respect from both characters, but there was even a small hint at some romantic underpinnings a la the comics and the animated movie Assault on Arkham. This could definitely be explored in further DCEU films, if so chosen. I was impressed with Margot Robbie doing most of her own stunts. I love the aggressive gymnast choreography they used for Harley Quinn’s fighting style.

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I want to go over some of my favourite scenes. Sticking with The Joker and Harley, the seduction of Dr. Quinzel and her transformation into Harley Quinn, was a combination of the animated series, while falling into the vat of chemicals was taken right from her most recent comic books. In her flashback sequence, David Ayer included a dance sequence where Harley Quinn is wearing her classic jester outfit and Joker was in a suit. This is of course a recreation of classic Alex Ross artwork and seeing it made me as happy as Ms. Prince at a Weezer concert. (“LOL Awww.” xoxo :))

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Another sequence directly pulled from the source material is the one where Boomerang convinces Slipknot to make a run for it, which leads to his bomb being exploded. There were slight alterations to the scene, but for the most part, the main points were transplanted to screen. The scene where Joker goes on a shooting spree against the Suicide Squad on an adjacent building in an effort to retrieve Harley Quinn, reminded me of a similar moment in Batman: Assault on Arkham. I already mentioned The Flash cameo, now it’s on to The Batman. He swoops in to arrest Deadshot, there’s a bit of a scuffle but to prevent a scene in front of Floyd’s daughter, Batman cuffs him, leaving him for the police. This shows character growth for Batman post BvS. The BvS Batman would’ve definitely broke some bones or beat him into submission. The car chase scene with Batman on top of the Joker’s car ends with the car crashing into the water. Joker escapes, while Batman rescues Harley, he performs mouth to mouth resuscitation on her. Harley takes that opportunity to plant a kiss on Batman. This scene had me laughing and also yelling; “Batman…You lucky bastard!” at the screen. There is a mid credit scene that features the first big screen meeting between Bruce Wayne and Amanda Waller. I won’t ruin the exchange for those who haven’t seen it, but long time comic fans and Justice League animated series fans will leave smiling.

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I went into Suicide Squad not knowing what to expect. I came out of the theater having enjoyed myself, having had a ton of fun. It put the live action spotlight on a character who absolutely deserved it, in Harley Quinn, as well as exposing new characters who I’d never thought would get to see the cinematic light of day. The film highlights one of DC Comics’ greatest strengths: the villains. As a bonus, we have a new Joker to match wits and trade fists with our new Batman down the road. I just hope that when the Blu-Ray is released, it features a 20 minute extended cut with all the Joker stuff edited back in. For now though, head to the theater, and watch Suicide Squad. It’s different, fast paced and fantastic villainous fun.

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