I guess with Justice League out now, having Batman and other DC heroes joining together to save the world, it’d be perfect to review a blunder of a teamup movie, Batman and Harley Quinn, in which Batman and Nightwing join forces with Harley Quinn to stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from taking over the world. [M. Bison impression] Of course!
When I first heard about this movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than what the title suggested, which was Batman and Harley Quinn teaming up. Then when the trailers and other details revealed what the movie was gonna be like, I got interested. This not only had Bruce Timm producing, co-writing, and even doing the animation, but it also had Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester reprising their DCAU roles of Batman and Nightwing, which apparently this movie might take place in the DCAU, at least according to Timm. For the role of Harley Quinn, it wasn’t quite revealed yet who was voicing her, and once it was revealed that Melissa Rauch (Bernadette, the squeaky voiced girl from The Big Bang Theory), and I heard her voice in the trailers and clips shown, I was cautious, and after watching the movie…well, nothing against the actress, I’m sure she’s nice, and while I don’t watch much TBBT, she seems okay, but in this movie, good fuckity GOD she’s terrible, but more on that later. With all this talent involved and given how this movie was handled, it feels more like a lost episode of Batman: TAS that got left on the cutting room floor, and somehow got turned into a feature-length movie instead of maybe a 5 minute short.
There have been A LOT of animated Batman movies over the years with varying levels of quality. And I guess after the polarizing release of Batman: The Killing Joke, the people who made this movie wanted a more light-hearted comedic romp rather than something dark and gritty like we’re used to, which is fine. I got no problem with lighter takes on characters that are normally considered to be “dark”, if done right, and there have been plenty of those kinds of adaptations with Batman. The 60s Batman show and their animated spinoffs (also RIP Adam West), Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Lego Batman Movie (also came out same year as this movie, which is a little sad), and heck, even the Joel Schumacher movies, despite how terrible they are, can be fun and hilarious in that “so bad their good” way. There’s also Gotham too, with all its wild and crazy shenanigans that can be fun, hilarious, and awesome, depending on how it’s done and if you’re in the mood for it. This movie is more of a buddy-comedy road trip type of story, something like Midnight Run. Only difference between em is (aside from being that movie was live-action and this is animated), that movie was actually funny, while this movie isn’t. Sure, I got a few laughs out of it, and while the humor in this movie doesn’t sink down to Schumacher-levels, it still kinda skirts above them just slightly. I mean, this movie has a scene of Harley Quinn farting in the Batmobile after eating spicy food and both Batman and Nightwing suffer from it (a nice metaphor for the audience suffering from how unbearable it is as well), and it just feels like it goes on forever, so what else can be expected from it?
Like I said, Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester reprise their DCAU roles and they’re just as awesome here as they were back then as always. Honestly, with each and every time they portray these characters together, they’ve just gotten better with age. The banter and comradery between them, not to mention the action scenes, it’s like watching a new episode of Batman: The Animated Series. And the animation is top-notch of course, since it’s Bruce Timm doing it. Sure, it can be a bit stilted and choppy at times, but with all the curves and movement and everything else that’s come to be expected from the guy, he clearly hasn’t lost his touch.
However, with the usage of Harley Quinn (a character he co-created, btw), he might just be slipping. Now, again, nothing against Melissa Rauch, but if this were to be a reunion of some sort for the Batman: TAS cast, why couldn’t they get Arleen Sorkin (original voice of Harley Quinn), Tara Strong (took over after Sorkin retired from the role), Hynden Welch (voiced Harley Quinn in The Batman and Assault on Arkham, or heck, even Margot Robbie (played her in Suicide Squad)? Then again, I don’t know how much higher they could’ve elevated this material than Melissa Rauch, because she is just fucking terrible in this as Harley Quinn. I could understand if she did this to differentiate from her role on TBBT, but it’s like she’s trying too hard on that front. Every word that comes out of her mouth and the inflection in her voice all give the impression that she’s trying WAY too hard to sound like she’s a tough girl who can take on the world. It also doesn’t help that Harley Quinn is annoying as HELL in this movie and the perv shots to try to, idk, emphasize her sex appeal don’t really help much either. She’s more of a nuisance than a dangerous criminal that’s reluctantly helping the heroes. Also, she has sex with Nightwing for no reason other than to get her rocks off, I guess. It’s ironic that I find this movie worse than The Killing Joke, yet this has the less controversial sex scene. Weird. With all the shenanigans she gets herself and the heroes into and how annoying she can be, I’m surprised she isn’t shipped back to Blackgate, Belle Reve, Arkham, or worse yet, THE JOKER (ok that one might be a bit too harsh of a punishment).
The plot isn’t really much to speak of, either. Batman and Nightwing recruit Harley Quinn to stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from turning the Earth into a plant world. They get into some shenanigans and that’s it. I understand this movie having more of an action road-comedy feel, but usually movies like those have a faster pace to keep the plot and action going. This movie literally takes a stop at a bar to do a couple music numbers that really don’t do anything in service for the overall story other than to just pad out the running time. And this movie is SEVENTY-FOUR MINUTES LONG. Oh and just when things do start to pick up near the climax, there is a literal deux ex machina in the form of Swamp Thing, who just pops up out of nowhere, and then the movie just ends. Oh wait, there’s more, with a post-credits scene of Harley Quinn having her own talk show and helping people, which literally does NOTHING for the overall movie. How the HECK did this movie get made and with Bruce Timm’s help?
While the animation is cool and the return of Conroy and Lester to their roles is great, the movie doesn’t really have much going for it. The plot is almost non-existent and Harley Quinn is so annoying, I’d rather commit myself to Arkham Asylum than to put up with this movie’s rendition of her.
And I think I understand another part of this movie’s problem: it’s systemic of the oversaturation of both Batman and Harley Quinn. Don’t get me wrong, I love these characters, but I think it’s about time, and if this movie is anything to go by, that DC needs to dial it down just a tad with the overexposure of Batman and Harley Quinn. They are EVERYWHERE. Batman gets the most exposure in regards to comics, animation, live-action stuff, and whatever else is out there, while Harley Quinn is being utilized as DC’s answer to Deadpool, despite that there are other characters who were like that long before she became that way, like Lobo and a few others. Because Batman is such a dark, brooding character, DC has felt the strange need to make any character that isn’t Batman into something similar to Batman, no matter how out of place it was for them. While it did work for some characters, for others it just didn’t. After Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, DC felt that they had to make all their subsequent superhero movies dark and gritty (with a few exceptions), no matter how nonsensical it got until they realized their mistake and started a course correction with Wonder Woman and Justice League movies that came out this year. The Rebirth line also provided a more optimistic approach to their storytelling in their comics, despite a few bumps, yet more successful than The New 52 was. And while I understand similar intentions with this movie, I think they just went a bit too far out there in trying to make things “light and fun”.
Hopefully whatever comes next will be an improvement.