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Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/29/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/30/2017
Over the years, I've reviewed many DC Comics direct-to-video movies, and in those reviews, I've often reiterated two main points -- 1) I'm a die-hard Marvel Comics guy and always will be, and 2) I admire the DC movies for not being afraid to go dark. These movies aren't afraid to present violence and occasionally kill off characters. One of the prominent features of these movies is that the Batman portrayed in them is clearly unhinged and presented as much more dangerous than those shown in feature films. So, one would expect the Batman in Batman and Harley Quinn to be dark as well, right. Boy, are you in for a surprise.
As Batman and Harley Quinn opens, Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) rob S.T.A.R. Labs, taken a scientist hostage. When Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) investigates the crime scene, he realizes that the pair want to replicate the formula which created Swamp Thing, but for a very sinister purpose. Batman asks Nightwing (voiced by Loren Lester) to locate Harley Quinn (voiced by Melissa Rauch), as she may know how to find Poison Ivy. Following a brawl and a tryst with Nightwing, Harley Quinn offers her services to Batman and agrees to help with the search. This odd trio must now race against time to find Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue before they change the ecological balance of the planet.
Batman and Harley Quinn begins promising enough, with the burglarly at S.T.A.R. Labs and, even better, Batman showing why he's known as "The World's Greatest Detective". However, following this, things begin to take an odd turn. Nightwing follows Harley Quinn and the two get into an extended fight. Then, the scene switches to Harley's apartment, where things get decidedly risque (and I immediately regretted watching this with my daughter). Following this, the movie really goes off of the rails.
If a DC movie wants to have a lighter tone, that's fine, but when Harley Quinn farting in the Batmobile becomes a part of the story, something has gone horribly wrong. The entire middle section of Batman and Harley Quinn totally loses the thread. The extended scene in the roadhouse, which contains not one, but two musical numbers, feels like something which would have been on a Batman-centric episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies from the 70s. Is it weird that Harley Quinn sings a song? Yes. Is it weird that she sings a somewhat obscure song? Definitely. I would not be the least bit surprised if those hoping for something more serious would bail during this part.
If so, they would have missed the sudden shift in tone from the third act. The finale suddenly takes on a serious tone, as Batman, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn battle Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, and we learn just how sinister Woodrue's plan is. This section isn't necessarily violent, but there's definitely a beatdown going on. And, then we get a pointless cameo and the movie suddenly ends.
Can we accuse DC and Warner of simply attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Harley Quinn which was amplified ten-fold bySuicide Squad? Yes. DC has garnered such a notable reputation with their animated projects as they base them on popular comic story arcs and graphic novels, and, as noted above, they take the subject matter seriously. So, what the hell is going on here? This movie came from a team which has worked on many other DC projects, but this doesn't come close to the quality which we've come to expect. Again, going with a lighter tone is fine, but...did I mention the Harley Quinn fart sequence? Did a 12-year old boy write this movie? That certainly seems to be the target audience for this movie. So, if you are an adolescent who fell in love with Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad and was able to ignore how bad that movie was, then Batman and Harley Quinn is for you. If you want to see a serious, dark Batman, there are a lot of other movies out there for you.
Batman and Harley Quinn has a lot of uncomfortable moments, including one where Harley compares Nightwing to a sex toy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 15 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is good and we get some nice layered looks, however, the level of detail does show some limitations to the animation. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver a nice mixture of surround and stereo effects. The effects are nicely detailed and we get some individual sounds at times. The subwoofer effects are a bit subtle for my taste, but they are effective.
The Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "The Harley Effect" (21 minutes) takes a detailed look at the Harley Quinn character, beginning with comments from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini who created the character for Batman: The Animated Series. From there, the piece explores the history of Harley Quinn and even has a psychologist comment on her "real" diagnosis. (Of course, Suicide Squad is slipped in there.) "Loren Lester: In His Own Voice" (12 minutes) has the voice-actor discussing his work over the years as Nightwing. We get two episodes from Batman: The Animated Series which feature Harley Quinn: "Harley and Ivy" and "Harley's Holidays". The rest of the extras are simply commercials for other DC animated movies.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long