As the Riddler might ask: When is a Batman movie not a Batman movie? Answer: When it stars the Suicide Squad!
The popular team of DC Comics supervillains unleashes its special brand of (in)justice in Batman: Assault on Arkham, the latest DC Universe original movie from Warner Bros Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Government operative Amanda Waller (voiced by CCH Pounder) assembles a dirty half-dozen — master hit man Deadshot (Neal McDonagh), ice queen Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), Australian rogue Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), bloodthirsty King Shark (John DiMaggio), vigilante assassin Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito) and criminally insane Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch) — to break into the world's scariest asylum and retrieve a flash drive stolen by the Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler).
In exchange, the villains will receive reduced sentences. But if they even think of double-crossing Waller? She'll blow their heads off. Literally. They've had bombs surgically implanted in their necks, and Waller is not afraid to push the button.
"Amanda Waller is just ruthless," laughs Jay Oliva, who directed the film with Ethan Spaulding. "Because this isn't based on any particular storyline that the audience knows very well, every twist and turn is new. You don't know who's going to live and die."
The tone is darker and more violent than most previous animated Batman movies, perhaps because it's set within the universe of the popular series of Arkham video games (and even includes nods to popular moves like Batman's "cape stun," as well as some gadgets from the games).
"It was hard work," says supervising producer James Tucker on keeping the games' strict continuity for the film, which takes place after Arkham Origins and before Arkham Asylum. "A lot goes on in the video games, so how do you avoid doing things that could be contradicted later? When we realized this was basically a Suicide Squad movie, it liberated us. It was a great way to introduce them and yet have it grounded with Batman's presence."
Oliva adds a further continuity note: "For those wondering why Deathstroke isn't in here, because clearly you saw him in Origins' downloadable content, it's because this isn't the Suicide Squad's first mission." In fact, Oliva estimates this is the Squad's ninth outing, and "somewhere along the line, Deathstroke has escaped Waller's clutches."
Where is Batman in all this? While the Squad is busy invading Arkham, another plot unfolds: The Joker (voiced with maniacal glee by Troy Baker) has hidden a dirty bomb, and it's up to Batman (Kevin Conroy) to save Gotham City from destruction once again.
After 22 years of voicing the Dark Knight, Conroy doesn't mind handing some of the spotlight over to the Suicide Squad. "I love that this movie went in such a different direction," he says. "There are so many bizarre characters in it. They were fun to share the stage with."
The actor pulled double-duty while recording Assault on Arkham: He also spent the past year and a half doing voice work for the next installment of the game Batman: Arkham Knight, which will be released in 2015. Conroy, a huge fan of the games, says he can't wait to play the newest one. "Wait until you see it!" he teases. "It's huge. It's going to blow people out of their seats."
Batfans would have to be as crazy as Harley Quinn to miss it.
Batman: Assault on Arkham is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and via digital HD download.