Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn has now been part of the Batman universe for 25 years. Originating on ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ as little more than a walk-on part designed to complement another mad scheme from the Joker, Harley Quinn managed to find a fanbase and become a more prominent character within the world of the Dark Knight. The 1994 graphic novel ‘Mad Love’ explored her origins and won a raft of awards and Quinn soon found herself transposed to the main comicbook continuity of Batman. Transcending her origins as a mere love interest for The Joker, Quinn has become an anti-hero, feminist icon and important part of the Batman mythos. She was just about the best thing in the pretty ropey live-action ‘Suicide Squad’ movie. This DC Original Animated Movie is somewhat a celebration of Quinn as she’s placed front and centre as she helps Batman and Nightwing save the world.
The film begins with Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man stealing a formula originated by Alec Holland (aka Swamp Thing) that will allow them to change humankind into plants and ‘purify the planet’. This unsurprisingly makes Batman a bit concerned. With Poison Ivy gone underground, Batman decides that her old companion Harley Quinn might be able to find her. But, after her most recent stay in Arkham, Quinn has disappeared, apparently going straight. After Nightwing finds her, Quinn decides to help the dynamic duo on their quest, after some varied methods of persuasion. So the stoic Batman will find himself dealing with his worst nightmare, a loudmouth with no respect for convention, who is also quite probably insane.
The film is very much in the style of ‘Batman – The Animated Series’, with the gothic and noir elements out in full force throughout. The film pays overt homage to the show with moments such as an extended sequence sees Quinn and company visit a bar full of numerous henchman who have made appearances in its past, a fun Easter Egg for fans and the scene even ends in a homage to the 1966 ‘Batman’ TV show. However, the more graphic violence and overt sexual references scattered around might mean young fans of ‘Batman: TAS’ should stay watching the original as it does not totally share continuity with the show.
Certainly, the elements of violence and sexuality sometimes cause a tonal problem for the film. The shift from comic moments, such as Nightwing dismissing the more throwaway members of the Justice League to a Quinn fart joke that is childish yet funny to scenes of Quinn lamenting someone’s death seem somewhat contrived. It sometimes feels more fruitful to view the entire film as a satire on the Batman and comicbook mythos with the entire end sequence of the film, in particular, a gleeful deconstruction of the entire ‘deus ex machina’ moments so beloved of the genre in order to paper over the tonal inconsistencies and occasional lapses in taste.
Kevin Conroy continues his quest to be the one of the best ever interpretations of Batman with his trademark mix of gruffness and exasperation while Melissa Rauch, best known to genre fans as Bernadette from later seasons of ‘The Big Bang Theory’, does a fine job of combining Quinn’s bluff and bluster with a sense of the vulnerable.
If you don’t take it too seriously then there is plenty to enjoy here though it perhaps fails to show just how much of an interesting and rounded character Harley Quinn can be when allowed to do a little more than comic relief.
The Blu-ray comes with a rather nice documentary about Harley Quinn featuring contributions from her creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and a feature on Loren Lester the voice of Robin/Nightwing. There are also two episodes of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ though, even though both are Harley centred, the adaptation of ‘Mad Love’ from ‘Batman: The New Animated Series’ is sadly not amongst them. There’s also a preview of the forthcoming Batman animated movie, an adaptation of ‘Gotham By Gaslight’.
(region B/2. pub: Warner/DC Comics. 1 blu-ray disk 74 minute film. Price: £10.28 (UK). ASIN: B01MRVOC1S. This is the European edition and we only get one disk)
voices: Kevin Conroy, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Loren Lester and Kevin Michael Richardson amongst others
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