So this week, DC’s latest direct to DVD film, (mostly), hit stores everywhere, in “Batman & Harley Quinn”. I say mostly because, like with The Killing Joke, it got a one night only engagement in selected movie theatres in the USA.
This film was MASSIVELY anticipated by fans since the first trailer announcing it. Like The Killing Joke before it, fans were practically salivating waiting for this stylistic return to the DCAU that focused on everyone’s favourite loopy ex-shrink. And like The Killing Joke before it, it massively disappoints.
The trailers made it look like it would be a fun light-hearted return to the classic Batman TAS world, with Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester both returning as Batman and Nightwing respectively. Harley herself was to be played by the vastly underrated Melissa Rauch, best known as Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory. It really looked like we’d be getting a fun romp, a sort of breather episode for DC Direct movies, after The Judas Contract and before Gotham By Gaslight, both very heavy dark and unsettling mature stories. We thought we were getting some much needed comic relief nostalgia candy.
That is…. NOT what we got.
Instead we got a raunchy juvenile adult comedy you can’t watch with your kids that feels less like a fun nostalgic romp and more like a big fuck you to the evolution of a beloved character and doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be. Bruce Timm even had to quickly release a statement saying the movie is NOT actually set in DCAU continuity despite it clearly being so to appease angry fans after the first day reviews trashed it. See, when I review a flick for IP here, I generally google other reviews to make sure I don’t just rehash exactly what everyone else is saying. I like my reviews to be as much my own unique perspective as possible. And the whole internet is just utterly shitting all over this movie.
First of all, Melissa Rauch is utterly WASTED here. She has the acting and comedy chops to potentially have been the best Harley since Arleen Sorkin, (with apologies to Tara Strong). But much of Harley’s dialogue paints her as an unintelligent horny ditz, completely ignoring not only her characterization in TAS as the sort of ditzy henchman with hidden depths who was actually pretty damn smart, plus her evolution in the comics into a strong self-sufficient woman. Sure she gets little flashes of this at first, being able to hold her own against Nightwing in a fight and clever enough to drug him without him knowing, and you’d be forgiven for thinking this Harley is going to be a badass throughout the movie. But it isn’t long before the movie reduces her to a horny sexual “meat skank”. Yes the movie actually calls her a goddamned MEAT SKANK.
Second they have Harley, a survivor of rape in the comics and partner abuse in all media, practically rape Nightwing, who himself has an uncomfortable comic book history as a rape survivor. Granted here Dick eventually consents to Harley’s out of character advances, while he is duct taped to her bed BDSM style, but the entire scene SCREAMS rape, and is extremely uncomfortable to watch.
Once all this awkward creepy garbage is over and we get back to the main plot, we again get the hope of getting what we were expecting based on the trailers; a whacky fun mismatched buddy cop comedy. The main plot you see, is that Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster of Criminal Minds), has thrown in with Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, a Swamp Thing expy and even more zealotous eco-terrorist than Ivy ever was. He is manipulating her to help him create a virus that will turn every living thing on Earth into a plant/animal hybrid, saving the world from mankind’s destruction of it. The problem is that if the virus is chemically off by even one degree, it could just kill everything on Earth entirely, plant AND animal.
So Batman and Nightwing need Harley, who has both gone straight and completely vanished from public life, to help them find Ivy, being her closest friend. Nightwing tracks Ivy down at a Hooters expy called “Superbabes”, where the waitresses cosplay as various DC heroes and villains, including a Jim Balent Catwoman, a Supergirl, Batgirl and Powergirl with outfits even most cosplayers would dismiss as porn outfits, and of ALL bloody things a sexy Granny Goodness. Harley works here, hiding in plain sight dressed as her New 52 self, and her intro in this movie is so badass that it makes the rest of the movie THAT much more disappointing in comparison. The whole scene and the fight that follows are genuinely funny and exciting, even if the intentionally slutty waitress outfits are cringy at best.
But once the movie gets to the point of our trio finally working together on the road looking for Woodrue and Ivy, it begins to fall apart. It devolves into a 5 minute fart joke, an unnecessarily sexualized musical number at a henchmen bar where Harley LITERALLY shakes her tits for the crowd, (although hardcore TAS fans WILL have fun trying to remember which henchmen served which villains in which episodes), and generally portrays Harley as a stupid overly sexualized ditz. And for some reason we get 60’s Batman text sound effects for on offscreen barfight.
It gets worse. Bruce Timm seems to have written this movie in his sleep. When our heroes finally find the bad guys, they get completely curb-stomped. Yes, this movie actually Flanderizes the goddamn Batman. He is absolutely USELESS against the Floronic man. He gets literally NO offense in. Crazy Prepared Batman who can beat up Superman and has contingency plans for every hero on Earth is treated like Conor McGregor is beating up a quadriplegic 5 year old. Then the brainwashed scientist who helped them make the virus who has had maybe 5 minutes of screentime total and absolutely ZERO character development whatsoever is murdered by Woodrue as he and Ivy escape and we get a severely out of place mood whiplash scene where Harley cradles this dying man we’ve been given NO reason to feel any emotional investment in, in an attempt at quiet tearjerking drama that just feels forced and like you’re suddenly in a completely different movie.
When our heroes finally catch up with the villains, (and several FBI redshirts die in goriffic ways), the movie takes an even bigger nosedive into idiocy, as after another protracted drawn-out fight scene where Batman and Nightwing job like Barry Horowitz to the Floronic Man’s Undertaker, all it takes for Harley to convince Ivy to do a face turn is…
*rubs temples exasperatedly*
… for Harley to magically wipe her make-up off and give Ivy the sad puppy eyes while crying. And then all they do is hug. Because having a woman all but rape a restrained man is peachy keen but BAH GAWD you better not two women kissing!
Then we get what could have been a movie salvaging cameo from THE MUHFUGGIN’ SWAMP THING, who shows up to tsk tsk Woodrue for his hare-brained plan, and you’d be forgiven for hoping that good old Alec is going to be a Deus Ex who curbstomps Woodrue and saves the day. Except after telling Woodrue his plan is misguided and wrong, says it isn’t his place to interfere and he’s gonna just go back to the Parliament of Trees and chill, and if Woodrue’s virus destroys the green well, no biggie I guess.
The film then abruptly ends with Harley suggesting they simply set Woodrue on fire. No seriously that’s how they resolve the plot. Harley literally tells Batman “hey the bad guy is a walking tree, you got a match?” and we fade to the credits. We do get a short mid credits scene showing Woodrue on fire running through the swamp, but that’s literally it. Ivy is completely forgotten, we never see if Batman gets and destroys the virus, (seriously, Woodrue could have still just dropped it into the water as he was set on fire), just… literally nothing else. Granted we get a cheesy post credits scene that proves the virus didn’t spread, because Harley ends up hosting a tv show as a therapist who puts people through the Wipeout Course to earn a year of paid therapy.
So….. this movie is…. a thing that exists. It has a smattering of genuinely funny and/or awesome moments but is otherwise a disjointed, poorly scripted, mostly UNfunny monstrousity that shits all over it’s main characters, and all over any nostaligia its audience has for TAS. It is frequently jarringly uncomfortable to watch for a comedy, the voice actors are wasted on bad dialogue and a zigzagging nonsensical plot that ends with a handwave at best, and the worst thing of all, it’s just….. not any fun.
We were teased with a silly lighthearted buddy cop movie with the Goddamn Batman and Harley Quinn. We got something that makes Suicide Squad look like a tight cohesive Oscar contender. And Harley Quinn deserves so much better than this 90 minute slut joke.
Don’t waste your money. Find it online somewhere.
We now return you to reading Harley’s comics where she’s more than farting and f**king.
Tags: Batman, Batman & Harley Quinn, DC, DVD, Harley Quinn