Batman and Harley Quinn (Blu-ray) (2017)
Featurette-The Harley Effect
Featurette-Loren Lester: In His Own Voice
Additional Footage-Sneak Peaks
Additional Footage-From the DC Comics Vault
|Year Of Production||2017|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Sam Liu|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Kevin Michael Richardson
Robin Atkin Downes
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Mid and post-credits scenes|
†††† Designed to feel like a natural extension of the iconic Batman: The Animated Series, and part of the DC Animated Universe at large, 2017ís Batman and Harley Quinn should be something of a canít-miss prospect, but instead itís another total letdown that deserves to fade into obscurity. Itís evident that Batman and Harley Quinn was devised to ride on the coattails of the success of Suicide Squad, which served to give the character of Harley Quinn newfound popularity. Alas, the result is too campy and tonally inconsistent, lacking in proper mystery and suspense. It may have its charms, particularly in the visual style, but Batman and Harley Quinn comes up short in terms of action and contains too many ill-advised scenes worthy of scorn.
†††† When Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue/The Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) rob S.T.AR. Labs, they steal information about Swamp Thingís creation and take a scientist hostage to replicate the formula. Investigating the crime scene, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing/Dick Grayson (Loren Lester) fear that the pair plan to devise a biological weapon to transform all life on Earth into plant hybrids. With the fate of humankind at stake, the Dynamic Duo reluctantly seek out Ivyís former partner in crime, Harley Quinn (Melissa Raunch), for assistance. Although Harley has made an effort to go straight and leave behind her former life, she agrees to help find Ivy and Woodrue before the duo can execute their devastating plan.
†††† The teleplay is credited to animation veterans James Krieg and Bruce Timm, the latter of whom was one of the key masterminds behind Batman: The Animated Series and should be capable of a lot better. Itís somewhat surprising and frankly disappointing that Harley Quinn creator Paul Dini was not involved in the production in any capacity, especially given his considerable ties to The Animated Series and his iconic Harley-centric stories. At least the Caped Crusader is given the chance to use his superlative detective skills here, but make no mistake: this is the Harley Quinn show. The plot exists to support Harleyís full-blown zaniness as Batman and Nightwing serve as the straight men to her antics. Thereís an extended fart joke in the Batmobile thatís atrociously undignified for everybody involved and feels utterly juvenile. This type of humour has admittedly been seen in some of the comics, but Harley is more effective when dealt with maturely (see ďMad LoveĒ). Even worse, thereís an awkward sequence in which Harley seduces Nightwing which only brings back uncomfortable memories of that sex scene in 2016ís Batman: The Killing Joke. Meanwhile, there is not one but two out-of-place musical interludes, during which Batman is even seen tapping his fingers. Admittedly, the songs themselves are catchy enough, but all of this material is painfully self-indulgent, slowing down the pace of the story and taking away any sense of urgency.
†††† Visually, Batman and Harley Quinn harkens back to the style of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, bringing back the old-fashioned character designs, though of course it all looks more noticeably digital as opposed to hand-drawn. The animation is impressively stylish and fluid, and it is genuinely exciting to see the likes of Batman, Nightwing and Harley presented in the bygone style of The Animated Series for the first time in a number of years. The original score (credited to three composers with longstanding ties to DC animation) is admittedly effective as well, with a light-hearted central theme that suits the material.
†††† Ultimately, one of the biggest issues of Batman and Harley Quinn is that of tone. Director Sam Liu has overseen a number of darker DC animated movies, including Batman: Year One and Batman: The Killing Joke, but the script aims for screwball comedy, even evoking the 1960s iteration of Batman. It feels like Liu was not on the same page as the screenwriters, and therefore a number of infantile scenes are mixed with dark, violent set-pieces, such as the admittedly thrilling climax. When Batman and Harley Quinn is locked in action mode, it does work more often than not, showing what the movie had the potential to be. The ending, though, is a total letdown - the movie ends abruptly, and the final shot is intended to be cute, but just comes across as out-of-place and corny beyond all belief. Did the writers just lost sight of who these characters are?
†††† The primary attraction of Batman and Harley Quinn is, naturally, the presence of Conroy and Lester, who slip back into their respective roles once again with absolute ease. Even though they can only do so much with the sloppy material, they undeniably commit to the characters. On the other hand, Raunch - whoís best known for her role of Bernadette in the long-running sitcom The Big Bang Theory - is a foolish choice for Harley. Trying her hardest to replicate the distinctive voice of Arleen Sorkin from Batman: The Animated Series, Raunchís performance is distracting - sheís screechy and uncharismatic (you can hear too much Bernadette in her voice, as well), which is a real letdown in a movie which brings back Conroy and Lester.
†††† Batman and Harley Quinn is actually the thirtieth motion picture produced as part of the long-running DC Universe Animated Original Movie franchise which kicked off in 2007. (Itís worth pointing out that the two Adam West-starring animated features are not considered part of this series.) Itís perhaps wise that the movie is more standalone, emerging as separate from the main continuity of the franchise, making it feel more like a one-shot comic. Nevertheless, thereís just no getting around the movieís shortcomings, making it a bitter disappointment considering the talent and potential, enjoyable though it may occasionally be. For those that choose to stick around, thereís an extended scene at the end of the credits involving Harley thatís somewhat amusing.
†††† Batman and Harley Quinn is placed on a dual-layered BD-50, but as per usual Roadshow/Warner Bros. are reluctant to use all of the available disc space - the movie is mastered at a typically low bitrate sitting around the 16 Mbps mark, and almost half the disc's capacity is left unused. However, the resulting AVC-encoded 1080p presentation is better than expected considering the compression, capably handling the stylish animation, though it does have its shortcomings and it never approaches demo-worthy material. Indeed, there are still a few video artefacts that eagle-eyed viewers will pick up, and the animation itself still reflects the production's low-budget origins, but the high definition transfer is still eminently watchable nevertheless.
†††† This Blu-ray retains the movie's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, meaning that the image will fill widescreen televisions and exhibits no black bars. The animation is basic from a fine detail perspective, though the backgrounds are nicely textured, and the encode brings out as much detail as the source permits. Sharpness is also solid, with well-delineated lines for the most part. This is certainly a stable, pristine-looking transfer, and colours look as strong as can be expected - the video doesn't exactly look vibrant and doesn't have much depth, but the noir-ish palette is retained. As previously mentioned, there are still compression artefacts here and there, most notably some minor banding. In some shots there is some aliasing as well, making the animation lines look jagged rather than smooth. But thankfully, I didn't detect any macroblocking or crush. Shortcomings aside, this is a perfectly competent presentation that doesn't disappoint.
†††† Over in the United States, Batman and Harley Quinn also debuted on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, making it the first DC animated title to see such a release. By all accounts, there is not a great deal of difference since the animation itself is so limited in terms of detail, but apparently all compression artefacts are eliminated and there's a bit more refinement, which is an enticing prospect. Nevertheless, a 4K release doesn't exactly seem essential.
†††† A variety of subtitle options are available. The English track is perfectly easy to read and nicely formatted.
†††† To complement the impressive video presentation, Batman and Harley Quinn comes to Blu-ray with a crystal clear, lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that's true to the movie's origins. Indeed, it wasn't mixed in DTS:X or Dolby Atmos, so don't expect anything of that nature. (Even the 4K edition only contains the same 5.1 track.) The professionally-mixed track consistently prioritises dialogue, which is always easy to hear and comprehend, never becoming drowned out by any of the music or sound effects. When the action scenes come along, the audio is certainly aggressive, with subwoofer-accentuated punches, kicks, gunshots and explosions. There's also sufficient rumbling from the sound of the Batmobile's engine. In terms of surround activity, the music comes through the rear channels, as does a certain amount of ambience (which there should probably be a lot more of), but I didn't notice much in the way of panning effects.
†††† I did detect a few brief pops and clicks, but these are probably source-related and aren't a huge deal on the whole. Batman and Harley Quinn sounds very good on Blu-ray. The disc also contains a number of other lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options in other languages, but my primary concern for this review was the lossless English track.
|Surround Channel Use|
†††† The usual selection of extras, with a few featurettes, some sneak peaks as well as some vintage episodes of old shows.
†††† For the first time in I don't know how long, we have a relevant sneak peek for a movie that is still upcoming. This featurette is for the upcoming 2018 animated title Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, which is based on a famous one-shot comic and features Batman in a Victorian-era setting battling Jack the Ripper. This has a lot of promise, and it's even R-rated as opposed to PG-13, so it will be a movie for adults. Plus, Bruce Greenwood is voicing Batman (he previously played the role in Batman: Under the Red Hood). Maybe it'll be more worthwhile than many of the other DC animated titles of late.
†††† The character of Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dini for Batman: The Animated Series, after which she was integrated into the comics and transformed into an integral part of the Batman universe at large. This featurette explores Harley, from her comic-book iterations to other media and her enduring legacy, and there are interviews with the likes of Dini, Bruce Timm and a number of others. (Arleen Sorkin, who created Harley's voice for The Animated Series, is oddly excluded.)
†††† Lester voiced Dick Grayson in The Animated Series, before returning as Nightwing in The New Batman Adventures. This featurette chronicles the start of Lester's career, and being cast in the original show. In addition, Batman and Harley Quinn is briefly touched upon, showing footage from some of the recording sessions.
†††† Apparently Roadshow/Warner Bros. can't stop including this archival featurette on their discs. This movie came out in 2012, but the sudden push is bizarre. Perhaps because it was the last true animated masterpiece? Anyway, if you haven't seen the two-part Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, you really should.
†††† Part II was released in 2013. Again, if you haven't seen it, you should.
†††† Perhaps because of the recent release of Suicide Squad, we have an archival sneak peek at the 2014 movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, which is essentially a Suicide Squad animated movie. The creators here clearly cared a lot more about the source than those behind the big-screen motion picture. This animated flick is actually quite good, and it's worth checking out.
†††† In this archival 1993 episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy team up for the first time. This is a nice inclusion.
†††† Another archival episode from the show's third season, this episode sees Harley being granted parole from Arkham, but getting into plenty of mischief on the outside.
†††† Previews for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Justice League: Dark, Justice League and Wonder Woman.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
† † The local disc appears to be a direct port of the region free American release, with identical language options and special features. It's a draw. However, there is also a U.S. 4K release for those interested.
†††† I can't really recommend Batman and Harley Quinn, which should be a lot better than it is. The humour is awkward, and it lacks the maturity of Batman: The Animated Series. It may be entertaining to a certain extent, but it has zero staying power.
†††† As for the Blu-ray, it's reasonable but not above-average. The typically compressed video presentation actually is very good, and the audio is about as solid as can be expected. However, the special features are a major letdown. This is a rental at best.
|DVD||LG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|