Batman and Harley Quinn
Batman and Harley Quinn 2017
When this movie was first announced, I was actually quite excited for it. I would consider Harley Quinn to be my favorite comic book character. I love her aesthetic and her unpredictability, but when the first trailer came out I sensed trouble despite the fact that it was clearly modeled after the designs of the 90’s Batman the Animated Series. And while the animation style and several of the voice actors are from that series the tone and content of the movie is much more adult than the original series ever was. Unfortunately the idea of more adult is just plenty of jokes and references to sex and some blood including a character death. It just felt completely out of place and while a few of the jokes did make me laugh quite a bit, it never really felt right and never came together as a whole.
This time around Poison Ivy has teamed up with a lesser known villain who’s mistaken for Swamp Thing by some of the characters and likely some of the viewers. But instead he’s actually the Floronic Man who seems to basically be a villainous version of Swamp Thing. He’s made of plants and can control plants. Their plan is to create a pathogen that will turn all animal life into plant life. Since the humans are destroying the planet anyway, they might as well do this to stop them before it’s too late. The villainous plan of the movie was the one somewhat high point, it wasn’t a great plan but it made sense with the villains that it was given to. The biggest downside is that it seemingly relegated Poison Ivy to second fiddle to Jason Woodrue’s Floronic Man. She lacked most of the agency behind this plan and generally just blindly followed his lead.
What was really the most baffling about this film is how it should have been a very pro-woman movie. Harley Quinn is a bit of an odd character, most of the time she’s one half of a very unhealthy and dominant relationship with the Joker, but when he’s out of the picture she is much more benevolent and an occasional anti-hero. She’s a strong and intelligent woman who just happens to be completely out of her mind, usually in an early Daffy Duck sort of way. Here, she starts out trying to get back on the straight an narrow hiding out as a waitress in a Hooters-esque cosplay cafe playing herself. But the feminism tends to be lip service as during one moment Quinn complains about her lack of job offers in the psychology field yet she has plenty of offers for nude/sexual pictorials. But literally immediately after complaining about being objectified, she strips down to her bra and underwear which is basically the animators objectifying her for the audience. And that back and forth continues throughout the movie with other moments trying to make her a strong, independent woman, but then they turn around and have her shake her breasts during a sexy karaoke song.
The tone of the rest of the movie was just as hit and miss. The opening credits are done in a highly stylized and simplified cartoon version of Batman and Harley Quinn in a very Looney Tunes or Pink Panther style of slapstick comedy with music reminiscent of the Adam West Batman playing in the background. The humor switches up between making jokes about sex and prostitutes to an extended juvenile fart joke. Not only that, but there’s a break in the humor to have an ultra serious moment showing the death of a random character as the Floronic Man kills the scientist they had captured to work on their pathogen. Harley Quinn has a moment where she’s supposed to be touched by this man’s death, but it was bookended by such complete fluff that the actual impact of the moment was minimal. She does have a few good moments like when she takes Batman and Nightwing on a detour when she spots a guy who stood her up for senior prom and chases him down. It’s a fun moment even though it makes little sense that an untrained civilian could outrun a trained supervillain as well as Batman and Robin even up fire escapes and across rooftops.
Honestly, the worst thing about this movie is that it had the potential to be great. Harley Quinn is a great character when written correctly. The animated series is a great stepping stone and still considered one of the best iterations of the Batman mythos so it made sense to use the same style and even bring back Kevin Conroy to voice Batman yet again. Even having a connection between three of DC’s plant based characters could have been an interesting and different direction to go to for the overarching plot. It was just so disappointing that none of it came together in an interesting way. Harley Quinn as a character felt overly sexed up but also her craziness felt somewhat neutered. Batman as a character also felt rather off with his moments of humor in how he handled Harley in some cases and also how he handled the big club full of villainous henchmen. I had heard that it was one of the worst DC animated features and after seeing it, I find it hard to argue with that assessment. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.