Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray Review

Smells Like Discipline

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If the emaciated story of Batman and Harley Quinn is anything to go by, Warner’s overworked DC animation department needs to toss something on video regularly whether there’s weight to it or not. By Batman and Harley Quinn’s second act, already desperate to fill 74-minutes – and eight of those come from the opening/closing credits – Harley Quinn takes to the stage for a karaoke routine. She sings the entire song. All of it.

Quinn’s an evocative, even controversial character. Coming from a place of emotional manipulation and abuse, this take oversexualizes her, Quinn’s improbable hourglass figure undressed for the sake of it. Then, of course, she bends over. The virtual camera’s first-person view is of no surprise given the intended titillation.

Quinn has a bout with Poison Ivy, a fight between two women that ends only as a team of male writers (Bruce Timm, James Krieg) could dream up: the two women succumb to their emotions. If there’s any doubt Batman and Harley Quinn is led by the other half in the title, let this be the clue.

Batman and Harley Quinn’s sense of humor brings in some character


Kevin Conroy remains the best of the animated Batman voice actors; he gives this performance a bit of punch. Otherwise, the blasé screenwriting leaves Batman to grovel and stare aimlessly. Batman and Quinn pair up (into a trio with Nightwing) to hunt down Poison Ivy and C-grade rogues gallery resident Floronic Man. It doesn’t take much to find them; Floronic Man speaks his entire world-ending plot for the sake of the audience.

Maybe Batman and Harley Quinn’s problem is the pace. Hyper-progressing storytelling means the karaoke sequence and a sidequest to a gas station bathroom need included simply to reach an adequate runtime. Granted, Batman and Harley Quinn’s sense of humor brings in some character. Nods to the ‘60s series seem ubiquitous now (certainly apt in a post-Adam West world) and a surprising level of toilet humor falls into place too. Pointless or not, those bits flush (heh) Batman and Harley Quinn with a bit of enthusiasm, otherwise missing.

If all of this isn’t enough, then the late appearance of Swamp Thing does this DTV feature in. He’s a fine metaphor for Batman and Harley Quinn. Not only for the swampy conditions either. Swamp Thing rises up, stands there, moves his mouth to say a few things, then plunges underwater again without a bit of animation. It’s one thing to offer rudimentary and passable work under time constraints and budgets; it’s another to plaster an empty cameo on screen without any real point.

Video

Expect to see some banding filing into this transfer. Backgrounds take the hit, although some artifacts impinge on the animation elsewhere too. When a scientist dies in Harley’s arms, a spot on his face shows horizontal lines. Seconds later, Batman’s abdomen does too.

Aliasing creeps in, although much of this looks to be part of the animation, not an artifact of the disc/transfer. Nightwing peeks into a pervy restaurant, and behind the glass, his face stair-steps. It’s too apparent to leave in on accident or be an encoding gaffe. Some minor ringing is easy to blame on the transfer.

Batman and Harley’s generally muted palette fits the Gotham City vibe. Down into the Louisiana swamp, Poison Ivy and Floronic Man imbue the feature with plenty of greens. It’s a nice array for the tone and mood. Plenty of strong blacks and shadows round out the rest.

Audio

Flaccid surround stage usage only comes into a play a handful of times. The front soundstage has a little more direction, tapering dialog as characters walk off-screen or panning the Batmobile/plane as it/they take off.

The DTS-HD mix is awfully meaty though. Low-end work hits with force, whether it’s Harley slamming a weighted purse onto concrete or a few explosions doing their thing. The soundtrack receives assistance too. There’s energy to go around.

Extras

A look back at Harley Quinn’s animated series origins and the evolution of her character highlight the bonuses, a fine retrospective at 21-minutes long. Loren Lester: In His Own Voice does the same for Nightwing and his voice actor, albeit with more brevity. This one is only 11-minutes. Two episodes of the original Batman: The Animated Series come included (SD only), both focused on Quinn. A whole bunch of previews and sneak peeks fill in the rest.

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