In Batman and Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (a.k.a. The Floronic Man) embark on an ecological quest to save the planet – and, unfortunately, eliminate most of humankind along the way. To save humanity, Batman and Nightwing are forced to enlist Harley Quinn to catch Poison Ivy, Harley's BFF and frequent partner-in-crime. But Batman's patience is put to the test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley during the twists and turns the reluctant companions face during their bumpy road trip. The result is a thrill ride of action, adventure and comedy no Batman fan has seen before.
I tend to avoid reading any reviews or reaction to movies that I'm interested in seeing for a couple of reasons. First, I hate spoilers, but second, I don't want someone's else's opinion to sway my own in any way should I wind up reviewing that title at a later date. However, in the case of Batman and Harley Quinn, it's been impossible to hide from the general consensus out there: most DC fans hate this movie for a number of various reasons – saying it's too sexist, too unlike Batman: The Animated Series (upon which its look is based, not to mention the voices of Batman and Nightwing), or just overall too disrespectful to the DC Universe characters that occupy this story. While I can understand some of these opinions, I don't agree with them. I didn't just like Batman and Harley Quinn, I sort of loved it – it's definitely the most fun I've had watching one of these DC animated releases, even if the plot is kind of thin.
I should probably preface all this by saying that this title is rated PG-13 for a reason. Meaning if you're a parent out there who has allowed his or her pre-teen kids to watch prior PG-13 titles from the DC Universe, you'll want to give this one a look yourself first before allowing the same with your youngsters. There's a lot of sexual innuendo in the movie – some which may no doubt go over kids' heads, but some of it rather blatant. There's even a scene where Harley has Nightwing tied up in bed and has sex with him (which some are calling a "rape" scene, despite the fact that the movie goes out of its way to show that Nightwing is a willing participant). The movie isn't violent enough to garner an "R" (in fact, it has less action than the typical DC title), but don't take the PG-13 rating lightly this time around.
The plot here centers around the plans of Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson), who come up with an idea to save the environment by turning everyone into plant people – kind of like Swamp Thing (John DiMaggio), who plays a small (and somewhat silly) part in the proceedings here. When Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) learn about Ivy and Floronic Man's activities, they decide to split up – with Batman trying to figure out more about what the bad guys are up to, while Nightwing is assigned to track down Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch), as she is a former colleague of Ivy's that may be able to help them out.
The story here, however, is rather inconsequential to the fun that writers Bruce Timm and Jim Krieg (the movie is directed by Sam Liu) have with the characters. A big chunk of the film involves Harley acting sassy, Nightwing being annoyed with her, and Batman playing the "straight man" in the comedy, which in and of itself is hilarious to watch. For as much as this movie wants to mirror Batman: The Animated Series, it also feels very much like the Adam West TV series, although with more modern-day humor.
One of my favorite things about this movie – all the humor aside – is that it actually lets The World's Greatest Detective do some actual detective work, something that's been rare in these DC animated movies and pretty much all but forgotten in the live-action films. For as much fun as the movie has with its characters, it never disrespects or degrades The Dark Knight in any way, so fans fearing that this lighthearted movie will mock the characters they love need not worry (unless you're a big fan of Booster Gold and/or Swamp Thing, but I'll leave those jokes for the discovery of viewers).
Yes, I'll admit that Batman and Harley Quinn isn't for everyone, but for those of us who don't mind Bruce Timm and company having a little fun with these icon superheroes and villains, the movie is a blast to watch.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Batman and Harley Quinn battle their way onto home video with this Limited-Edition Gift Set. The Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD is packed inside a larger cardboard box (with matching artwork) that includes a Harley Quinn action figure from the folks at Gentle Giant, Ltd. The Limited-Edition set is numbered out of a possible 60,000 copies (this reviewer got #892). The keepcase is an Elite eco-friendly one, which houses the 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy. A slightly embossed slipcover slides overtop of the case.
The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, while the DVD is front-loaded with trailers for the live-action Justice League and live-action Wonder Woman. The main menu is the typical Warners' design, with a still image that is just slightly different than the box cover art and menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
In addition to this gift set release, a standard combo pack release is also available, as is a 4K Ultra HD version. There's also a SteelBook version of this release available exclusively at Target and a Best Buy version that includes this Limited-Edition Gift Set along with the Batman and Harley Quinn book, "Last Call!"
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
Batman and Harley Quinn is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio using an AVC MPEG-4 codec. Those familiar with DC/Warner Bros. animated titles should know what to expect here. Colors are bright and well-rendered, banding (a frequent issue with DC animated movies) is kept to a minimum, and there are no problems with aliasing. Black levels are solid throughout, and I didn't note anything in terms of obtrusive noise or compression artifacts.
If there's a trade-off here, it's in the animation style, which is pretty basic – even by DC Animation standards. An obvious attempt was made to make this movie look (or at least pay homage to) the old Batman: The Animated Series TV show, so there's not a whole lot here in terms of the animators trying to "show off", but I still found the image and presentation to be pretty pleasant.
The featured track is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one, and much like the video, fans and/or frequent buyers of these DC Animated titles should know what to expect. There's a lot of LFE use throughout, be it the result of fisticuffs or just other action pieces in general. Surrounds are put to good effect as well, and the dialogue is crisp and clear. The audio even gets a couple of musical numbers (which I won't spoil, but they're back to back in the movie and a lot of fun) to show off its range. The track is never "showy", but still a solid mix, and I detected no obvious glitches or problems with it.
In addition to the lossless English track, Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available in French, German, Italian, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), and Portuguese. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Korean, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (HD 8:30) – The next time we see Batman in animated action it will be in a version of Mike Mignola and Brian Augustyn's graphic novel from 1989, in which a caped crusader from the late 1800's takes on Jack the Ripper. Here's a sneak peak of the movie.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (HD 12:36) – Since Part 1 of this two-part movie was released back in 2012, this is hardly a sneak peek, but here's the promotional video for that title.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (HD 6:52) – Another "sneak peek" featurette that's no longer a preview, as Part 2 was released in early 2013.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: Assault on Arkham (HD 7:29) – Yet one more "sneak peek" of a 2013 release from the DC Animated Universe.
Batman: The Animated Series, "Harley and Ivy" (SD 22:23) – An episode from the first season of the animated TV series, and the 56th episode overall.
Batman: The Animated Series, "Harley's Holiday" (SD 21:15) – Another episode, this one from the second season of the animated TV series (the 16th episode of Season 2 and the 81st episode overall).
Trailers – A collection of four trailers, two of which are also front-loaded onto the Blu-ray and all of which must be watched individually (there is no "Play All" option). They consist of: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (HD 1:56), Justice League Dark (HD 1:50), the live-action Justice League (HD 2:34), and the live-action Wonder Woman (HD 2:34).
I'm not sure if Batman and Harley Quinn is the best animated movie we've seen set in the DC Universe, but it's certainly one of the most fun. No, this one's definitely not for the kiddies, but if you love these characters and don't mind a movie that isn't afraid to poke a little fun at all of them, I think you'll enjoy this one quite a bit. Highly Recommended.