Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Batman And Harley Quinn

I am a massive fan of Harley Quinn.
No, not that one.
Very definitely not that one.
I'm talking about the Harley Quinn from the original cartoon.
I should elaborate.
Harleen Quinnzel was an exceptionally talented psychiatrist (Who apparently practised gymnastics). She pushed for a transfer to Arkham Asylum in order to study the Joker. She believed that she could cure him, but instead she was hooked by his charm and wit, falling madly in love.
And since this is the Mark Hamill Joker we're talking about, it's actually believable.
When he next broke out, he kidnapped her and enlisted her as his sidekick/girlfriend.
Eventually he got bored of her and tried to ditch her.
I forget the details, but after she was left for dead Poison Ivy found her and took pity on her. Ivy's knowledge of plants allowed her to grow medicine for her. Some of the side-effects of this included granting Harley immunity to poisons (Including Joker-venom) and bleaching her skin.
The character was popular enough that she was ported to the comic books, then to other media and eventually she was the main character in that trash-heap of a movie.
Since then, seemingly as an apology to the fans, DC made a movie focused primarily on her teaming up with Batman in order to track down Poison Ivy.
So, with that out of the way, let's watch Batman And Poison Ivy and see if we can finally get a good Harley Quinn movie.
So far so good.

First off, I should point out that this is still a recent movie, so I should probably post a spoiler warning.
So when's Spoiler going to be in one of these movies?
The movie begins with a break in at S.T.A.R. Labs, a major tech company within the DC Universe and one you'd think would be more prepared for this sort of thing.
The break in is being performed by a minor supervillain called the Floronic Man, most famous for appearing in a terrible anti-weed PSA comic, where he was also working with Poison Ivy. It's already been reviewed by Linkara here.
Unlike that comic though, here he's a hulking brute of a man who's more than willing to straight-up murder the S.T.A.R. Security forces.
I remember back when showing blood in a cartoon was outright banned. Now? It earns it a 12 rating.
While Floronic Man is killing multiple people Poison Ivy is hacking into their computer systems for information.
Whilst doing her best to ignore the security slamming into the scenery around her.
Floronic Man complains about how long it's taking, worried that Batman will show up, but Ivy manages to find what they were there for. A file about something called the Bio-Restorative Project, penned by someone called Dr. Alec Holland, who's a character that I'm not familiar with.
And when I said that he was a hulking brute, I meant he looks like a leafy Hulk.
On a side note, I really wish movies would put more effort into their 'In Medias Res' openings. The security guards are shooting at the Floronic Man, despite the fact that he's healing the wounds as fast as they're inflicting them. None of them even think to try shooting at Poison Ivy, despite the fact that she's the one hacking them?
Anyhoo, after Ivy's 'Bingo Moment' we have some opening credits and I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the voice actors who worked on this movie.
First off, Kevin Conroy returns to voice the Batman himself. Kevin has voiced Batman throughout multiple tv shows and every animated film. For many people, his Batman voice IS the Batman's voice.
Myself included.
The second voice actor mentioned is Melissa Rauch as Harley Quinn. If you don't know who Melissa is, here's a visual aid.
I will readily admit that I actually really like her outfits.
Yep, that's Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory. Now, I'm only going by what I've read online here so this may be out-of-proportion, but apparently quite a few fans of Harley had problems with this casting choice. They wanted either Arleen Sorkin, her original voice actor from the cartoons, or Tara Strong, who has voiced her in multiple works including the Arkham games and DC Superhero Girls.
Now, while Arleen was the original and Tara is amazing, I genuinely can't think of a better fit for the character than Melissa. It helps that her accent is spot-on, unlike certain other interpretations.
Heck, I reckon we should just replace Margot Robbie with Melissa in the films. Certainly would be a more positive body image for girls to aspire to.
And yes, I have watched Big Bang Theory. I think it's decent and can be quite funny, though it is over-stereotypical. But at least it's trying to understand nerd culture and portray it in a positive light. Which is better than most shows.
Anyway, what were we talking about?
After the credits Batman and Nightwing are investigating the crime scene and it's honestly a relief to see Batman getting along with the police. So many modern portrayals of the character have him acting as the lone wolf stereotype who's wanted by the law for vigilantism, it's easy to forget that for most of his existence he's been publicly endorsed by the Gotham P.D.
Heck, the iconic Bat-Signal is mounted on the roof of their police headquarters.
It's also nice to have a Batman movie which doesn't try to get all deep and philosophical on us, but instead just focuses on Batman and Nightwing chasing down a criminal.
One little touch I like is that Nightwing's very obviously wearing contact lenses. Combined with the larger mask it genuinely looks like something that could conceal his identity. Especially if the mask's made out of that super-black paint that messes with people's eyes.
They're rich, they can afford it.
heck, in this universe batman probably invented it.
Anyway, Nightwing discovers the file that Ivy copied. Turns out that Dr. Hammond is actually the DC character Swamp-Thing.
(Yeah, I was always more of a Marvel fan and Swamp-Thing never made it onto the cartoons, so I didn't recognise the name.)
Batman and Nightwing come up with two objectives and a plan of action for each.
Firstly, Batman is going to try and work out what they're after.
Secondly, nightwing is going to try to find where they're hiding. Since this involves contacting their known associates, Nightwing has only this to say.
"Ah crap."
Apparently Harley got out of Arkham on parole and has gone off the grid, meaning that Nightwing will have to expend energy searching for her before he can expend energy searching for Ivy.
Yeah, this is a flimsy excuse for the team-up, but I've seen worse.
Batman goes to a company called A.R.G.U.S. and speaks to someone named Sergeant Steele, because subtlety is only a word.
"Fury's missing an eye, I'm missing a hand. We're racing to become the most pirate-like."
Batman mentions someone who was kidnapped recently and exposits a lot of information at once about him. His name's Dr. Goldblum and he's an incredibly skilled bio-chemist who's recently been working in bio-warfare.
He was also a highly skilled botanist.
You can see where this is going.
Steele says that the information is classified, but Batman counters by outright blackmailing him with information about his night-life.
Holy hacking skills Batman, you've got big brass ones alright.
And it's now that Steele reveals that Goldblum is the world's expert on what essentially boils down to chemical doomsday weapons.
"Thank you for telling me what I just told you five minutes ago, but using different words."
Meanwhile, Nightwing is trying to track down Harley by literally showing her picture to random people on the street.
This is why Batman is the world's greatest detective and Nightwing's just the sidekick.
Nightwing follows up on what the old man said about seeing her in a cafe, even though his wife insists that he's imagining it.
The cafe turns out to be a place called 'Superbabes' and is, well, let's just have a look at what the waitresses are wearing.
Ok, so this first one's actually better than some of Supergirl's actual outfits.
I get why the 'Batgirl' is wearing a skimpy outfit, but why is there a picture of the Riddler among the heroes on the wall?
Once again, these outfits are all less revealing than the costumes of the characters they're based on.
One touch I do rather like are the Green Lantern inspired lanterns everywhere.
Nightwing presumably ogles the women for a few moments before noticing that they have their very own 'Harley Quinn', who is quickly revealed to be the actual Harley in disguise.
How fortunate that Nightwing was looking inside just as this occurred.
When Harley finishes for the night, Nightwing follows her several blocks until they reach an abandoned apartment building, where Harley stops and calls out to him.
Something that annoys me about a lot of Harley stuff is that people forget that her white skin isn't make up, In the same way as the Joker.
Considering that this movie was written by one of her creators, you'd think they'd remember this fact.
So what, does she put on clown make up every day for work? I wouldn't think such a job would pay enough.
But anyway, Harley and Nightwing talk and he asks for her help, but she turns him down, pointing out that she's not doing anything wrong, though Nightwing counters with her parole-breaking.
So, naturally, they fight.
And it's glorious.
It's almost like they know what we want to see.
Wait, was she supposed to have been wearing a wig earlier? Because she's still wearing the same hairbands. And despite her outfit being the same, she's not wearing the stockings.
Anyway, Nightwing gets the upper hand, but collapses when Harley reveals a poison ring on her finger.
It says a lot about how much Warner Bros understand the Joker that the last two live action attempts didn't include his signature weapon.
Meanwhile, Batman and Steele inspect Goldblum's apartment and Batman almost immediately spots a cliche-I mean clue.
He spots a clue.
Yeah, that's what I meant to say.
The clue is a type of leaf that doesn't match any of the houseplants, since it's actually from the Floronic Man.
He could tell it was important because it was drawn whilst all of the others were painted.
Batman attempts to call Nightwing (Using an actual phone, which makes no sense) but he of course gets no answer.
So what does he do?
He shrugs it off and just says that 'Nightwing can handle himself'.
Whilst normally true, you did send him out to track down one of your most dangerous enemies.
Anyway, back to Nightwing himself, who's just waking up.
I think I've read a fanfiction that started like this.
As he wakes he notices that Harley is talking to herself, (Or the voices in her head, it's not clear which)...
Yeah, I'm gonna talk about that for a second. Back in my Suicide Squad review I took umbrage at their portrayal of Harley's psychosis. Namely, the "That's the voices in my head" joke. It was very clearly someone pretending to be hearing voices and doing a bad job of it.
This, however, is far more accurate. Harley's talking as though there's somebody genuinely replying to what she's saying. She pauses, considers, then replies. Without repeating what the other person says as though she's in a bad soap opera.
Are we sure we're not in a bad fanfiction?
Nightwing calls her a criminal and she again mentions that she's left that behind. We get a genuinely sad scene where Harley reads off some of her rejection letters. Turns out that ex-cons with mental health problems don't get hired as psychiatrists very easily.
Though she did get a lot of offers from the adult film industry, which she straight up rejected.
And then...
This is awkward...
"I don't want people thinking I'm a whore. Now, let me strip off in front of the guy I've tied to my bed."
Before anybody says anything, I'm not against super-people having sex lives. What they do with their bodies is their business.
At least, if they were real people it would be true.
But these are fictional characters. They don't have free will. They are completely at the mercy of their writing staff. And the writing staff here clearly wanted to have Harley Quinn and Nightwing boink each other. Not for any romantic reason. Not due to adrenaline. Not even as a "You're cute and I'm horny" sort of thing.
But purely as titillation.
Pun intended.
I could solve this quite easily, btw.
Just have Nightwing wake up when she's half-naked. Or in a towel, having just gotten out of the shower.
Would it still be titillation? Yes. But it would be a much more sensible approach.
This was rated 12. Because I want my 12-year-old niece watching this.
(Before anybody says anything, I wouldn't want my nephews watching this after they turn twelve either.)
Want to know something creepier?
It's not like he can just up and leave. Heck, he even refuses her advances at first. But she keeps pushing and he eventually relents.
It's strange, but I was actually excited to watch this when it first got announced.
Well, he tries to say no, but she covers his mouth so that he can't.
Meanwhile, the Floronic Man is yelling about how disgusting this is and what an abomination it is.
No, he isn't talking about Harley kissing Nightwing, he's talking about Ivy kissing Goldblum.
And yet, I find this less creepy than the scene before it.
Ivy points out that this is how she keeps him mind-controlled, to which Floronic suggests that they could always just torture him. Ivy doesn't like the cruelty inherent in torture (And yet she had no problem with Floronic literally murdering people earlier, go figure) and they discuss humanity.
Basic gist is that Floronic thinks all humans are worthless and doesn't care about them, whereas Ivy thinks there's a chance for them. Their plan is to convert all animals on the planet into plant-like life, thus making things like climate change and deforestation a more immediate concern. Ivy agreed because she thinks politicians "Will not give a crap unless we force them to."
Wow, I can tell that she's been keeping up with politics.
Dammit, I'm supposed to sympathise with the villains, not agree with them.
Meanwhile, back at Harley's apartment, Batman has decided to actually worry about his adopted son and bursts into the room.
To find them tickling each other?
Is this a normal post-coitus activity?
They go to the car, the whole event very quickly glossed over.
Seriously, it didn't even develop their characters.
Pictured: The expression I have inside my brain.
Everybody gets into the Batmobile and Batman exposits everything he's worked out. Which I've already explained, so we'll skip it.
Although another irksome moment does occur. Nightwing asks why they need Swamp-Thing's DNA when they're both plant people, to which Batman counters by saying that neither of them was ever truly human. Floronic is a Dryad from another dimension and Ivy is a natural mutation.
But Ivy isn't a natural mutation. She was a normal human who was altered into her present form by a lab accident.
It's probably minor, but they could have just said that they probably couldn't recreate that scenario on a grand enough scale for their plans. It just annoys me that they're needlessly changing things for no reason.
Anyway, Harley starts telling them that she knows of a guy who used to Hench for Ivy who would be easy to find, so they get started on that.
After a completely pointless scene where they chase some other random guy because Harley got distracted.
I mean sure, it was entertaining to watch, but ultimately pointless.
Though this scene was amusing.
And holy mackerel is it nostalgic seeing this art style again.
Harley tells them to take the expressway to Bludhaven, which does cheer me up, since it means that in this universe the US government weren't stupid enough to build a dangerous facility ten feet below the surface to house an alien faetus.
Comic books are stupid at times.
Once they reach a service stop Harley tells them to pull over so that she can use the facilities, but Batman ignores her. So she forces them. By farting.
This is a mature story. Hence why it has jokes that appeal to 5-year-olds.
I'm aware that the whole point of this movie is to showcase Harley Quinn, but they could at least put in some effort. 90% of her screentime has been dedicated to crass humour, pointless diversions and titillation.
They eventually reach a bar by the side of the road, which is apparently a popular hangout place for Gotham Hench-people.
Who are, of course, absolutely thrilled to see Batman.
Well, he did interrupt whatever it is they're all doing here. I think it's supposed to be dancing.
All of the Hench-people are characters from the cartoon, but it's been literally more than a decade since I last saw Batman: The Animated Series so I'm unable to identify any of them.
Harley tells the dynamic duo to have some fun while she takes down 'Shrubby', Ivy's Henchman.
Though what made this guy decide to Hench for Ivy I've got no clue.
Meanwhile... This is happening.
Harley chats to Shrubby, but it turns out he wants something in exchange for his services. And it's something that she's reluctant to do, since it degrading herself in ways that she swore to never sink to.... He wants her to sing. It's played up like he wants her to do something seriously depraved but no, he just wants her to sing.
Oh, I am going to get so much mileage out of this screenshot.
Despite her initial reluctance, Harley seems to really get into the song. And she's actually a really good singer. I'm not sure if it's Melissa Rauch singing or not, but if it is then kudos to her.
Although her dancing isn't as classy.
And Nightwing's just as bad.
While the song's going on, one of the various Hench-people decides to mock Batman, only to get a fist in his face. His friend gets up to intervene, but is stopped by another Hench-person.
After her song Harley chats with Shrubby again and receives the information.
But as they go to leave they discover that the exit is blocked by just about every Hencher who ever Henched.
The fight goes about as well for them as you'd expect.
And if we needed any more evidence that this was intended as a comedy, we aren't shown the actual fight, just 60's-esque Onomatopoeia involving amusing injuries.
Why do I feel as though this movie was made partly for this joke?
After a quick joke about how little respect Booster Gold gets we switch scenes back to the villains. Dr. Goldblum is injecting a rat with their formula which works exactly as planned.
At first.
After a few seconds it explodes into a little puddle of green goop.
Their attempts to crossbreed Rattata and Leafeon were adorable though.
Floronic demands answers as to why their rats keep exploding and Goldblum drones on with some technobabble. End result? They need to go to the exact location that Swamp-Thing was created.
Then Batman smashes in through the ceiling.
And yes, the camera did need to focus on Harley's arse.
Harley tries to talk to Ivy, but Batman interrupts and attacks them. Nightwing battles Harley whilst Batman struggles to find some way to attack that actually hurts Floronic.
Batman tries some electrified Batarangs, but Floronic deflects them and they hit some chemicals. Naturally, the chemicals ignite. 
Floronic grabs their laptop and other things, but gets distracted when Goldblum's hypnosis wears off.
So Floronic stabs him.
Oh no, I was so attached to his character.
Seriously, if he wasn't named Goldblum I would have completely forgotten what his name was.
Floronic and Ivy leave the lab just before it explodes. But since this is a movie, nobody dies from the explosion. At all. I wouldn't be surprised if the rats escaped unharmed.
That doesn't count.
Batman administers a painkiller and Harley comforts him as he dies.
It's a real tender moment.
Shame I'm going to have to ruin it by pointing out something stupid from the very next scene.
Can you spot the stupid thing?
Batman has informed the police about them and they've closed off all of the roads leading out of the State. Seems like a smart thing to do right?
Well, as you can clearly see from the screenshot, Floronic is standing in a forest next to the road. Why can't they just walk around the roadblock?
But instead, Floronic has a much quicker method of travelling. He's apparently been carrying around a yam from Swamp-Thing. He and Ivy eat some of it, which I think technically counts as cannibalism, since they're both plant-people.
Well, this is just plain weird.
Not as weird as this though.
The yam apparently connects them to 'The Great Green', which is apparently some kind of plant life-force that runs throughout the entire planet. It's from the Swamp-Thing comics and since I've never read those I have no idea what it's about. Apparently it allows them to teleport around the world via plant life though.
Why do I feel like the writers were high on yams when they wrote this?
A little later Batman, Nightwing and Harley are recuperating outside the destroyed lab. Batman calls in his Bat-jet and tells Nightwing to get in. Then thanks Harley for her assistance.
While he makes a good point about her loose-cannon nature, she counters by crying.
She cries until the frigging Batman gives in.
By all accounts, this shouldn't work. But it does. Because reasons.
Pictured: My expression, right now.
Wait, didn't I already use this joke?
When they get to the swamp Harley complains about the bugs, to which Batman pulls out a spray-can and starts spraying them. he reveals that, contrary to expectations, it isn't bug spray but concentrated sulphuric acid. A dehydrating agent.
So yeah, he doesn't carry around everything he could possibly ever need.
Does have some vitamin B though.
Well, he does have three sons after all.
There is something that baffles me though. For some reason they decided to bring along a team of special forces. Considering how the typical DC movie treats cannon fodder, they do about as well as can be expected.
Well if they didn't bring the Redshirts, how would we know that Ivy was dangerous?
When they get closer to where Ivy is working on the formula, Harley betrays the duo and shoves them into one of her traps. Which of course doesn't instantly eat them but instead lifts them into the air.
Why even bother showing that the plants can kill instantly if they aren't going to do more than inconvenience the main characters?
Sure, I don't want them to die, but it would be nice if the villains were consistent. Generic redshirts who pose no threat to your grand scheme? Kill them straight away. Superheroes who've thwarted you time and again? Eh, I'm sure a few vines can hold them.
Or not.
Before the above happens, Harley pleads with Ivy to give up her plan to alter humanity. Turns out her betrayal was just a ruse to lure Ivy and Floronic out of hiding, which was actually very clever.
Ivy doesn't go for it though, telling Harley that she can make the men of the world change.
(She seems to have forgotten that there are plenty of female climate-change deniers too).
This was a bad choice of words though, since Harley knows all about trying to change men, so she throws a small explosive into the mouth of the plant-creature, freeing the duo in the above screenshot.
So.... Fighty time then?
And this fight is amazing.
It's quick-paced, fluid, visually impressive. It's everything a fight scene should be.
And it goes poorly for the heroes.
"it's just like the lollipop incident all over again."
Floronic beats the stuffing out of the duo, shrugging off everything they can throw at him. This includes a massive electroshock Batarang and a focused sonic emitter.
It's ok for Batman to use a gun as long as it's a non-lethal type.
There's a great scene where Harley has Ivy pinned to the ground and she's trying to talk her out of her plan again. To quote the characters;
"They're killing our world, what am I supposed to do?"
"I don't know, vote Democrat."
And people say Marvel's getting too political.
Oh, and fight scene cliches. Also fight scene cliches.
Ivy uses a vine to restrain Harley and she picks up the virus. She and Harley have a sombre moment wherein Harley realises that the virus is untested, meaning that Ivy's willing to risk the destruction of all life on Earth. Ivy justifies herself by saying that the world is dying, though she really should know better.
The reason we're so worried about the climate is because of how dangerous climate change is. To us. Humans.
If the average Ocean temperature of the Earth increases too much, the weather will go haywire (As you may have noticed if you've turned on the news recently. Heck, Hurricane Ohpelia is outside my window right now.) This will make life difficult for humans, along with lots of other plant and animal species.
But not all.
The Earth is currently in the middle of an Ice Age. The Polar ice caps are melting. While this is natural, human activities across the globe are accelerating this process.
But even if we screw it up so badly that humanity dies off, along with hundreds of other species, life itself will still go on. There have been multiple mass extinction events in the past.
We'd just very much like to master Interstellar travel before the next one.
So creating a virus which might wipe out all life? That's far worse than what humanity could possibly do to the planet, even with all of our Nuclear weapons.
Well, unless we go full Horizon: Zero Dawn on ourselves, but hopefully we're not quite that stupid.
Actually, we are that stupid. But we might get lucky.
Ivy's heart is set and nothing that Harley can say will change it.
So Harley doesn't say anything.
She just gives the old puppy dog eyes.
But instead of melting my heart, it just makes me angry.
Seriously? What is wrong with people these days? An exiled Dryad from another dimension is perfectly fine but a girl with bleached clown skin is too far-fetched?
This movie is literally about turning humanity into plants!
Enough with the stupid, we've only got ten minutes left.
Ivy gives up and decides to halt her evil plans because of how in lesbians she is with Harley, but they get interrupted by Floronic throwing the duo around like ragdolls.
My counter-argument to any Batman fanboys who refuse to believe that he could ever lose a fight.
Floronic shows up and gets angry at Ivy, attacking her with a massive vine. Ivy stands her ground and forces it back, overpowering Floronic's control.
Thus proving that when it comes to plant mastery, she is the most powerful.
However, Floronic has another trick up his sleeve.
"Hulk smash!"
With Ivy out cold, Harley tries to stand up to him, but he barely even has to move his arm to knock her to the ground. He strides over to the virus and picks it up, declaring victory.
Only for a very sudden guest appearance to stop him in his tracks.
This guy.
Swamp-Thing shows up and basically scolds Floronic. He says that Floronic's cause is just, but his actions will upset the balance.
Swamp-Thing then says that if Floronic really wants to do it, he's not going to do anything to stop him, since "What will be, will be."
Then he beggars off.
He just shows up, says "Dude not cool. But if you really wanna, then go ahead." And then skedaddles.
I think this is the saddest Batman's ever looked without bringing up dead parents.
Floronic starts laughing maniacally, filled with glee that nothing can stop his ambitions.
So Harley suggests setting him on fire.
Roll credits.
Wait, what?
Sure, there's a mid-credit scene of Floronic running around with his leaves on fire, but really? This is the ending?
Be careful not to slip on that puddle dude.
This movie sucked.
I hate to say it. I really do. But it does.
Let's start with what it got right.
The action was fun. The fights scenes, as I've mentioned, were fluid and exciting. The voice acting was top notch, Melissa Rauch may be my top pick for voicing Harley, maybe even edging out Tara Strong (Just). Seeing Batman and Nightwing teaming up to track down a pair of supervillains with a mad plan was certainly refreshing after the live-action DC movies.

But it has so many problems. Forgetting the continuity issues (It's clearly based on Batman: The Animated Series. It uses Henchpeople from that show and reuses its' designs for the main characters. But then it ignores important details about both Harley and Ivy), it has many others. many scenes were ultimately pointless. The humour was hit-and-miss, much of it being crass jokes about bodily functions.
And I think I've ranted enough about the problems inherent in the sex scene.
Ultimately, I wish this movie was better, Harley deserves it.

Next time? Well, I'm not entirely sure. I haven't watched the new Power Rangers movie yet. That could be worth a look.

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