Hello, my friends. As we prepare to revisit some familiar grounds from our past, I welcome you all of my fellow “puddin’s” to another entry of my signature series known as…
On September 11, 1992, a certain TV show called “Batman: The Animated Series” released its 22nd episode to the public called “Joker’s Favor”. On that day, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm brought us a character that has since become beloved within the pop culture crowd. 2017 has rolled around and Harley Quinn has celebrated a special birthday this year.
To commemorate the occasion, it’s only fitting to look over a film that sees her in an unlikely team-up outside of Suicide Squad. Let us start to venture into a tale known as…
Originally debuting at San Diego Comic-Con on July 21, 2017, this film was brought to theaters on August 14 via Fathom Events for one night only (picking up $39,091 during its brief run). Afterwards, it saw its release for Digital Download on August 15 before coming out for DVD and Blu-Ray on August 29. Believe it or not, this supposedly takes place in Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe (according to him, though Warner Bros. has not confirmed this). With the first addition to that series in 11 years, let’s dive in and see how this unlikely team-up goes down.
We open at S.T.A.R. Laboratories in Gotham City where a break-in has occurred. The guards try to fight against the threat, but are no match for Jason Woodrue a.k.a. Floronic Man (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) who heals himself from opposing gunfire and takes care of the officials. Meanwhile, Pamela Isley a.k.a. Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) is assisting him by looking through the facility’s computer. She then comes across a key article where she highlights “Bio-Restorative Project” and runs it through a search engine. Afterwards, she plugs in a USB Memory Drive and downloads some crucial files that’s related to Dr. Alec Holland before she and Jason make their escape.
Following the opening title sequence, we cut to sometime later as Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) and Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing (voiced by Loren Lester, reprising his role from “Batman: The Animated Series”) have arrived on the scene. After learning that nothing physical was stolen from the facility, Dick discovers what was taken digitally. He then wonders why the name Dr. Alec Holland sounds familiar. Batman then uses the computer to explain who the mysterious scientist is. A long time ago, Holland was a scientist who tried to perfect a formula that would allow a forest to grow within a desert. One night though, he was incinerated by a sabatour’s bomb and got covered in his experimental compound. He then dove into the nearby swamp in order to douse the flames on his body. However, the experimental chemicals reacted with his surroundings and completely changed his own make-up, thus becoming Swamp Thing. With Floronic Man and Poison Ivy now on the lamb with his research, Batman and Nightwing head out.
Once outside, Bruce tells Dick that they have two objectives: Find out what their green culprits have in store and find out where they’re currently laying low. Batman says that he’ll try to find out Woodrue & Isley’s main objective while assigning Nightwing to the latter, specifically where they’ve previously been and even asking “known associates”. Dick shudders at the thought since it means that he’ll have to track down Pamela’s friend Harley Quinn, who’s been off the grid since her jail release via parole.
Later, Batman arrives at A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans) headquarters in order to talk with Sarge Steel (voiced by John DiMaggio). He informs the robo-handed official that a former chemistry professor named Harold Goldblum (voiced by Rob Paulsen) was kidnapped two days prior. Goldblum also ran GothCorp Chemical’s Research & Development team for 15 years and was recently working with the NSA on biological warfare, since he specialized in biology, botany and toxicology. As such, Batman wants to know what he was working on at the time of his recent disappearance. Thought initially reluctant, Sarge Steel ultimately gives the Dark Knight the file on Harold and explains that the professor’s kidnapping wasn’t met with any ransom demands, not to mention that A.R.G.U.S. investigations have gone cold. With his kidnappers having access to his knowledge on how to create “man-made pandemic terrorist attacks”, they’re both aware of the serious threat that looms over mankind.
Meanwhile, Nightwing asks several citizens but doesn’t acquire any leads. Just then, he comes across a themed-restaurant called “Superbabes”. As he peaks inside, it turns out that the establishment is superhero-themed while the waitresses are dressed in skimpy outfits based on various superheroines. Just then, he notices one of them dressed up like Harley Quinn arriving at a table to give the male patrons their food. One of them decides to be perverted and grab her butt, even as she warns him not to go there. He ignores her and attempts to touch her behind, but she manages to grab his arm in time and throws him to the ground before walking off. From there, Nightwing believes that he’s found her.
Later, she gets off from work and starts walking back to her place while Dick discreetly follows her. After a while, she reaches a desolate part of town filled with abandoned buildings. Just as she’s about to head inside, she tells Nightwing that she’s aware of him tracking her due to her improved hearing from her time at Arkham Asylum. His hunch was right as he did find the true Dr. Harleen Quinzel a.k.a. Harley Quinn (voiced by Bernadette Rostenkowski herself, Melissa Rauch) and proceeds to ask her where he can find Poison Ivy. However, Harley’s unwilling to help since she wants to leave “the costumed crowd” behind and lead a normal life. Dick then tries to egg her on by stating how he finds it odd that she’s not using her psychiatric background anymore and instead hides in plain site as a costumed waitress, not to mention that she’s been avoiding her parole officer for several months. It succeeds as Harley kicks him into an alleyway and proceeds to fight him. She leads by using a 10-pound weight in her purse as a weapon before engaging him in combat. They proceed to fight for a while before Nightwing takes her down by hitting her with a garbage can lid.
Just as he’s about to take her in, he starts to laugh uncontrollably. It turns out that Harley managed to inject him with low-grade Joker venom during the scuffle as she proceeds to knock him out with a swift kick to his face.
Meanwhile, Batman and Sarge Steel proceed to investigate Harold Goldblum’s apartment. After finding the place ransacked from the kidnapping, the Caped Crusader discovers a leaf that’s not like the rest of Harold’s regular plants. Batman explains that it was part of the Floronic Man’s make-up since he’s not from this dimension, suggesting that he was behind Harold’s kidnapping. He then tries to contact Nightwing, but doesn’t get a response. As such, the scene ends with him ordering Sarge Steel to keep his team on alert while he goes after his crime-fighting partner.
Back with Nightwing, he wakes up to find himself taped to Harley’s bed as she talks to herself about not letting him go since he knows where she lives and yet she doesn’t want to kill him since she wants to leave her criminal past behind for good, even considering the idea of helping him out on his mission. They then proceed to talk with each other as Nightwing learns that her path back to leading a straight life was hard on her, since Harley kept getting denied from working at any hospital due to her crime-ridden past. Not only that, but the only job offers she ever gets nowadays is to star in sleazy, low-grade sex films. Afterwards, she strips down to her bra and underwear in order to decide on what outfit to wear. After realizing that Nightwing used to be the original Robin, she decides to turn out the lights before engaging him in pillow talk. Dick tries to talk his way out of her advances, but Harley lets him know that she’ll help him out as she proceeds to kiss him.
Meanwhile, Poison Ivy is kissing Harold Goldblum as she lets the Floronic Man know that even though she doesn’t like doing it, she has to smooch their captive every six hours in order to give him a low-grade toxin that keeps him under their control. As we learn from their conversation, it turns out that they’re using Harold to create a virus in order to carry out “the improvement of every organism on Earth”, due to the various amounts of harm that humankind has done to the forests and the ozone layer in the past.
Back at Harley’s rundown apartment, Batman managed to track down his partner’s whereabouts. Just as he hears Dick in possible danger, the Dark Knight prepares to kick the door down. However, he then hears Nightwing and Harley laughing as he finds them tickling each other. After Batman makes his presence known, Quinn (now dressed up in her iconic original outfit) gets up in eagerness to help out while he scolds Dick with his signature death stare before they head out.
Once the original Dynamic Duo head outside, they find Harley waiting for them by the Batmobile as she proceeds to lay out some ground rules. She’ll lead them to where Poison Ivy is, but she’ll try to talk her friend down before they come in. Afterwards, Quinn wants them to put in a good word for her with her parole board. However, Batman outright refuses since he doesn’t “make deals with psychopaths” and says that she’ll help out or else the world is doomed. Nightwing is shocked to find out that she’s accompanying them, but Batman says that he can’t risk leaving her alone to possibly let Ivy know that they’re on to her. From there, our trio climb into the Batmobile and drive off.
As they head out, Batman exclaims that from a combination of Goldblum’s field of expertise, Woodrue & Ivy’s similar ideals and their break-in at S.T.A.R. Labs, they plan on re-creating the formula that helped create Swamp Thing and turn it into a wide-spreading virus that transforms all of humanity into part-animal, part-plant hybrids. He then says that if any part of their formula is off by only a slight factor, any and all lifeforms will become extinct within a matter of weeks (or even days). Batman also explains that their foes need Holland’s formula since reverse-engineering their own DNA would take way longer than they’re willing to afford, ranging from several years to many decades, especially since both Pamela and Jason aren’t even fully-human. He then tells Harley that her only assignment is to help them find Poison Ivy.
Just as she’s about to inform our heroes on a cohort that could help them out, she spots someone and demands that they stop to let her out. Shortly upon doing so, she hops out and yells at a bystander named Bobby Liebowitz (voiced by Trevor Devall). To his dismay, it turns out that he knows her and starts to run away. A chase ensues as Harley pursues the guy while Batman and Nightwing grapple & swing their way after them. The pursuit goes from the streets to the alleys before heading up towards the rooftop.
Bobby then hops across a few buildings before being forced to hide out on a ledge. He then slips and falls off, but conveniently lands in a dumpster. He gets out just as Harley catches up, but he’s blocked on the other side of the alley by Batman and Nightwing. Quinn then tackles Liebowitz and starts to beat him up, but it turns out to not even be a possible lead at all since she just wanted to get back at him for standing her up at senior prom for another woman a long time ago. As such, Batman grabs Harley as he and Nightwing take their leave.
After a short drive where he continually silences her every attempt to talk, Batman slams on the brakes and berates her for her actions, even threatening to drop her off at the police. Despite having to put up with his uptight and serious demeanor, Harley’s still willing to help out as she tells him to take the Donnenfeld Expressway towards the nearby city of Blüdhaven. With no other leads to go on, our heroes proceed to drive towards her suggestion.
Later, they arrive at a tavern out in the country. Harley tells out heroes that it’s actually filled with criminals who unwind inside and that she’ll look for a guy named Shrubby. As such, Batman and Nightwing stand by at a table while Quinn heads over to talk to him while the sounds of the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds song “Don’t Pull Your Love” plays throughout the building. A short time later, she tells our heroes that Shrubby is willing to help her out, but there’s a small favor she has to do for him first.
It turns out that she has to belt out a song for the patrons. While she sings Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone”, a drunken Cat-Thug decides that it’s a good idea to dance next to the Dark Knight. Fortunately, Batman takes care of him with a backhand punch to his face. The slimmer Cat-Thug wants to retaliate in response, but gets told by another guy to wait.
Following her performance, Shrubby fulfills his end of the deal and gives Harley the directions on where she needs to go on some matches. Just as she, Batman and Nightwing are about to leave, they’re confronted by the criminal patrons who threaten to beat them up. Calmly, Batman drinks his milk (which was given to him with compliments from the Cat-Thugs) and takes off his utility belt before he proceeds to smack them up while 1966-esque action words blurt the screen.
Later, our heroes (mainly Nightwing) are chowing down on some fast food when they get a call from the Justice League Watchtower. It turns out to be Michael John Carter a.k.a. Booster Gold (voiced by Bruce Timm in a cameo) who lets our group know that he received Batman’s emergency alert, but the majority of the team is either dealing with a crisis in Rigel or down in Aquaman’s kingdom of Atlantis for a christening ceremony. He does offer to send one of the more minor heroes to help out (Black Condor, Elongated Man, Triumph, or Bloodwynd), but Nightwing silently signals Batman that each one wouldn’t work. Booster even offers to help out, but Dick quietly tells Bruce to shoot that idea down as the Caped Crusader politely declines and signs off.
Meanwhile, Harold Goldblum has created a formula and tests it on a lab rat. It manages to become a successful hybrid, but it ultimately explodes into green goop. He explains to Jason and Pamela that there’s numerous variables that could be causing the formula to become unstable. Also, they’ve just been using regular swamp water from nearby Slaughter Swamp. To get as close to a perfect solution as they can, Harold explains that they’ll have to use the water from the precise origin point where Swamp Thing was created: Weinwright Swamp over in Louisiana.
The Floronic Man sees this as advantageous to their plan, since the lagoon’s waters lead right into the Gulf of Mexico. From there, their formula will spread out into the Atlantic Ocean before eventually encompassing the entire planet.
Just then, Batman, Nightwing and Harley crash through the skylight to confront the felons. With Pamela unwilling to listen to Quinn’s reasoning, both sides proceed to engage each other in a brawl. Nightwing goes after Poison Ivy while Batman engages the Floronic Man, but our green antagonists prove to be too swift and tough for our heroes.
During the scuffle, Grayson kicks Isley towards a shelf which falls over and knocks some chemicals onto the floor. Afterwards, Batman throws a pair of electric batarangs. However, Woodrue smacks them away as they strike the spilled chemicals and ignite the building in flames. From there, the growing blaze separates Jason and Pamela from Goldblum.
With the fire rapidly spreading, the Floronic Man manages to save the accumulated research. With Harold starting to come out of his mind-controlled state, Jason decides that his services are no longer needed as he reaches out and stabs him before escaping with Poison Ivy. From there, our heroes are trapped with no way out as the building collapses on top of them and explodes.
Fortunately, they manage to survive the wreckage as Batman and Nightwing discover Harley comforting the fatally-wounded Goldblum. With his last breath, he tells our heroes that their foes have departed for Louisiana in order to acquire the necessary swamp water for their developing virus. From there, the injury takes its toll as Harold passes on.
Meanwhile due to recent events, the Gotham Police have set up checkpoints on the highway as Poison Ivy deduces that even the airports & train stations are on high alert for her and Jason. However, the Floronic Man takes out a yam that contains “certain unique properties”. He explains that he acquired six of these from Swamp Thing’s own “temporarily deceased” corpse several years ago. With it being his last one, he gives half of it for Pamela to eat while he devours the other half. Suddenly, they develop a newfound ability to access “The Green” as they proceed into a tree and discretely travel to their destination via the ecosystem.
Back in Blüdhaven, the fire department takes care of the blaze while Nightwing and Harley rest up at an ambulance. Just then, Batman comes in and says that police have placed checkpoints on all possible transports out of the greater Gotham area while Sarge Steel is rounding up agents from the FBI and the National Guard to help out. From there, he summons the Batwing in order to fly out to Holland’s lab in Louisiana before dismissing Quinn from her duties. However, Harley isn’t willing to be cast aside since she saw how Batman & Nightwing were easily defeated by their culprits and thinks that she’s still able to help them out. Nevertheless, the Dark Knight isn’t willing to change his mind since he believes that she’ll suddenly turn on them at the last minute. Quinn then launches into a tearful (yet funny) episode where she ultimately begs to come with them since she thinks she can make Poison Ivy turn away from Jason’s plan. With even Nightwing vouching for her, Batman reluctantly caves in as our three heroes take off after their foes.
Later, they arrive at Weinwright Swamp where they’re accompanied by a team of agents while also arming themselves with specialized weapons. After a short while, they hear a strange noise. All of a sudden, the agents start getting picked off by the sentient plants.
Deep within the wetland, Poison Ivy is working feverishly to get the formula ready while the Floronic Man senses the approaching adversaries.
Back with our heroes, they continue their pursuit through the marshlands. Just as they start to cross a stream via a fallen tree, Harley shoves Batman and Nightwing into the water in order for a sentient tree to tie them up. With Quinn having turned on them, Pamela and Jason arrive to see her work. Harley then tries to convince her best friend to stop her plans in order to prevent mankind’s annihilation, but Poison Ivy still believes that this must be done for the sake of the Earth. As such, Quinn discretely takes out a capsule containing concentrated weed-killer and uses it to save Batman and Nightwing.
From there, Harley and Ivy proceed to fight each other while the Dynamic Duo tangles with the Floronic Man. Batman and Nightwing manage to score some hits on their adversary, even striking him with a highly-electrified Bio-Feedback Batarang and a Sonic Disrupter gun. Unfortunately, Jason is able to withstand the assaults and viciously beat them up.
Even when the remaining agents join the fray and fire their guns at him, the Floronic Man easily disposes of them while more sentient roots drag them away.
Meanwhile, Quinn and Isley continue to punch, kick and flip each other throughout the swamp before their brawl makes its way back to the makeshift lab. Poison Ivy manages to summon a root to tie Harley up by her ankles in order to prevent her from interfering. Realizing how serious Pamela is taking this ordeal, Quinn tries one last time to talk her friend out of her mission, saying that her untested formula could possibly wipe out all of humanity.
With Isley fully-committed to the plan and not willing to forgo the potential consequences, Harley has no choice but to deliver her “Nuclear Option”. After removing her head piece and wiping off her make-up, she proceeds to unleash her final act: a teary-eyed puppy dog face. Pamela tells her to stop, but Quinn rings in the sentimentality for all its worth. In the end, Poison Ivy breaks down and cries as she hugs her friend.
Just then, the Floronic Man arrives as he throws the battered, beaten and defeated bodies of Batman & Nightwing at the ladies. He’s then appalled by Isley’s display, discovering that she’s no longer on his side. Pamela tried to convince him that their plan will prove fatal to humanity, but Jason refuses to back down as he summon a monstrous arm-like root to attack his former comrade. Ivy manages to hold it back via her access to The Green as they struggle for a while before she splits it in two. However, he easily knocks her out with a single punch to her face.
With our remaining heroes subdued, Jason takes the perfected virus and heads over to the waterside to begin the process. Just then, a rumble begins to grow as the various creatures flee from the area. Woodrue is then confronted by a being who rises from the water as it turns out to be Dr. Alec Holland himself, Swamp Thing (also voiced by John DiMaggio).
He proceeds to tell the Floronic Man that even though mankind has done numerous harsh acts towards the planet, his intention has “upset the balance in the Green”. Our heroes observe as they look forward to seeing Jason get his comeuppance. Unfortunately, Swamp Thing exclaims that it’s not his place to interfere as he ultimately takes his leave. Stunned yet relieved, Woodrue prepares to set his grand plan into motion.
Batman and Nightwing quickly run through their remaining options in order to stop Jason in time, but Quinn gives them a revelation: “The Floronic Man is mainly made out of leaves, so why not set him on fire?”. Using the matches that they acquired from Shrubby, Batman lights one up as he and Nightwing kiss Harley as a sign of thanks for her help.
We then have a quick mid-credits scene where the Floronic Man has been set on fire and his master plan has been effectively foiled.
And so, the film ends on an extended post-credits scene where Harley has gotten back into psychiatry. She tends to a man named Wesley (voiced by Eric Bauza) who’s life has reached pathetic levels. However, it turns out that she’s not a regular psychiatrist. Instead, she’s the host of her own TV show called “Ask Dr. Quinn”. Because she’s not a qualified “mental health professional”, she’s willing to help recommend him to a certified therapist. However, he has to go through a Wipeout-style obstacle course in order to get the help he needs.
As expected, he fails every single challenge as he gets roughed up and ends up landing in water numerous times. As such, Harley concludes the broadcast on a happy note.
Now it’s time for my signature character analysis. First up, we’ll look at our villains: Floronic Man and Poison Ivy. For a good majority of the film, they have a warped belief that mankind has proven itself to be utterly careless when it comes to Earth’s natural environment and are out to make humanity pay for its actions. Jason Woodrue becomes the more dominant and fierce figure since he remains steadfast towards the plan, not to mention that his other-dimensional dryad make-up allows him to endure various non-flammable encounters throughout the course of the film. Because of this, he’s unwilling to change and sees anyone who opposes his vision of a greener world as the feeble vermin that mankind has shown itself to him. Because he’s not a botany expert, he can get anxious and furious when the virus’ development hits a setback of some kind. As such, he relies on his abilities and strength to get things to progress in his favor, though he’s far from dumb due to a display of resourcefulness in having a way to reach the destination swamp without running into authority along the way. I want to say that there’s more going on with him beneath the surface, but there’s not much else that I could discover other than his nihilistic attitude towards the human race. Despite that, Kevin Michael Richardson’s performance still make him worth checking out. The absolute veteran confidence and command in his tone helps make Woodrue feel like a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, we also have Poison Ivy herself. Just like Jason, mankind has let her down with their lack of care towards the Earth’s environment. Unlike him, she doesn’t resort to physical action to get what she wants, rather depending on her own bodily poisons to manipulate factors in her favor. Because of her friendship with Harley, she’s given various opportunities to stop her plan due to the virus’ lethal potential of eradicating all lifeforms on the planet. She initially turns them down, since she honestly believes that this act for the greater good of Earth. In a way, Isley seems to have a similarity here that Quinn historically has with the Joker. Harley can be unpredictable in her actions, but she’s nowhere near as psychotic as the infamous Clown Prince of Crime. Pamela, before Quinn finally sways her, is steadfast towards “improving” the world, but doesn’t resort to torturous methods that the Floronic Man is willing to do. This may be because of their history from the comics, since Jason is responsible for her becoming Poison Ivy due to him injecting her with various toxins and poisons as part of an experiment from their university time together (interesting since she was a classmate with the eventual Swamp Thing himself, Alec Holland), but it ultimately comes down to the fact that she prefers to stay away from combative means in her line of work, not that she isn’t capable of engaging in fisticuffs as we saw when she fought her friend. In the end though, Quinn is able to help Pamela take her last opportunity for change, thus helping her realize how dangerous her intended plan has become. Paget Brewster definitely makes the most out of her role, delivering a solid range of emotions throughout the course of the film. If she was cast in the role in a future Batman project, then I wouldn’t complain one bit.
Moving onto our heroes, we kick things off with Batman himself. While remaining mostly stagnant throughout the film, he does grow a small level of trust towards Harley since he and Nightwing struggle just to take down Jason Woodrue. Historically, he has a character flaw of not asking for help when he needs it. Normally, that never applies to the members of the Bat-Family. Here though, it’s a different situation. For the majority of the movie, he only trusts Quinn with helping him find the Floronic Man and Poison Ivy. By the end, she ends up earning (at the very least) a respective level of his confidence in her. Granted, Nightwing helps play a part in that, but I’ll get to him in the next section. Other than that, Kevin Conroy is once again solid and confident in a role that he’s mastered over the course of a quarter-century. He also has some genuinely funny line deliveries in a few key moments. For example, during his initial outburst at Harley, she asks him what she is to him at this moment and he utters “My punishment for dropping out of Med School”. Those kinds of moments helps bring levity to his historically-grim character and makes us appreciate him even more.
Next up, we get to the original Boy Wonder himself, Nightwing. Serving as the trio’s calm and central core, he learns about Harley’s beneath-the-surface struggle while in his kidnapped state and grows an appreciation for her throughout the film. Needless to say, the two of them form an unexpected friendship with each other. Unlike Batman, he’s more willing to accept this form of unlikely help, most likely since she displays her altruistic side throughout their attempt the plant-filled Armageddon and grows to appreciate her through her actions. There’s not much here in terms of an overall character arc, but that’s understandable since he’s only one of the main players here. Either way, I appreciate Loren Lester’s performance, since it definitely feels like he never left the role. He keeps the cool attitude that he developed over the course of the DC Animated Universe and adds some charming wit that never feels off or inappropriate. Like Conroy, it was a treat to have him back in a role that he worked in all those years ago.
Finally, we reach our central character: Harley Quinn. Ever since she got out of jail, she’s been struggling to carve a life out for herself away from the Joker, especially since her criminal past has prevented her from getting more pristine job opportunities. When she learns about what Poison Ivy is up to and gets enlisted into Batman & Nightwing’s crusade, she does lead our heroes through a few sidetracks along the way, but she still cares about living (as Batman tells her) and she doesn’t want her closest friend to pass an irremediable point of no return. Throughout the journey, she still keeps an upbeat personality while also having a level of concern for the situation at hand. In the end, her heroic endeavors pay off for her since she gets to have a much better job that let’s her somewhat have her psychiatric knowledge at the forefront. The lesson I seem to get from her character arc is that it’s never too late to redeem yourself or your close friends. By the end, Ivy (most likely) is back at Arkham in order to be rehabilitated for her crime against humanity while Quinn finally gets her life back on track (most likely to Batman and Nightwing putting in a good word for her). In terms of voicing the character of the first time, Melissa Rauch mostly handles it pretty well. While her attempt to hone Harley’s signature accent can get over-exaggerated at times (which also semi-hampers her attempt to sing the familiar Blondie classic), the writing still helps her be really funny with her line-delivery. Her performance lets me believe in Quinn’s sincere appreciation from Nightwing, her witty jokes and her snarky attitude that has become a trademark part of the character throughout 25 years of entertaining audiences.
The plot essentially boils down to a standard “stop the bad guy from destroying the world” scheme, but it feels fairly new due to the fact that it’s essentially a bio-weapon that Woodrue and Isley created. In fact, it does share a few beats with an episode from the beloved series called “Harlequinade”, where Batman and some form of Dick Grayson (Robin back then) must team up with Harley Quinn in order to prevent a villain from harming a good chuck of humanity with a dangerous and toxic weapon. That episode also has Quinn singing a song to a group of criminals. As far as the film’s story goes, it’s nothing too spectacular, but the comedy that the audience encounters during the journey is genuinely funny. Most of it comes from Harley herself, since she’s the driving force behind the jokes. While that’s mainly the case, the comedy has a rare occasion to halt the story progression. I didn’t mention this during my story recap, but there’s a scene where our heroes are driving towards the tavern and Quinn tells Batman to pull over since some food she had at her waitress job was upsetting her stomach. From there, she rips a few farts before being allowed to go to the bathroom at a gas station. Maybe if she or the Dynamic Duo discovered something there that helped further the narrative, then I wouldn’t have seen it as unnecessary padding in a 1 hour, 14 minute film. Other than that, the story is engaging enough and the animation is mostly solid. Characters mainly flow in a natural pace and rarely are there necessary stutters (like when the trees open to reveal the moonlight upon Swamp Thing’s arrival), but it serves this film to help make it effective. Speaking of Swamp Thing, I think Harley Quinn said it best:
For all of the build-up and various mentions to the character, not to mention that it’s his swamp water that’s vital towards the plan, his code prevents him from doing anything to stop the Floronic Man. For his small appearance in “Justice League Dark”, at least Swamp Thing was coerced into fighting that film’s main villain.
Finally, I’d be remissed if I didn’t refer back to the tavern scene and quickly mention the various nods to Batman fans that were inside there. Several characters from “Batman: The Animated Series” make quick cameos in the few seconds that they have. We have Gotham socialite Veronica Vreeland, Ra’s al Ghul’s bodyguard Ubu, Joker’s robotic boat clown from the “The Laughing Fish” named Captain Clown, H.A.R.D.A.C.’s creator Randa Duane, Selina Kyle’s assistant Maven, Two-Face’s henchmen Min & Max (who sang “Don’t Pull Your Love” here) and Rupert Throne’s secretary Candice Leopold.
Even the series’ successor “The New Batman Adventures” got in on the action with a few of its minor villains. We have Farmer Brown’s super-strong daughter Emmylou Brown from “Critters”, a waitress who works at Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, Joker’s henchmen (and nod to the Three Stooges) Mo, Lar & Cur (though Mo is missing his facial make-up) and even a henchwoman for Mr. Freeze needing some time to unwind & dance.
Lastly, the 1966 Batman TV show even gets some respect in this film. The Cat-Thugs are obviously Catwoman’s main henchmen (whether for Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt, it’s all good) and I’ve already pointed out how the more muscular thug got decked by Batman for trying to drunkenly dance next to him. It turns out that he was doing the “Bat-Tusi”, which Adam West’s Batman did in the series’ very first episode. Speaking of which, Nightwing is also seen dancing with a woman who bares a striking resemblance to Ridder’s henchwoman Molly (portrayed by then-eventual Bond Girl, Jill St. John). I guess Dick is now old enough to “Go-Go” unlike the first time around. As I also previously mentioned, there’s also the Onomatopoeia sound effects from the offscreen fight that closed out the scene, which served as a signature traits of that show’s fight scenes. Nice adult touch.
Overall, this is one of the funniest entries in the series. While the story is only “just solid” enough to hold everything together, the action is engaging, the animation is mainly fluid, the characters are entertaining to watch and the comedy serves as a fitting tribute to 25 years of the world being blessed with a supervillainess/anti-heroine that knows how to put a smile on an audience’s face. No matter how much exposure one has to Batman and/or Harley Quinn, this is worth a watch for every “puddin'” out there.
Next Time: We’re going back to Gotham City, but not in our time period. The Dark Knight must tangle with an infamous serial killer in Victorian Times as DC’s inaugural Elseworlds tale gets its animated translation in a story known as “Batman: Gotham By Gaslight”.
Batman (created by by Bob Kane and Bill Finger), Harley Quinn (created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.