Batman and Harley Quinn

| September 1, 2017

When you think about Harley Quinn’s recent explosion in popularity, it was only a matter of time really before an animated film centered on the character hit home video. Enter Batman and Harley Quinn (2017), a DC Universe Animated Original Movies attempt to capitalize on everything that’s made the character popular: her snarkiness, comically shifting allegiances, irreverent and iconoclastic sense of humor, and incredible resilience. Oh, and her “hotness” too of course, because that’s apparently one of the main things. I mean, what would a Stockholm Syndrome-stricken female counterpart to The Joker be if she weren’t smoking hot like The Clown Prince himself, right? RIGHT?!

Personally, I find the emphasis on Harley Quinn’s sexuality/attractiveness exceedingly pedestrian. Yet, as much as I’m fond of the character as she first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) and certain comic book storylines since, it seems she’s everywhere in pop culture now, sexily murdering people and bending over for the cameras. That is, most everywhere except for the animated DC Super Hero Girls properties, which are legitimately geared toward empowering young girls.

Now Batman and Harley Quinn is obviously an animated work like DC Super Hero Girls, only rated PG-13, and co-written by Harley Quinn co-creator Bruce Timm. So I thought the filmmakers just might be able to resist sexualizing Harley and instead explore the more fascinating psychological aspects of the character, her twisted morals, and the role that The Joker’s mental manipulation plays in all that. Has her training in psychology aided in her recovery or has it made it harder for her to move on? Or maybe she’s realized that, Joker’s influence aside, she was destined for a life of crime. So much to explore there.

What Batman and Harley Quinn gives us in that regard starts off promising. The film finds Batman and Nightwing attempting to recruit Harley Quinn to their side in order to help hunt down Poison Ivy and Floronic Man. Not knowing what the two villains are up to makes it odd that the once Dynamic Duo decide to join forces with yet another villain, but it’s an excuse to bring them together at least. More importantly, Nightwing’s first meet-up with Harley gives us a glimpse into the character’s personal troubles since her release from prison.

Believe it or not, Harley Quinn’s gone straight. She works as a waitress in a sort of superhero-themed Hooters, dressing up as herself and fending off the groping hands of customers, but she longs to continue her work in psychology. The only problem is, the only jobs she can get involve the objectification of her body. An interesting commentary on the exploitation of the character I complained about above, it seemed!

Problem: the very next thing that happens in the film is she disrobes in front of a tied-up Nightwing. Then she bends over with her ass bulging up into the camera, Nightwing gets an erection, and the two wind up in bed together before a PG-13-convenient pre-coitus cutaway. Later she chases a former lover down the street because she’s just all about her love life all the time (I guess?). And then she farts for nearly a minute straight in the Batmobile. It was a disappointing portrayal to say the least. If you’re into Harley Quinn because she’s hot though, then I suppose you’ll be in Heaven by comparison to yours truly.

It’s not all bad though. What I did appreciate about Batman and Harley Quinn is its use of the one and only voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, as the Dark Knight, and the film’s Batman: The Animated Series-style aesthetic. Plus, we get Batman: TAS’s Loren Lester (Robin/Nightwing) returning here as Nightwing!

Keep in mind, I was a kid, all wide-eyed and amazed watching Batman: The Animated Series. It had a profound impact on my life. Heck, even if it wasn’t a show I go back and rewatch regularly, I’d still call it a formative part of my childhood that had a definite impact on my adult life. After all, I haven’t read a Batman comic book since were the voices of Batman and The Joker weren’t Conroy and Mark Hamill in my head! That the filmmakers would so clearly pay homage to the Harley Quinn source text does redeem the film in some important ways. Namely, it makes the movie watchable beyond its disappointing depiction of Harley Quinn by appealing with all its might to our nostalgia.

Batman and Harley Quinn is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Special features on the Blu-ray release include:

– “The Harley Effect” featurette relating the history of the character,

– “Loren Lester: In His Own Voice” featurette,

– a handful of DC Universe Original Movie sneak peeks,

– and from the DC Vault, two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, including “Harley and Ivy” and “Harley’s Holiday.”

About the Author:

Tabby is a film critic and writer in Illinois with a background in micro-budget film production.
Filed in: Video and DVD
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