Suicide Squad isn’t the first time Task Force X have starred in a film. First there was this animated spin-off of the Batman: Arkham games…
After months of hype, Suicide Squad finally opened in cinemas… and it received incredibly mixed reviews. Many fans felt that it was not as good as another recent feature to star the crack criminal team – Batman: Assault on Arkham, a straight-to-DVD animated effort set in the continuity of the Arkhamverse. So how do the two films compare?
Firstly, Assault has by far the superior plot. Rather than sending a bunch of crazy people with guns and baseball bats to somehow fight an all-powerful witch, this one sees Task Force X sent to siege Arkham Asylum, in an attempt to retrieve government secrets that the Riddler has stolen. Apart from it suiting the squad’s abilities far better, the Arkham setting is just the perfect fit for a film about a team of villains. I’m not suggesting Suicide Squad should have copied this plot outright, but it definitely should have looked to it for inspiration.
The squad itself is also a tighter unit, rather than the more bloated battalion seen in live-action. Assault shares Deadshot, Harley and Boomerang with SS, but King Shark, Killer Frost and Black Spider take the place of the others. The interactions between the team are also a lot more volatile compared to the instant family unit that the group share in SS. That said, sparks do fly between the unlikely pairings of Shark and Frost and Harley and Deadshot.
That’s right. In a big departure from SS, this Harley doesn’t see the Joker through rose-tinted glasses and has found herself a new man (he’s still a criminal but, hey, it’s a step up). While that arguably gives Harley more agency than Margot Robbie’s version, it has to said that the character is sexualised even more – which kind of negates the feminist points it gets from giving Harley a backbone.
Her relationship with the Joker will also appease anyone disgruntled with the romanticized Clown Prince and Princess of SS. This Joker certainly does not love Harley and frequently cracks sickening “jokes” about abusing her. Assault also knows how to use Joker better than SS, as he is of course the main antagonist here rather than the interloper Jared Leto’s take was. The role is here played by Arkham: Origins‘ Troy Baker, who gives another uncanny impression of Mark Hamill.
But what about Batman? His name’s in the title, so he must feature heavily? Well, don’t let that sales tactic fool you – while Batman features more in this than he does in Suicide Squad, he is still just a supporting player. What Assault does do is deal with the important question of what Batman is doing during the Squad’s attempt to play hero. In SS, it’s left unexplained where he was during the Midway City incident. Here, Waller has ensured Bats does not know the team is at work – though he has his own subplot as he investigates what they are up to.
Having said all this, I must admit to preferring the character dynamics of Suicide Squad more than Assault of Arkham, despite the latter’s better grip on its story. If you were either left hungry for more after watching the live-action movie or thought it could have been a lot better, then do check out this alternate animated effort. If you’ve already seen it, let me know how you compare the two films in the comments below.