Even as the DC cinematic universe slipped into a predictable brand of mediocrity, DC’s animated features—generally direct-to-video or limited release affairs—remained consistently entertaining. In recent years, however, as box office fare like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam! have gotten more right than wrong, it is their cartoon counterparts who have begun to struggle, reminding us that you simply can’t have everything.
Batman: Hush, newly released from Warner Bros. Home Media, is a perfect example of this—a base hit that should’ve rightly been a grand slam.
Based on the early-2000s Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee arc, Hush tells the story of a fresh new member to Batman’s rogue’s gallery, a shadowy, conniving figure that manipulates from behind the scenes. The titular Hush influences big names, from Joker and Harley to Poison Ivy and Catwoman to Superman himself, all to put the Caped Crusader in more and more precarious situations, culminating in twin revelations: Hush has both deduced that it’s Bruce Wayne under the cowl and ultimately reveals himself to be one of Batman’s longtime foes.
While things like the central Bat/Cat romance, the importance of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit, and the overall shape of the convoluted plot remain intact, many other elements are altered in favor of brevity and accessibility. The role of Wayne’s childhood friend Tommy Elliot, for example, has been drastically altered, Killer Croc’s early role in the caper is instead given to the more notable Bane, and former Robin Jason Todd has been unceremoniously scrubbed from the narrative.
Fans familiar with the original source material may or may not like the liberties taken with the story, but I found the overall take refreshing—and it even managed to surprise me with its final big reveal.
The things that dampened my enjoyment were more about the overall execution. The animation seemed a bit flatter, less dynamic than I’ve come to expect from a DC animated production, and the voice acting wavered from acceptable to downright hammy. The worst part, though, was that the dialog felt cheesy and heavy-handed; after a point, it seemed like every scene was given at least one poorly-placed swear word, practically telling viewers that this was a grim, grimy, grown-up undertaking rather than showing us.
While the Jasons (O’Mara and Spisak) are far from my favorite Batman and Joker, they do an admirable job with the script provided, as do Rainn Wilson (as Lex Luthor) and Stuart Allan (Damian Wayne), though their screentime is comparatively scant. I’ll also note that the overall pot is sweetened somewhat by bonus features like mini-doc “Batman: Love in Time of War” and a Sgt. Rock short that is far more enjoyable than I would’ve ever predicted.
Batman: Hush is definitely worth a look for diehard fans, especially in its larger-than-life 4K presentation, but whether it warrants a second look remains up for debate. Personally, even with its missteps, I have to appreciate that Hush manages to zero in on how Batman’s seemingly unshakable moral code can bend under pressure and how his stoic demeanor unflatteringly colors his interpersonal relationships.
It’s hard out there for a single bat about town—especially when someone in the shadows knows all your secrets.
Review materials provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. This post contains affiliate links. The Joker was framed!