Batman: Hush Review: A hollow adaptation of iconic Batman story arc
Highly regarded as one of the most intricate and thrilling Batman stories ever told, Batman: Hush has always been a fan-favorite – as well as a favorite of mine. Personally, I love how the comic is a mystery that’s perfectly suited for the World’s Greatest Detective and is filled with tons of characters from the DC universe. Not to mention, the use of flashbacks is perfect as it not only gave readers a deep dive into the friendship between Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot, but also gave great callbacks to other Batman stories like A Death in the Family and The Killing Joke. It’s a story and a villain that I’ve always said could be a great live-action film and I’m hoping that Matt Reeves could be thinking about adapting with his trilogy. However, when I saw that the DC Animated Movie Universe, yes that’s a thing, was adapting the film to its lore, I was more than excited to see the comic come to life. So, with my DC Universe app loaded and the graphic novel in hand, I was ready to see what was in store for me and I left feeling…disappointed.
Honestly, going in, I didn’t expect everything to be the same because it doesn’t have to be, and the skeletal structure of the story is still there. We still follow Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Jason O’ Mara) as he juggles his relationship with Selena Kyle/Catwoman (voice by Jennifer Morrison) along with dealing with a mysterious new foe that uses a bevy of his foes and allies to create a cat and mouse game that could prove to be too much for the Caped Crusader. However, while the basics of the iconic comic are there, there’s so much the film cuts from the original story that it’s devoid of everything that made it great in the first place.
Now, the film doesn’t necessarily focus to heavily on who Hush is exactly as many people going into this have likely read the story before. While I won’t delve into these twists and turns here so that those who haven’t read the story can still go in blind, one of my biggest issues is that there is very little time spent with the film’s titular villain. Rather there’s a strong focus on Batman and Catwoman’s relationship that I not only don’t care for but makes viewing the movie kind of boring. The film really just seems like it’s about them and it’s odd. Personally, the Batman and Catwoman relationship has always been one of my least favorite things about Batman lore and having a strong focus on it here took away from Hush and made him seem pointless.
The film also completely cuts out any flashbacks or memories of Bruce and Tommy’s (voiced by Maury Sterling) friendship, so you never really understand why they mean so much to each other. I honestly can’t fathom why they would cut this as it’s legitimately a central part of the story and to why Tommy is so important. Great moments like the two comforting one another after their parents die, seeing what happens when they drift away from one another, or even them seeing a Green Lantern save people while in Metropolis are completely cut and replaced with nothing. Halfway though, I even started to question why Tommy was in the film at all and when tragedy strikes Tommy later in the film, there’s nothing to really feel towards it. Not to mention, you almost question why Bruce is so upset that he almost beats the Joker to a bloody pulp because you get no context around their relationship.
There’s also no mention or hints to other stories and characters that appear in the original story and it makes for a hollower experience. The Killing Joke clearly hasn’t happened because Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (voiced by Peyton R. List) isn’t paralyzed and there’s no mention of Jason Todd so that amazing moment where it seems Jason has come back from the dead is just non-existent. The problem with there being no context around these stories or around Bruce’s friendship with Tommy is that in moments where Batman lets out his frustration or wants to get under someone’s skin, he just looks crazy. Since there’s no emotional connection for viewers to have about how he feels about anything or any context about his past, moments like when he beats the hell out the Joker just make him look bad and like kind of an asshole. He honestly comes off as crazy at times and it makes it hard to connect to his issues.
I will say that the animation for the film is great and works well in creating fun action sequences with smooth movements. Seeing Batman’s suit go to that classic blue color was an absolute treat and the resemblance to the New 52 comic style is nice to see, even if I do miss some of the great animation of the original story. However, the film does recreate some of the story’s iconic images, like with Batman and Catwoman kissing and Poison Ivy (voiced by Peyton List) caressing Superman (voiced by Jerry O’Connell) after sees taken control of him, that’s always great to see. There’s also a strong element of humor that hits well throughout the film and moments that Batman has with Nightwing (voiced by Sean Maher), Alfred (voiced by James Garrett), and Damien (voiced by Stuart Allan) actually made me laugh. Even the change with the story’s final twist, which I’ve never been a huge fan of in the comics, and the final battle is a little bit more fleshed out and is interesting to watch unfold.
However, even with these nice additions, there’s so many other aspects and especially characters that are taken away that the film is almost a hollow shell of what Batman: Hush really is. The entire fight sequence between Ra’s al Ghul and Batman in the desert, which would’ve been amazing to see fully animated, is non-existent. There’s no surprise appearance by Huntress or Talia al Ghul. Even the surprises surrounding Havery Dent/Two-Face don’t happen, and the ambiguity around Tommy Elliot is just lost. By the end, there are no loose ends or anything that leaves viewers to wonder about. I honestly don’t understand why anyone felt the need to cut so much out and add nothing back in and have a film that just barely makes feature-length runtime, when there was so much more to show.
Batman: Hush is just plain disappointing and at times very unfaithful to the incredibly detailed and emotional comic. It takes away more than it adds to the iconic comic lore and it makes for a viewing experience that never shapes up to be anything special. Although the DC Animated Movie Universe has had plenty of hits, this definitely isn’t one of them.