A reunion with two people close to Bruce Wayne (Jason O’Mara) kicks off a dangerous new mystery for The Cape Crusader. Through a lively encounter with Catwoman (Jennifer Morrison), Batman finds out that various Gotham villains are carrying out tasks for a hidden figure known only as Hush (Geoffrey Arend). Hush’s sole objective, kill everything that is dear to both Batman and Bruce Wayne, this includes his blossoming romance with Catwoman and lifelong friend Tommy Elliot. With high stakes at play, finding out who Hush is might cost Batman everything.
Caution! This review contains major spoilers on Batman: Hush – both comic and animation. If you’d like to avoid them, we’d recommend watching the film and/or read the original graphic novel first then come back and read our thoughts. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
With over 30 animated films racked up, the DC animated movies have at times overshadowed the live action DC output. It’s an on-going franchise that has been built upon the foundations provided by the highly regarded animated Batman, Superman and the Justice League shows. Ever since 2007, Warner Brothers have been providing a healthy supply of direct to DVD animated movies based on a variety of popular and iconic DC stories. For the DC animated fans, they’ve been spoilt with the array of titles and various actors coming in to play iconic heroes and villains.
Despite a high output rate for the animations, a fleeting sense of excitement has dulled down over the last few years with the arrival of DC’s own animated universe referred to as the DCAU. Anticipation has cooled for each new title thanks to a standardised approach in animation and voice acting. It doesn’t catch the animation fan’s attention nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, these films boast good animation and acting, the problem has been that it’s sometimes not as striking as it used to be. Take a look at the bright bold colourful aesthetic of Batman\Superman: Public Enemies for example to see the difference against the latest titles.
I’ve actually become more acceptive of overarching DC animated universe. We’ve recently had a pair of terrific Superman entries with Death of Superman and Reign of The Supermen. It’s quite handy I’m getting into the swing of the DCAU as their latest title returns audiences to Gotham for its next entry and the animation studio have picked a very ambitious one in adapting Hush.
Originally released in the Batman comics #608–619 in December 2002 until November 2003, the story arc written by Jeph Loeb and brought to vivid life by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair has been held in high regard since publication. It’s amazing, even returning to read it in preparation for this review, to think that at least 15 years have past since its inception to animated property.
As a title many DC animated fans have been waiting to see adapted, including me, this animated take on Hush is a successfully entertaining outing for Batman – but it plays it dangerously loose with its source material.
The fact that they compiled a good chunk of Hush’s over-arcing story into a lean 85 minutes is a commendable feat. The animation zips along with great pace and provides fun visual interpretations of some of Hush’s stand out action sequences including a fun Metropolis battle with a Poison-Ivy hypnotised Superman and a murderous battle at the opera featuring Harley Quinn. As I’ve mentioned previously with the quality of animation, the film looks like most of DCAU recent output. Hush has decent animation but it’s not the Batman: The Animated Series quality.
Most of the current DCAU cast return to voice their respectable characters here. Jason O’Mara continues his run as Batman in this animated universe. While O’Mara is suitable for the task, the performance can be hit or miss. He’s good as Batman, dull as Bruce Wayne. That wonderful balance that Kevin Conroy brought to the role from the animated series isn’t there. If you’re looking for a strong stand out from this vocal cast, Jennifer Morrison delivers as Catwoman. It helps considering the film’s main focus is on these two characters.
Batman and Catwoman relationship throughout the film is Hush’s biggest strength. It’s perhaps the first time a DC animation has really explored the nature of their relationship. It can borderline on a little corny at times but its very satisfying to watch unfold. Considering this is just another entry in this universe, it would be interesting to see if this is a relationship the creative team will return to in future instalments. You never know, they might do a version of the recent Batman and Catwoman wedding that won’t annoy the comic book readers.
For the most part, Hush follows its graphic novel roots pretty closely but, as previously warned, it does come with a dangerous heap of the film-makers taking liberties with the source material. There are some moderate amends, Bane replaces Killer Croc, there’s no Huntress, Jason Todd, Harvey Dent, or Talia Al Ghul. Though Talia’s absence is in keeping in the DCAU, see the trilogy of recent Batman animations Son of Batman, Batman vs Robin and Bad Blood to explain her absence. It might frustrate ones looking for a pitch-perfect adaptation but these mild changes don’t necessarily derail the feature.
However, the biggest change – and the one that makes or breaks the adaptation – comes in the identity of Hush himself and is the reason why this review is spoiler tagged.
In the comics, we discover that Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Thomas Elliot is the mystery man in bandages. Elliot having gained the cape crusader’s identity from The Riddler and under Riddler’s tutelage decides to get revenge against Bruce for his “lucky” financial inheritance from the death of his parents. For the film, Thomas Elliot does appear in this adaptation but he is not ultimately the man causing Batman grief, this falls to The Riddler who now adopts the persona of Hush. His ultimate motive is to get revenge on Elliot for not curing him of a brain tumour and on Batman and his villains for considering him a “C-List villain” – make of that as you will. Revenge is always a classic villainous motive but this one just sounds a bit silly.
I’m quite torn on this. On one hand, it’s an inexcusable amendment because it then robs the audience of the potential follow up stories featuring Hush – like Heart of Hush. Not to mention annoying the comic book fans by not actually following the original story. It makes Elliot surplus to requirements. You could argue that he now just serves proceedings as the emotional stake for Bruce Wayne. This is in addition to his relationship with Catwoman. I think they’ve thrown away potential for further stories.
On the other hand, the change could be seen as a way to improve Hush from his original appearance. There are arguments that Hush was more of The Riddler’s creation than Elliot’s, so it’s a disservice that Riddler is only on the sidelines in the comic. These are fair points but the final judgement on this change really comes down to your appreciation of the comic.
Personally, I think the change shouldn’t have happened. But, in the context of this evolving DCAU, it does – begrudgingly – work. I think if the film itself wasn’t enjoyable, this decision would have ranked up there with that awkward Batman and Batgirl romantic prelude sub-plot in The Killing Joke. It will be interesting to hear other fan’s thoughts on the changes.
Ultimately, if you approach Hush expecting a completely faithful adaptation, similar to The Dark Knight Returns, you are going to leave Hush bitterly disappointed. If you haven’t caught up on some of the recent DCAU movies, it’s worth getting up to speed before approaching the film. Hush, for all of its flaws and alterations, still finishes as entertaining entry of this animated cinematic universe and, for that, I’m happy to recommend it.
Batman: Hush is available to buy on digital platforms and Blu-Ray now. You can help support Bunkazilla by grabbing your Blu-Ray copy from Zavvi with this link.