Hush Batman. Hush
Okay, this is one of those reviews where I don’t quite know where to start, or how personal I should get. I have a lot of mixed feelings regarding the source material of this adaptation, but at the same time a movie should really stand by itself and be entertaining without any prior knowledge. So here’s what I’m going to do, the first part of this review I’m going to try to review the movie just as a movie and keep my opinions of the comic out of it, then I’ll look at this as an adaptation afterwards. That’s the fairest way I can think to do this so let’s get on with it.
Batman Hush is the latest of the DC Universe animated films, it’s set in the same continuity as the Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen films (there’s even a few cute little nods to those films), and, overall, it’s an enjoyable action romp. There’s plenty of fights, by which I mean the film is mostly combat, the story has a large cast and the majority of them get to show off just how good they are at fisticuffs at one point or another. Also, while the animation is DC’s usual standard and house style for these movies, I was impressed by how well choreographed a lot of the fights were. I wish this film had a bigger budget to make some of these scenes more epic, but damn some of these fights were worth the price of admission alone.
That being said, I feel the action is a detriment to this film at times. The story isn’t that complex, it’s basically about a mysterious villain who knows who Batman is, manipulates various members of the rogues gallery into striking at the Caped Crusader in both physical and emotional ways, until the big reveal when he takes on Batman himself. As I mentioned though, there is a large cast to this film and there are a lot of set pieces that it needs to get through and, with as short as these DC movies often are, that’s going to have an impact on the pacing. Some moments are perfect, while others aren’t exactly rushed, all the necessary elements are there, they just needed an extra moment or two to properly breathe and build the right atmosphere.
That builds into another problem for the film and that’s our main villain, Hush himself. Now I’m not going into spoilers (I’ll save that for the adaptation portion), but he is kinda lacklustre in this film. He spends so much of the film as a figure in the shadows, manipulating events from the sidelines, and as a result we never really get to know him or to gauge how much of a threat he himself is. Sure the villains he throws towards Batman are well established, we know what they can do and how they can hurt the Dark Knight, Hush not so much. Then you get to the actual reveal of who Hush is and my reaction was ‘oh, it’s that guy’. I like the idea of who Hush is in this film, but with the execution, I never found him a threat, which is a problem when he’s meant to be our master villain.
Let’s end this section on a positive though, the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. A large chunk of this film is dedicated to developing their relationship, we see them grow closer, open up to one another and there’s the moment where you think that this time, this one time, we’ll get a happy ending. Then of course it all comes crashing down because Batman is a tragic hero and that ain’t ever going to change (especially not with the cyclical nature of comics). All of that is handled really well by the film and if you’re a Bat/Cat shipper then this film is for you. There’s a lot of great scenes between the pair and this film really is about their love story before anything else.
That brings me to the adaptation side of things. Batman Hush, the comic, is one of those seminal comics that I’ve seen on a lot of people’s ‘Best Batman Stories’ or ‘Batman Comics You Must Read’ lists, it’s well regarded and well loved. I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone complain about the story before, which makes me nervous because I do have complaints. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I love about Batman Hush, Jeph Loeb writes a fantastic Batman and Jim is nothing short of phenomenal on art. There are plenty of big blockbuster moments that I adore and, as a popcorn read, I adore Hush. However the comic is trying to be more than that, it’s trying to have a compelling mystery and it falls into a trap that a lot of mysteries do. The villain’s scheme is so far reaching, so perfect and detailed that there is no way anyone could ever pull it off without the writer twisting the narrative into some really convoluted shapes. The last few issues of this story break my suspension of disbelief into tiny pieces and throw them to the wind, because nobody would be able to get away or set up all the stuff that Hush does and a lot of the explanations come right the hell out of nowhere.
Thankfully that’s something this adaptation fixes. The story is greatly streamlined, with several characters that would take too much time to explain exercised from the story (sorry Jason Todd fans) and many of the more convoluted plot elements either cut or changed to make more sense (a lot of my issues with the ending of the comic are fixed in this version). The stuff it does keep is very accurate to the comic, some shots directly copying panels, though they lack the impact of Jim Lee’s artwork, and there are numerous lines lifted wholesale and put into the dialogue, which I enjoyed. Of course there are some changes, a lot of the smaller ones I’m perfectly okay with. Swapping out Huntress for Batgirl makes sense, she is the more recognisable hero. Swapping out Killer Croc for Bane I’m less sure of, but I guess it’s for the same reason.
That brings me on to the big change though, and that’s the identity of Hush. Spoiler coming in three…two…one…Thomas Elliot is not the bandaged bad guy in this film, which plays into the lacklustre reveal of who it actually is for this film. Like I said, I like the idea of Hush in this film, but we don’t get enough time with the guy for the moment to have the impact it needs to. In the comic, though Hush’s identity wasn’t revealed until the very end (which did make the finale a bit anticlimactic as he was bumped off as soon as we learn who was under the bandages), we did spend a lot of time with Thomas. We saw him interacting with Bruce, there were numerous flashbacks of their childhood together, letting us know who this guy was. Hush in this film? Not so much. I think it really comes down to a change in focus decided upon by the creators. Clearly they wanted the focus to be more on the Bat/Cat relationship, which left little time to explore Hush. It does mean the film loses a whole load of adaptation points, but if you like the Batman/Catwoman relationship I think you’ll like this film fine. Comic book purists not so much.
In the end, Batman Hush is a fun, action adventure with plenty of action and a good exploration of the Batman/Catwoman romance. If either of those things sounds to your liking then check this film out. If you’re after a comic book accurate adaptation or a deep exploration of our titular villain, then you’re going to be disappointed. I’d suggest looking up the ‘Heart of Hush’ comic as that’s my favourite Hush comic.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.