Batman: Hush movie review – a puzzling adaptation

Batman: Hush was one of the biggest Batman stories of the past 20 years. It introduced a major new adversary, gauged the temperature for an unlikely resurrection, significantly advanced the Batman/Catwoman relationship and provided a showcase for one of comic book’s greatest superstars. Hush was a huge deal.

That’s why the storyline has been one of the more popular choices for an adaptation from DC Animation. It seemed like a can’t miss proposition, but the joke’s on longtime Hush fans as this take fails to match the adrenaline rush and thrills of the source material.

Batman (Jason O’Mara) is making his usual rounds when he runs into a conspiracy involving Catwoman (Jennifer Morrison), Bane (Adam Gifford) and Poison Ivy (Peyton List, who actually played the character on Gotham).

DC Animation has stuck with a consistent art style for its post-Flashpoint style films. It’s provided a visual baseline to show the connectivity of these movies, but it also doesn’t allow any freedom for more dynamic presentations. With apologies to writer Jeph Loeb, the biggest selling point of Hush was Jim Lee’s artwork. It was Lee’s first major spin at Batman’s universe and each issue of Hush delivered some astonishing pages and highlight reel material for Lee’s career. Diluting that to the simplified DC Animation style robs Hush of some of its flavor turning it into just another story. And that’s where Batman: Hush really stumbles.

It’s become common now for DC Animation writers to put their own spin on adapted DC stories. It’s a strategy that so far has had a poor track record with only The Death of Superman and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract sticking close enough to the source material to be truly outstanding films.

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Too often the writers make too many drastic alterations in the name of making the story fresh for viewers familiar with the story. That works if the changes are good, but that’s rarely the case with the DC Animation films in this New 52 era.

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Batman: Hush doesn’t break the trend and the story alterations by screenwriter Ernie Altbacker don’t work.

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The one knock on Loeb’s original story is Hush’s identity was way too obvious. While there was no real mystery to this new villain Batman faced the rest of the story held up and served as a smart narrative excuse to have Lee draw Batman’s Rogue Gallery. Altbacker’s twist to the script lacks the same impact and the final act just doesn’t make sense with what’s been established.

It’s more frustrating as Altbacker initially dutifully follows Loeb’s guidelines right down to the supporting roles of Nightwing (Sean Maher), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch) and a cameo from Superman (Jerry O’Connell). Altbacker adds more weight to the Batman/Catwoman relationship, which is an improvement over the source material. Damian Wayne’s reaction to the relationship is easily one of the best scenes of the film and the Nightwing/Catwoman scene is also surprisingly strong.

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But too much of that goodwill gets tossed out with the final act, which Altbacker uses more for shock value. The character death feels completely unearned and is one of those annoying ones done to give the story more significance than rather telling a strong story. And it robs other screenwriters from having a chance to tell a better story involving the character.

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There’s also the puzzling addition of some characters who show up and never return raising the question of why they were included in the first place.

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Batman: Hush will likely connect better with audience members unfamiliar with the comic inspiration. For fans who’ve anxiously been waiting to see this story in another format, it might be one of the most disappointing DC Animation efforts yet.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Warner Home Entertainment

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