I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way, Batman: Hush is my favorite DC graphic novel; it’s one I’ve read multiple times and one I’ve dreamed to see done as a live action film. The story is just one that offers up so much for the fans to enjoy, and considering it features just about all of the core characters in the Batman rogues gallery, it’s simply a graphic novel that I’m surprised it’s taken this long to tackle. When it comes to DC, though, they’ve been pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to their properties being adapted for the big screen, but for television and their animated films they’ve been successful. Basically when I heard Hush was going to be an animated film, it’s one I got excited about, but in the back of my mind I was worried this could end up being like The Killing Joke, great material that just didn’t connect. So how was this adventure with the caped crusader?
The story for Hush was originally done by writer Jeph Loeb and was a whopping 300 pages of beautifully crafted panels. For the most part the whole story is here, but there have been a few liberties taken (mostly with fleshing out the Batman and Catwoman relationship). The trimming is expected, considering this was only an 82-minute feature. In a perfect world I would have loved to have seen this get the kind of treatment we saw with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. It’s a story certainly geared more towards adults, but with the large assortment of villains is a huge attraction to the project, and going the animated route would save on having to shell out the big bucks for big-name actors to fill these roles.
The story opens up in Gotham City, and it of course is rife with crime, and Batman is of course trying to fight crime with Nightwing. It doesn’t take long before we see Bane, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman in action, though as a fun little twist it seems Catwoman is attempting to make a change in her life, and this is where flirtation between the characters begins. Sure, we’ve seen this before, but what I enjoyed was seeing this relationship actually get fleshed out to the point where Nightwing broaches the subject to Batman that he may need to tell Catwoman everything if he wants to really make this relationship work. This is a big deal. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle as a couple and knowing each other’s identities…possibly a couple even fighting crime together. But there is so much more to this story.
Thomas Elliot, a doctor who is an old friend of Bruce Wayne, is looking to reconnect with the billionaire playboy and part-time crime fighter. It’s a friendship that helps Bruce reconnect with the outside world, but we know good things can never last for Bruce. This is probably the best point to bring up Hush, a new villain who is able to blackmail and use the friends and foes against Batman, but what makes him all the more dangerous is that he knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Just how powerful is Hush? Well, let’s just say he is responsible for setting up a showdown between Batman and the Man of Steel, in a fight that is worth checking out on its own, But that’s not all, he manages to even push Batman to the brink of breaking his code in a confrontation with the Joker. We really get to see Batman/ Bruce Wayne pushed to their limits here, and that just makes this story required viewing for the fans out there.
Because of the 82-minute runtime, the film does feel almost too fast-paced and doesn’t have really enough time to develop much suspense… Sure, there is the anticipation of finding out who Hush is, but the reveal doesn’t feel earned. It would have been nice to see some detective work put in by the caped crusader, something to add a little intrigue to who it could be, but there’s simply no time for it. Just when the reveal is made the film is already attempting to wrap the story up, and it just feels as though there could have been so much more, and it even raises some questions along the way.
Batman: Hush is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an impressive average bitrate of 65-70 mbps. The ultra-high-definition image presentation is an up-convert from its native 2K source material. It’s not the added detail or color that enhances this presentation. It’s the wonderful contrast and shadow definition available through the HDR. A lot of this film is dark, with the villains operating mostly from the dark shadows. With the bump in shadow definition you really get to appreciate these wonderful animation shadings, and it makes both the style and atmosphere truly pop. The film is often nearly monochromatic. There are notable exceptions. Superman’s costume stands out, as do the red clothes of Lady Shiva. Otherwise we have a lot of dark-costumed principals, the most prominent being Batman and Catwoman. Both provide a great example of nice tight black levels with wonderful shadow definition. This entire film could have easily blended into one dark mess without plenty of care to allow those details to shine through with limited color space.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 doesn’t provide quite the pop that an Atmos track would have provided here. Not sure why the downgraded audio presentation. It is identical to the Blu-ray presentation, which is rather nice for a high definition release but slightly disappointing in a UHD release. With that said, the dialog is the most important element here, and that’s going to come through just fine. I guess the thinking is that there’s where the audio meat is going to be, so why duplicate the effort? The surrounds are reserved for the action sequences, most of which happen in the latter part of the film. The subs give the most bang for the buck during those sequences. You get a better sense of depth and fullness that helps to give substance to the animated images. I actually found some of the more subtle but immersive moments in the newsoom of The Daily Planet during a conversation between Clark and Lois.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film.
DC Showcase Short: SGT. ROCK: (14:55) A standalone animated short about Sgt. Rock (Karl Urban) where we see the character fighting the Nazis during WW2, and he discovers that Nazi scientists are creating an army of the undead.
Batman: Love in the Time of War: (16:53) This gets into the relationship between Batman and Catwoman.
Sneak Peeks: into upcoming titles Wonder Woman: Bloodlines and Batman: Assault on Arkham.
From the DC Vault: Batman the Animated Series: Episode “Catwalk”
This may not be perfect, and at times it even feels rushed, but there are enough cool sequences here to justify watching this. If you’re a fan of the graphic novel, try to lower the expectations, and I think you’ll enjoy this one. Of the DC animated films, this definitely is one of my favorites despite some minor flaws.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani