‘A Lot Of Darkness In This Story': The Creators And Cast Discuss ‘Batman: Assault On Arkham’
Officially, Batman: Assault on Arkham is an animated sequel to the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, building directly on the events of the game's ending, in which Amanda Waller starts up an Arkham universe version of the Suicide Squad.
Unofficially, it's a Batman: The Animated Series/Justice League reunion between voice director Andrea Romano and actor Kevin Conroy, who has been playing Batman off and on since 1992. The last time they worked together on a Batman project was 2009's Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The movie also brings back CCH Pounder, who has been playing Amanda Waller since Justice League.
There are a few new voices in the mix, too: Troy Baker returns as The Joker after his turn in Origins, John DiMaggio (Adventure Time) provides the voice of King Shark, and Matthew Gray Gubler steps up as The Riddler. Here are some highlights from a roundtable at Comic-Con International with those actors (except Pounder), Romano, director Jay Oliva, and Supervising Producer James Tucker.
On whether his portrayal is different from Batman: The Animated Series because this is a video game universe:
"Is it different? No...The challenge to me has been to keep it fresh.
On what he tries to bring to his Batman voice:
"The audience knows more about the character than I do. If you're false in any moment, they'll nail you ... There's such a clear moral compass in Batman. You can't lose sight of that."
On how this movie is different from Batman: The Animated Series:
"The villain characters are very diabolical and very evil. There's a lot of darkness in this story."
On working in video games:
"It's a whole different world. You're alone in a booth for four hours at a time doing line after line after line. They need thousands of takes of thousands of lines."
On whether he ever uses his Batman voice in day-to-day life:
"I do have friends call and tell me to threaten their kids to do their homework."
On his role in this movie:
"I wish I had a little more to do in this one."
On Batman's role in this movie:
"It's not a massively different Batman. He's not the main character in this."
On Mark Hamill no longer playing the animated version of The Joker:
"It breaks my heart," though she added that Troy Baker "does a very good impression."
On working with Kevin Conroy:
"Before I've already gotten half the direction out, Kevin's like, 'I've got it.'"
On her long career directing Batman projects:
"I've actually cast 17 different Batmen over the years."
On casting an animated feature:
"My first question is, 'Can I use any of the characters I've used before?'" If that doesn't work, she said, she picks actors from a wish list of people she wants to work with. In this movie, Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Black Spider, comes from that list.
On setting a movie in the video game universe:
"It was liberating."
On replicating the very distinctive art style of the Arkham games:
Considering there wasn't a budget for a full 3D movie, "We decided to take our inspiration from their development art. We wanted to echo what the games had done."
However, because it's a Suicide Squad movie more than a full-on Batman movie, "We did take liberties to make it our own thing. It is in the Arkham world, but it does have its own unique sense of flavor."
On the development time for this movie:
Tucker said discussions about Assault on Arkham started as far back as 2011, and from the start of production to completion, the process of making the movie took about eight months. "These things aren't easy to pull off."
On figuring out the voice of a shark-man:
"It's just kind of second nature to me. I look at the character design and go."
On playing non-human characters:
"I'm pretty willing to jump in and play."
MATTHEW GRAY GUBLER
On his preferred version of the Riddler:
Gray-Gubler said he prefers a Riddler who's a little crazier and a bit less calculating, who's driven by obsession rather than pride.
On the influences that inspired his Riddler:
Gray Gubler said he based his character not on other versions of the character, but on P.T. Barnum and Larry David, of all people.
On his approach to The Joker in this movie:
"I didn't want to mess with whatever got me that job."
On the difficulty of playing The Joker:
Everyone who plays the character has "his own little secret" to portraying him, Baker said. Still, ""You don't want to live too long in this skin."
On character design:
Assault on Arkham's characters are designed after the Arkham games' character models, so they're taller and wider than the normal animation character would be.
On his influences:
There's a definite '70s crime and '80s horror feel to the movie, Oliva said. John Carpenter and Sam Raimi were big influences.
Batman: Assault on Arkham will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray August 12 and was released for digital download on July 29.