Batman: Hush – What Do Adaptations Owe the Audience? 

One of the most famous modern stories from Batman is adapted into an animated film and it raises a lot of questions about adapting a 2-volume long story arc into an 80 minute film.

SUMMARY

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Jason O’Mara) is at a dinner where he runs into the recently-returned Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Jennifer Morrison) and his childhood friend Thomas Elliot (Maury Sterling), only for it to be interrupted by a report of Bane (Adam Gifford) kidnapping a small child. It’s quickly revealed that someone is manipulating Bane, and a host of other villains from Batman’s Rogues Gallery, in a complicated attack upon not only Batman, but also Bruce Wayne. At the same time, Batman and Catwoman finally decide to get together, but Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are having a harder time.

Hush - 2Hush.png
No, he’s not secretly invisible.

END SUMMARY

If you’ve been liking the recent DC Animated Films up until this point, you’re probably going to like this. I actually think it’s one of the more well-paced adaptations that they’ve put out, mostly because it’s focused solidly upon Batman and his inner struggle to find a balance between his work and his growing love for Catwoman. Even more so than most of the comic books, the film also puts a lot of effort into exploring that she’s having a similar struggle. After all, she is a thief who steals because she loves it, something that doesn’t exactly make you an ideal partner for a crime-fighter. This dynamic has been featured in many of the film and television versions, but I admit that this one was especially well-done. Actually, aside from the Batman: The Animated Series version and some of the comic book runs, this might be the best take on their relationship (assuming the Arkham Games are part of BtAS). 

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Their babies will rule the world. 

The animation is basically the same as the other current DCAU, but I actually think they did a great job of emphasizing the differences between the scenes where Bruce Wayne is in charge and the scenes where Batman is in charge. When Bruce is considering things as Batman, the tones all darken appropriately without it really impacting the scenes, but it’s not done so blatantly that it gets annoying or feels like the artists are shouting “SYMBOLISM!!!” The voice-acting is on point, since it’s pretty much the same cast as before. 

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Good imagery and cinematography, too.

As a movie, I think the story here is pretty entertaining, since it contains a new criminal mastermind who seemingly attacks both Bruce Wayne and Batman at the same time. This thematically intertwines well with the issues that he’s having with being both Batman and Bruce Wayne in his relationship with Selina/Catwoman. Ultimately, he does try to resolve the conflict in his personal life, only for his vigilante life to keep driving a wedge between them. Still, having the central plot and the emotional plot both address the issues that come from breaking down the walls between the secret identity and the superhero one makes the movie feel much more coherent. One scene even shows the extent of the connection between the mask and the man when Batman savagely beats the Joker (Jason Spisak) for murdering Bruce Wayne’s friend to the point that Commissioner Gordon (Bruce Thomas) has to threaten Batman to get him to stop. Also, it’s always good to have a movie where a huge number of Batman’s rogues’ gallery make appearances that don’t feel like they’re just pointless cameos. 

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HA! 

However, what I think is simultaneously the best and worst part of the movie can only come after the spoiler-warning, so I’ll just do the wrap-up here: 

This was a fun movie for me, even if it wasn’t what I thought it would be at first. It told a solid story which balanced emotional moments with action and mystery. If you’ve never read the Batman: Hush comic, I recommend this movie. If you have, I also recommend it, but for different reasons. Give it a shot if you’re a fan of Batman.

*SPOILERS*

This is really a major spoiler, so I’m giving you yet another chance to avoid this. I’m telling you now that if you think just because you read the comic book that this is based on that you can’t have things spoiled, you are wrong. 

*SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS*

This isn’t Batman: Hush. Sure, it has lots of elements of the story that are similar, but the fact is that the identity of Hush is completely different. In the comic, Hush is revealed to be Thomas Elliot, a brilliant surgeon who has been holding a grudge against Bruce Wayne for most of his life because Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, saved the life of Elliot’s mother after Elliot tried to kill his parents in an accident. The film seems to follow this for a bit, even including the iconic scene in which the Joker is framed for killing Thomas Elliot, prompting Batman to almost murder the clown prince of crime. However, while the comic shows Elliot to be alive and the actual identity of Hush, the movie directly averts this by having Batman find Elliot’s corpse a second time, decayed and rotting, revealing that no, Elliot is ACTUALLY dead. It turns out that the Riddler, who was Hush’s partner in the original, is actually Hush in this version, explained by him wanting to get revenge on both Batman and Thomas Elliot, because Elliot couldn’t fix his brain tumor. Instead, the Riddler used a Lazarus Pit and, similar to the comic, the madness that followed gave him the ability to deduce Batman’s identity. He then used a new identity to try and destroy Batman and Bruce Wayne. Rather than being threatened into silence, however, this version shows the Riddler being killed by Catwoman and that being what drives them apart rather than her potentially being involved in the plot. 

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Oh, and we cut the part where Hush miraculously gives a mute speech.

So I have to ask, is it wrong to do a change like this? I actually thought it was brilliant. The plot still works with the Riddler secretly being Hush and it actually made the ending feel more interesting to me, someone who read the source material. Additionally, just setting up the reasons behind Thomas Elliot’s plot would take a lot more screen time, potentially another 20 minutes depending on how it’s conveyed, but the Riddler just hating Batman and all the other villains due to them treating him like a joke is conveyed in about 2 sentences and completely works for the character. It’s a great storytelling change, it makes the movie flow better, and, most importantly, it means that the audience isn’t JUST getting Hush. Think about the film adaptation of The Killing Joke. Aside from the awful opening act, the rest of the movie was a faithful adaptation of The Killing Joke… to the point that almost nothing about it was surprising at all. Most of the film was just the comic panels animated. The only exception that really stands out, and the best part of the movie in my opinion, is the Joker doing a musical number to torment James Gordon, because that’s at least something that is unique to the movie. So, even though this movie might not have exactly faithfully adapted Hush, it gave us something that isn’t just a carbon copy of what we could already have read. Hell, if you liked the movie, you could, and should, read the comic and find out how much more complex and elaborate the plot in the source is. 

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Even the same scenes look wildly different and worth checking out.

An adaptation doesn’t have to be just a shot-for-shot rehashing of the source, but it does still need to capture the core of the source. I think this adaptation managed to do that. I know a lot of people who love the character of Hush will probably disagree, but I think this still worked. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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24) Three Stories (House)

Dr. Gregory House (Hugh “Seriously, I have range guys” Laurie) is basically Sherlock Holmes with a medical degree, a Vicodin addiction, and a limp. Never forget that Holmes was a cocaine and morphine addict, kids.

HouseHolmes
Recovering.

Really, making a Holmes medical drama is extra fitting, because the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes was Joseph Bell, a Scottish Surgeon famous for his demonstrations of deductive reasoning. It somehow brings everything full-circle. In addition to being extremely intelligent and observant, House is a Vicodin addict, has a pronounced limp, and is an almost entirely insufferable human being. But, his worth as a diagnostician usually outweighs the difficulty of working with him.

This episode is the closest thing I have to an example of a pataphysical structure. It’s not really one, because it doesn’t quite go far enough, but it’s close. In this episode, we see someone tell a supposedly true story, or three, as it were, that he is seen interacting with, changing things within, and reconfiguring as he goes. It’s not entirely unique in this, but the way it’s presented and what truth is revealed through the stories definitely reframes the episode in a very different way than most television shows would even try. And this is from a show that, aside from a handful of episodes, is known for being formulaic.

House
Not quite this formulaic, but you get the idea.

In a typical episode of House, a patient comes in to the Princeton-Plainsboro teaching hospital with a disease that nobody knows, House and his team, Drs. Foreman (Omar Epps), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and Chase (Jesse Spencer), misdiagnose the patient six or seven times before finally figuring out what’s wrong with them. During this process, House makes snarky and mean comments, says dirty/mean things to his boss Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), and hangs with/screws up life for his only real friend Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). This episode manages to avoid most of that. (Update: Wrote this before adding the image above, but it supports my summary)

SUMMARY

housecarmen.jpgHouse agrees to lecture about diagnostics at the med school in exchange for fewer clinic hours. As part of the lecture, he decides to propose three hypothetical situations based on one single common symptom: Leg pain. The first is a farmer who was bitten by a rattlesnake. The second is a female volleyball player who appears to be having tendinitis. The third is Carmen Electra who has severe leg pain while mini-golfing. Which, according to House, in his combo flashback/story/lesson/fantasy, she was doing while wearing a traditional golfing outfit with short-shorts.

As I said before, the structure of these stories is really interesting. The med students make suggestions, and House’s hypotheticals play out based on them, while also interacting with them himself. It gives the stories a very different feel to have them be both metaphysical and yet physical at the same time to the characters. It creates a weird twist on reality within the show, which builds up to the climax.

houselecture.jpgAs the farmer’s story plays out, the farmer has a reaction to anti-venom, and it’s revealed that he lied about the snake, because his dog bit him. The dog had a prior bite report, so the dog would have to be put down if the farmer told the truth. House uses this to continue his frequent theme of “everybody lies.” Ultimately, the farmer loses his leg to an infection and his dog to euthanasia, but the farmer gets a prosthetic and a new dog. To balance it out, the volleyball player ends up having osteosarcoma, but beats it and keeps her leg.

The third story progresses a little differently. First, Carmen Electra turns out to be a male golfer, who complains of pain until given Demerol, which he grabs out of the nurse’s hand and injects himself. The students, naturally, assume that he’s a drug addict looking for a fix. However, the patient then starts to undergo organ failure, and the med students can’t figure out why, angering House. His team, as well as Wilson and Cuddy, arrive at the lecture, and determine that the patient was suffering from an aneurysm that led to an infarction, before further realizing that this is the story of how House got his limp.

HouseHospitalHouse, in the past, refuses to have his leg amputated, instead opting for a procedure to try and restore function. However, he suffers a heart attack and dies, briefly, seeing the other two stories he’s told during the lecture as visions. Wilson, in the present, asks if he believes the visions were real.

House responds that he finds it comforting to think they were just images his mind conjured as he died, because then all of life isn’t just a test. In the past, House is put into a coma, and his then-girlfriend Stacy will, on the advice of his future-boss Cuddy, subject House to a different surgical procedure than he requested, which results in the chronic leg pain he suffers now, the source of his drug addiction.

END SUMMARY

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It’s not just because a cane looks classy.

Aside from the format, this episode also receives marks for having a main character reveal his secrets, albeit indirectly, before an audience of strangers. This episode is basically House’s origin story, but, more than that, it’s his confession and his justification for who he is. He’s an atheist, and for a very specific reason. He’s an addict, but he actually is constantly in pain. He’s an asshole to his boss, because he blames her for his situation, and might be right to do so. And, despite thinking that they were just meaningless images, House still used the two other stories as a way to cope with his own fate, and to enable himself to be honest about his past. It ends up being a complex, layered narrative, but Hugh Laurie manages to sell it, and the structure ends up drawing you further in than most stories could.

Also, the title is a pun on three-storied house, so that’s fun.

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If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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House is… difficult to find on a streaming service, but you can buy it on Amazon.