Batman: Son of Batman REVIEW
For over twenty years, Warner Bros Animation has been the one consistent for DC. Viewers could expect sharp production and quality storytelling from them. Sure there have been a few mishaps, but never with consistency and damn sure not two films in a row. However it would seem that WB’s and DC’s mediocrities have finally spread to their animation department. Son of Batman, the second film in WB’s new New 52 animated continuity once again sees Jason O’Mara returning for the title role, but also more of the underwhelming qualities that plagued Justice League: War. Son of Batman is a mess and does not leave viewers with high hopes of what’s to come next.
There is really no way to discuss this film’s issues without going into specific aspects of it. Spoilers ahead from here on; however, for those who want to know whether to watch the film: it’s one of DC Animation’s worst.
Son of Batman would like you to believe it’s an adaptation of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son run. Yes it has a few lines pulled directly from Morrison, but really this is DC trying to take a pre-flashpoint story and convert it into something that fits in the New 52 and that is only one of the film’s many problems. It is also a movie that wants to be seen as “mature” and “edgy” but it’s not.
The movie begins with Ra’s al Ghul being attack and killed at one of his mountain compound. The sequence would be interesting if it was not so ridiculous. Deathstroke, who has become the go to villain for DC as of late, stages a coup and his ninja with guns fight off Ra’s al Ghul’s ninja with swords. The one sided fight gets even more ludicrous once Ra’s’ men pull out catapults and hand cranked arrow launchers to fight off a fleet of helicopters. The films tries to be edgy by including large amounts of blood, by far the most in any DC animated film; however, the absurdity removes any drama or tension the scene hopes to create and Ra’s super human ability to deflect hundreds of bullets fired at close range with a sword doesn’t help. Eventually, Ra’s is defeated, in a rather underwhelming fashion.
Talia (who is curiously modeled after Marvel’s Black Widow) decides to leave her son in the care of his father, Batman. The meeting between Talia and Batman is awkward and animated stiffly. O’Mara’s monotone delivery isn’t a bad take on Batman/Bruce Wayne, as he also includes slight inflections at times; however, they animate his Batman with the same deadpan face for every line. It undercuts O’Mara’s performance and makes you wonder if the director of the film forgot, in animation, subtle movements in the eyes and face do a lot for characters. Damian is introduced to Batman and the two take a long boring drive through a bland mostly empty Gotham City.
This is indicative of most of the film: The character designs are bland. The CG backgrounds are bland. Batman is bland. In the past when DC adapted these stories, they didn’t just take the narrative but also the artistic style of the original artist. Andy Kubert’s work is nowhere to be seen, washed over by New 52 blandness. There is even a point when the cast travels to London, but there are no shots or landmarks shown, only generic buildings. Viewers know its London only because Bruce says they are in London.
Once home, Damien vows to his father he will avenge his grandfather and soon sneaks out to find Ubu (who curiously has been redesigned as a generic thug, complete with bachelor pad and pressed pants) who was also involved with Ra’s betrayal. Damien fights Ubu and is only prevented from killing him by Nightwing (who is curiously designed after his Young Justice counterpart and not New 52). Young actor Stuart Allan does a fine job voicing the grandson of the demon and one of the smart changes the film does is make Damien more tolerable. He’s still a brat, but you don’t want to strangle him like in Morrison’s early run. The change that does not work is having him meet with Dick. Originally Damien felt that the Robin mantle was his birthright. This naturally drew him into conflict with Tim Drake, who was Robin at the time. Their fight would ultimately push Drake to create the Red Robin persona. The film tries to touch on this conflict with Dick instead of Tim and it does not work. Dick willingly stepped away from being Robin. Damien’s infatuation with the role means little to him. When Dick tells Damien “that’s mine” he’s speaking about the tangible costume not the mantle.
Soon, Batman takes Damien under his wing to teach him his way of crime fighting, which is as brutal as Damien’s current fighting style, only with no killing. This is the same moral dilemma Superman faced in Superman vs The Elite. In that film, both positions were made clear. It was also a candid look at the consequences and benefits of Superman’s approach to crime fighting. Viewers are supposed to believe that Batman is morally superior to Ra’s al Ghul, but the opening scene showed viewers Ghul’s men do not use guns and they are still defending their hideout with boulders and arrows. Batman is as violent and brutal as Ra’s al Ghul in his own ways. Damien’s arc consists of beating the life out of ninjas and cutting their throats at the end to beating the life out of ninjas and letting them drown at the end.
This all leads to a third act that is somehow more absurd, ridiculous and over the top than the rest of the film. It starts with viewers being led to believe that Damien – by himself – got from London to Scotland and then swam to an offshore oil platform 50 miles away in a few hours. This pales in comparison to the madness that is the final showdown between Deathstroke and Damien. The fights throughout the movie are choreographed well and feature some of the best animation; however, poor backgrounds and absurd action take away a lot from these scenes. After being pinned to a pipe with a knife and sword threw both arms – a pretty graphic and gruesome injury – Damien frees himself by yanking one arm threw the knife and removing the sword from the other. It is at that point that all tension is removed from the scene, as viewers are left believing they are watching an episode of Naruto and not a Batman film. Deathstroke is defeated and Damien decides to stay with his father, in a scene that might have been more impactful if everything preceding it wasn’t so ridiculous.
This is the new Warner Bros animation. It’s “mature” not for its themes but for the graphic violence it shows on screen. It’s cheap by using CG whenever it’s convenient to save on budget. It’s bland, choosing an art style that is a little bit of this, little bit of that and a whole lot of nothing at the same time. Son of Batman production quality is reminiscent of Marvel’s animation attempts from 2006-2008 – poor imitations of DC’s original animated films at the time. The film constantly undercuts itself and makes for a disjointed inconsistent viewing experience.
Son of Batman is available now via Digital Download and will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD May 6th.