Son of Batman
Released: May 6th 2014
Opened: Straight-to-video Release
Metacritic: Not Available
Rotten Tomatoes Aggregated So Far: Nothing yet only 100% Expectancy
I still tend to be biased toward Kevin Conroy as Batman but I thought Jason O'mara did a fine job voicing Batman/Bruce Wayne during Justice League: War. He was essentially one of the best parts of that film. I also tend to expect a lot from DCAU's depictions of Batman. More so than with Superman, because Batman is more of the barometer for their success. There is also far more material on Batman that can be compared against vs any other of DC's animated works and films.
I do enjoy varied pieces of the 'New 52' and I will always enjoy getting more animated features of some of the greatest comic characters ever created. I did not have huge expectations for this film because JL: War let me down a bit. But I am intrigued by the contrasts of both of these iconic characters and how well this aspect will shine through in this film.
Jason O'mara again does a wonderful job of voicing our eponymous hero. It's hard to begrudge this film for not having voice over royalty like Kevin Conroy at the helm for our favorite non-superpowered dark knight. Especially when he's done well as the character for a second time. DC is pushing forward in their 'New 52' animated universe with this star in the role. I expect to hear his voice again in their upcoming films.
The artwork is excellent and follows much of the character designs we already saw in JL: War which shows the attempt at a new unified DCAU concept. Take into account the beautiful fight scenes and the amazing level of acrobatics we are accustomed to seeing in animated Batman showings and you have a very entertaining 74 minutes.
There are a few random moments of inconsistency with the action and story telling. For one, during a scene where Damien is giving chase he states "I don't want it to be that easy." Then drops his Katana and pummels Ubu. But just then, as he runs out of the room to chase Ubu, on the rooftops he has his katana back in his scabbard; only to draw it once more when he reaches the ground...granted you can feasibly see the delay in Damiens exit where potentially he picked up the katana and resheathed it. Sure, but why not just have him sheath the sword in the first place, instead of throwing it down on the ground? This seems like an edit that got forgotten, replaced in post and simply left in without concern for explanation. A minor issue, but a point of contention when you consider continuity and consistency in story telling. It's an action that devalues another.
Another inconsistency that was very apparent; Damien arrived on an oil rig, in full Robin garb, cape and all, after a 50 mile swim (of course). Then seemingly was bone dry within seconds of getting on the rig. Only to be ready to unleash a level of whoop ass that was beyond amazing. The film gave you a glimpse of how tough he was (already) by taking down a major thug and by contextual glimpses of how he skirmished with Nightwing; who is definitely not a pushover. But a 50 mile swim? Without any fatigue...is either foreshadowing what DCAU wants you to believe about this kid, or the level of exaggeration in the story plotline is simply an oversight or just dismissive as state-of-plot.
Talia's overtures to Bruce don't feel right and are portrayed with awful timing in terms of the events happening around them. At first she is seemingly seducing Bruce with her son essentially behind a curtain listening in. This is almost Hitchcockian in its nature, Norman Bates comes to mind. The second time it just feels forced, a bit film noire in the worst sense possible. Pretentious at best.
Alfred is also categorically uncharacteristic. He is usually full of respect and patience. Here he is a crotchety old man that is not very accepting of Damien Wayne from the start (even if truth be told he didn't like him very much in the comics either). His attitude toward the young man is not very welcoming or understanding. Attributes Alfred has in spades. In the comic Alfred comes off as concerned not sarcastically dismissive.
Giancarlo Esposito's voice as Ra's Al Ghul is awful. The lines Ra's Al Ghul has are awful. Ra's is supposed to be eloquent, loquacious and on many levels above saintly on patience and forethought. This is a display of awkwardly inaccurate storytelling against Ra's Al Ghul. Seemingly intentionally making him weak and preposterously fallacious all to set a tone for his demise. Something could have been done differently.
Deathstroke also sounds unmistakenly wrong. Perhaps it's the fact that currently the sounds of Manu Bennett and previously Ron Perlman resound in my mind. It is not at all a good sound hearing this particular voice over. While the points in this section are undoubtedly fanboy-rage based it is not completely subjective and our ears (fanboys or otherwise) are adept enough to hear something that sounds appropriate for the age of the character we are seeing. Especially characters that are seasoned with powerful histories. Between Ra's and Deathstroke, neither were stoic, patient or poised. Not in sound or story. That is a failure on the team that adapted the story as well the team that directed the VOA's to convey those stories. The film had Andrea Romano as a Casting Director and as a voice, but I'm not so sure she did any voice direction in this film. I could be completely wrong but it doesn't feel like her DNA is on this film in that capacity.
I am harkened back to the days of poorly dubbed anime by various and random American VOA's. It's also not necessarily the fault of the Voice Over Artist. The writing is not giving the actors very much to work with. Ra's, who is among the most prophetic and eloquent of Bruce's antagonists was similarly showcased like Darkseid was in JL: War. That is just a shame. Perhaps the characters are being dumbed down for a new audience or perhaps its simply 'New 52' guidelines for the personality traits of these characters as they are now.
“I'll drive!” "No!"
The contrast between father and son on their ideologies is staggeringly wonderful to see brought to life. Seeing Bruce's son seemingly best-him in a variety of contexts is also refreshing to also see brought to the screen. And about time too. In virtually all ways for the exception of his general strength (perhaps overall size), wisdom and patience are questionable and difficult to measure. On one hand Damien is thrown around by various characters in his many battles in the film. On another hand he swims 50 miles in a full costume, cloak and hoodie in tow, yet has so much stamina and strength he is capable of fighting through a labyrinth of enemies and continue a fight (seemingly) to the death with Deathstroke. Deathstroke...one of DC's deadliest foes for Batman among others. While the suspension of disbelief is there, the concept of super-heroics gives way into rational thought and you just go with it. But for a moment or two you may possibly yell out "Are you serious!?"
“But I know how!” "No!"
This film does not pull any punches, let alone show mercy during many of the fight scenes. I like that it was honest in this respect. What would the League of Shadows do in that situation? They'd attempt to kill everyone in sight. There was blood. A lot of blood. Damian was also showcased beautifully early on in terms of his skill and willingness to kill. Setting a path that would somewhat bring Batman back to square one. Something he'd already dealt with on many occasions with prior Robins. Only this time this was his son.
There were many visual and story trappings that allowed your mind to connect directly to Batmans philosophy while dealing with Damiens general lack of morality; rather his general bloodthirsty behavior. One of those moments is Batman tearing off Killer Crocs tale as Croc was falling apart; poetically direct and to the point. While you first ponder as the scene unfolds in this way that Batman would never do such a thing, you immediately realize its not life threatening and while it may seem to be torture; its a statement in and of itself about who this Batman is.
Finally, seeing a proper contrast to Batmans moral code of honor is a feast for the mind. Damien is in every way his son. Powerful and direct. Needing guidance yes, but also on many levels able to help Batman with his own demons and ethical quandaries. You see early on they need each other and while Damien may seem like a human cuisinart at times, his earliest encounters with the dark knight and final scenes in the film tie up our story with a small (yet) infinitely important message. That Damien is still a kid and Batman is going to be an ever present dad.
What Might have Hurt This Film…
It's hard to state how films like this could fail if they are going to in fact fail. In the end it is yet another great DCAU fix in the absence of a Justice League or Batman film. However, because it is a 'New 52' based film intermixed with the origin stories prior to 'New 52' there will always be those that will dislike a few aspects of the new storylines. In this case it is still a Batman film and for the most part his easily recognizable DNA is noticed on the surface. Damien is still quite an addition to the DCAU and is not completely new as his character appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, even if it was a completely different variation of the character.
So with that said, it will depend a lot on the age range of the teenagers (or younger) that will gain this title. If parents are savvy to the belligerent amount of violence, it may hinder some of its sales. As far as the older fans are involved it will depend on their credence toward the new storylines or whether or not they just want to absorb as much DCAU as is possible.
It's an enjoyable film. More so than JL: War, even with some really awkward voice over work it isn't really about bad acting but about really bad casting choices. In terms of the vocal profiles being used to portray these characters this is still a decent animated feature. Bat-fans will love it because it is another entry into the Batman video collection, and fans of the Damien era 'Robin' will love it because they finally get a Robin they've been looking forward to on screen. So aside from the weird voice work, some very noticeable plot holes and inconsistencies with the story and action sequences. This was still a good viewing and I'd advise all DCAU fans to give it a look.
3.5 out of 5 Comic Book Movie Geeks
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