Review: Son of Batman

When you read the title “Son of Batman” most comic fans will think of the story arc of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman (pre-New 52) called “Batman and Son.” It drew in a lot of attention because Morrison promised that everything Batman was now in continuity and that included Batman: Son of the Demon in which Batman had a child with Talia. Even the name “Batman and Son” was a play on “Son of the Demon” and so any comic reader familiar with this storyline from 2006 is likely to think of it when seeing the words “Son of Batman”… “Batman and Son”… “Son of Batman”… “Batman… and Son.” Sadly the difference in title should be your first warning that Son of Batman is only loosely based off of the “Batman and Son” story arc (in fact Morrison and Kubert aren’t even credited on the film). What’s stranger is that there is a new Batman continuity created with this animated film. I suppose it’s not that strange when you consider Superman vs. The Elite and Superman: Unbound did much the same. The difference being that since those movies releases Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: War. Granted War created its own continuity, but this seemed like the beginning of a united animated front, much like the united comic front that became known as the New 52.

It really seemed as if DC and the WB were finally on the same page and understood that fans want there to be a connection to their universe and not just a made up story for the sake of the animation. Sadly there is a made up story/continuity for Son of Batman.

To begin with Ra’s al Ghul is alive and well and is in fact grooming Damian to become the leader of the League of Assassins. The League of Assassins is more like the league of Ninjas, because they’re all ninjas. They use swords and arrows and frankly it’s strange that as assassins they don’t have or use anything other than the aforementioned weapons… no I take that back they did have catapults that threw fucking rocks. So a mixture of Medieval technology and ninjas, but mostly ninjas.

Son of BatmanTheir compound is attacked by people with guns. You could say that they’re a league of assassins as well, but the name was already taken. They all have orange skull patches on their arms with one eye so let’s call them “One-eyed Orange Skulls.” They’re led by the villain of our film… wait the villain of our film? Didn’t I already introduce them when I said Ra’s al Ghul was involved? You would think that, but you’re wrong. In fact the film attempts to make the Ghul family look… good. On one hand they run the League of Assassins and on the other hand they are raising a child.

No the real villain of the film is Deathstroke the Terminator… and he has two eyes when we meet him. Eventually he loses the eye, but at this point you should be wondering why a two eyed man would be leading the “One-eyed Orange Skulls”… that’s right folks. In the WB’s infinite laziness they either A) decided to have one of the characters in the film take Deathstroke’s eye after already creating the design for his Crew of Assassins or B) … well B is that they’re still lazy. Either way it was poor planning or laziness.

This opening attack forces Talia to take Damian to his father’s place while she pathetically attempts revenge on Deathstroke. What’s Deathstroke’s motivation you ask? Well he was supposed to take over the League of Assassins until Batman was discovered and offered the job and when he turned it down they were like “we already got his baby batter brewing in Talia… let’s just make him the leader.”

It’s not until Batman meets Damian that he becomes annoying. It was strange because everyone that read his stint as Robin in the comic books knows how annoying this little bastard is and yet at first he’s not. Then he meets his dad… and becomes the most annoying child, character and cartoon persona ever. There is nothing to like about this version of Damian. He’s at his worst for the rest of the film.

Damian doesn’t really respect Batman. He listens to him only when it’s convenient for the story and when he doesn’t it’s also convenient for the story. If I was a small child watching this, the lesson I would learn is that I can do whatever as long as Dad says he’s impressed by me at the end of it. Every cliché between father and son meeting for the first time is used, “I thought you’d be bigger.” That’s verbatim. There are plenty more that were too painful for me to recall, but I’m sure someone out there can turn it into a drinking game.

Batman is reduced to a supporting role for the most part. That’s right he plays second fiddle to Damian who is ahead of him on everything and even hacks the Bat-computer. He’s also voiced by Jason O’Mara who you will recall as the really shitty Batman voice actor in the Justice League: War film. There’s something about his voice that isn’t believable and makes it sound as if he’s in a different film than the rest of the characters.

The worst part of the film comes from the first encounter between Nightwing and Damian. Nightwing is the one and only previous Robin making Damian the second Robin. They meet and we all know a fight is going to break out since Damian is about to kill someone and is seeing red. Instead we see the end of the battle which has Nightwing sporting several (and I do mean several) deep cuts from Damian’s sword. Why this fight was skipped is beyond me, but they chose to show a panel of the fight here and there in the credits… you know when you’re just dying for more from that train skipped scene.

The story is pointless which in my book is worse than bad. Deathstroke’s motivations throughout the film make zero sense and the go-to villains of the Bat-verse are made to look like heroes. All the while you’ll be left wondering what exactly Batman is doing when not on screen.

The voice acting ranges from passable, to meh, to really bad. It’s a shame that they’re mostly just grabbing people off of WB produced TV shows and throwing them in a studio in order to promote the show and the cartoon at the same time. Makes business sense until these animations start flopping like they’ve been doing ever since Geoff Johns forced them to animate three of his stories back-to-back.

The animation is good for the most part. Other than the laziness with the skulls in the beginning and a few weird action sequences, it’s what you’d expect from a WB animation. The action sequences that fail, both involve fast ninja movement. The first is Ra’s doing a no-hand cartwheel to block a bullet with his sword and it looks more like stop-motion animation. The second is a scene with Damian jumping across traffic. Not only is he about the same size as the cars, but his animation cell looks like it was just dragged to one car from the next. What’s worse is that momentum and physics where never taken into account for this scene as he jumps perfectly between cars going different directions at varying speeds.

There’s a sad truth to this film: most people are still going to buy or rent it just to see it. A lot of people grew up during the Bruce Timm era of WB animation and remember the great series that he produced or oversaw. Because of him we crave more WB animation and their characters are the perfect fit for it. Too bad the WB is more concerned with just pumping out content rather than content people will remember or care about in ten or even five years. Even if just money is their focus it’s a short-sighted way of doing business as you will eventually burnout your fanbase. They’re only willing to put up with so much. With Son of Batman I doubt I’ll even remember it by the time DCU Batman: Assault on Arkham releases later this year and would encourage you to not give into curiosity and just skip it.

Score: 2/5 (Animation Only)

Director: Ethan Spaulding Story: James Robinson Teleplay: Joe R. Lansdale Studio: WB Animation Release Date: 5/6/14