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SON OF BATMAN: A Brat, a Boring Bat, and Blood

After The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: War, I knew to expect Son of Batman to be bloody, violent, and a little thin on plot. And I was right. This is yet another DC animated picture I won’t be putting in front of my progeny.

The basic premise: Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson feels his place as Ra’s al Ghul’s heir apparent has been usurped by Batman, and so Wilson stages a coup. Attacking the compound, he manages to kill Ra’s, putting Talia and Damian on the run. She takes him to Gotham City, where the boy meets his father for the first time. Batman, who really never flinches at anything, takes it in stride that the boy is his. It helps that prior to the reveal, Talia reminds Batman of that night she drugged him and basically had her way with the Dark Knight. So… date rape?

Damian, of course, is bloodthirsty, out for revenge against Deathstroke. He’s willing to cross the line Bruce Wayne drew for himself, and it’s that reckless nature that creates all sorts of mayhem as Batman tries to carry out what’s essentially a rescue — recovering Dr. Kirk Langstrom’s family from a mountain compound owned by the League of Assassins. And at no time does Batman ever chastise Robin for his reckless behavior. Damian’s jumping the gun destroys Batman’s chances of sneaking in and accomplishing the goal, and Batman’s life is complicated ten-fold by the boy’s impatience. This kid is going to get someone killed, and Batman never gets in Damian’s face about it.

SOB_Damian

First off, there’s no way I can buy a ten-year-old has the skills demonstrated by Damian in this flick. Yeah, I know. Batman’s son. Trained by the League. Ra’s al Ghul’s grandson. Yadda yadda. Still not buying that a scrawny ten-year-old kid has what it takes to beat a 300-pound bodyguard, let alone go toe-to-toe with Deathstroke. Compound that with the fact that I don’t like Damian as a character, and I’m already not impressed with the story.

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Second, we again have evidence that Bruce Timm is no longer involved in these films. From the very first scene, the film is violent, bloody, and crudely executed. The animation is stiff and clunky, and there’s more than one spot where the physics involved would really get in the way of the story, so they get ignored. Along with the idea that actions have consequences. In the first few minutes alone, we have disembowelment, arrows to the throat, a sword in the eye, bullets and bombs, murder, Ra’s being burned to a crisp. And there’s no emotional fallout from this. Seriously. The boy has just witnessed mass murder, the death of his grandfather, and the destruction of his home. Let’s go for a picnic in Gotham.

Now, let’s focus for a moment on the scene where Talia first introduces Batman to Damian. In that one scene, we get a small infodump as Talia tells Bruce they’re on the run. And oh, by the way, here’s your kid. I mean, there is absolutely no reaction from Batman. None at all. Shock, surprise, disbelief, suspicion… none of that is there. It’s not in the picture, and it’s not in Batman’s voice. He just takes it in stride like Talia told him it might rain tomorrow. Ho-hum.

Which is typical of the delivery Jason O’Mara uses for Batman. He doesn’t sound like he cares about anything.

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SoBat_Damian-Talia

Talia looks nice and provocative throughout the picture, and the animators give us plenty of cleavage. She wears Black Widow’s costume well, down to the auburn hair, even. There’s no doubt that Talia’s a woman. And it strikes me as being a bit overdone. She’s not overly busty like Power Girl, but the zipper is down, and there are plenty of shots to give us a tease, something I found a little distracting because it didn’t feel organic. It felt gratuitous.

Speaking of gratuitous, let’s talk for a moment about all the hero poses in this. Almost every time a character is introduced — Nightwing, Damian as Robin — there’s a lingering camera shot on them while they strike a pose. All while some kind of combat is going on all around them. It’s silly. Especially Nightwing standing with a sword up over his head. I half-expected him to say “By the power of Greyskull!” or something else half-witted.

And the switch to CG for some of the Bat-vehicle shots are jarring. The 3D renders stick out like a sore thumb on this one.

SoBat - Deathstroke_06

Now, when did Deathstroke become a student of the League of Assassins? When did he become part of Ra’s al Ghul’s legacy? Deathstroke is a mercenary, a gun for hire. When have we ever seen the character have personal ambitions that would make him jealous of someone? Craving power is not Slade Wilson’s style.

SOB_BW-Alfred

On the plus side, David McCallum delivers a nice performance as Alfred. And Thomas Gibson is a passable Deathstroke. Morena Baccarin is OK, but I really didn’t feel like there was any real emotion between her and Jason O’Mara, who still doesn’t sell Batman for me. He’s all right, but I prefer Kevin Conroy (who will be back as Batman in the next animated outing, Assault on Arkham).

SoBat - Robin costume

 

Still no credit for Bill Finger (come on, even Wikipedia gets this right). The movie is based on the 2006 story arc by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, so you can’t complain about New 52 sensibilities on this one, even though Batman is wearing a Jim Lee brand costume.

Overall, it’s not a bad picture, but it’s bloodier than it needs to be, which is par for the course in the James Tucker era of the DC Animated Universe. But it’s not something I’ll want to watch again. It was passable. It was OK. It was watchable. But it didn’t excite me. It didn’t really impress me. I guess the days of wanting to watch these pictures more than once is over. At least for me. Your mileage may vary.

 

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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