The phrase “Batman and Robin” are cemented in my very core of my early childhood introduction to the Dark Knight. The two just seemed to always go hand in hand. DC has gone back and forth over the past couple of decades on whether Batman is better off solo or with his famed sidekick. Over the years in the DC comics, we have seen the original Robin, aka Dick Grayson, grow up to evolve into his own hero and success as Nightwing.
We got to witness the second Robin, Jason Todd, get brutally beaten and killed by the ruthless hands of The Joker, with his trusty crow bar. The feedback among fans was a mixed affair. DC announced a vote by phone poll for fans to decide the fate of Jason in an upcoming issue. Not sure how close of a poll it was, but the decision was made, Robin would die. Some thought it was just too brutal. Others rejoiced at the fact that Jason (a Robin not many cared for) was finally done with and were excited to see DC continue with just The Batman.
I remember reading the comic series as a kid after Jason’s death. Batman was a cold and mournful vigilante who carried the death of his sidekick on his shoulders. He vowed to never again put a child in danger and train another Robin. Which held true for a good run in the comic series. In 1989, DC introduced to the world in Batman issue #436, Tim Drake, who would eventually move on to become the third Robin.
This was about the time I took a long decade break from reading Batman comics. So my knowledge of Damian Wayne was very limited when I popped in the latest film from the DC Universe of animated original movies, Son Of Batman. I also admit, I have never read the 2006 graphic novel Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, which the film is inspired by. So needless to say, I went in pretty fresh. I have to admit, once the credits rolled, I think Damian Wayne just might be my favorite Robin to date!
The film begins giving us a rare look into the world of Ra’s al Ghul and his infamous ninja, the League of Assassins. A world DC fans are not treated to very often in the animated universe. Was a nice change of venue from recent DC Batman animated films, so already that’s a huge plus in my book. My first introduction to Damian was impressive by watching his warrior passion and loyalty to protect at all cost his mother, Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin) and his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul who was incredibly voiced by Giancarlo Esposito. Esposito voiced the iconic villain just as I imagined him sounding in my head years ago reading a Batman comic as a child.
Back to the beginning of the film. When a former right-hand man to Ra’s al Ghul known as Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson, I’ll come back to his performance later) launches a surprise attack on the League Of Assassins, Damian’s world is turned upside down when he loses everything he has ever known in the aftermath of the attack. Which by the way, was a very action packed and exciting intro that set the tone for the rest of the film. One of the early highlights was watching Talia in action. Another DC character that hasn’t gotten much spotlight in the recent DC animated films as well. Was overall, very impressed with the high bar director Ethan Spaulding set within the first twenty minutes of the film.
When Talia realizes that her son is no longer safe with Deathstroke still on the loose, she decides to travel to Gotham to give Bruce Wayne one hell of a surprise in a “Maury Povich, you ARE the father” style scene that reveals Damian to Bruce for the first time as his son. Agreed to take Damian under his Batwing, Bruce learns that he has his work as a father cut out for him by attempting to educate his son that revenge and violence isn’t the answer.
Some of the best scenes are at Wayne Manor, as both Alfred and Dick learn to adjust to the new resident at the Batcave and Wayne Manor. The back and forth dialogue was hilarious between the cocky Damian and his constant referral to Alfred as the “servant”. One scene that was one of the comedy highlights for me was listening to Dick almost telling Damian “to go F*&K himself”.
As usual, I won’t spoil the key plot points, but the rest of the film aims its focus as a revenge story that almost makes Batman himself a supporting character to the son of the Batman, in Damian’s quest to become the fourth Robin, and take his vengeance on Deathstroke.
This was a very solid film. Voice actor Jason O’Mara truly has a gift for voicing the Dark Knight. However, I have to say…I was not too impressed with Thomas Gibson’s role as Deathstroke. Perhaps I am just a bit spoiled by the CW Networks Manu Bennett as the famed badass assassin known as Deathstroke. Gibson wasn’t an awful Deathstroke by any means. I just felt he didn’t have any ruthless grit to him. Deathstroke’s voice almost came across a bit too “civilized,” I suppose that would be the right word to use.
In addition, Son Of Batman‘s Deathstroke never truly got a chance to shine in all the character’s unique traits that makes him such a badass and cool villain. Half the action scenes, he has his hands full getting his ass whooped by a 12-year-old boy. Not exactly the Deathstroke I have come to love over the year’s. That all being said, never once did I feel Gibson voice or the script for Deathstroke truly take anything away from the overall film. Just a nit pick.
This was a bloody 74-minutes of DC action. Not as bloody as the four star Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, but if you have kids, just a heads up that there will be blood. Director Ethan Spaulding obviously has a love for Batman lore. Gotham is one of the true stars in the film as lightning strikes in the background of Arkham Asylum, raindrops come down over the city and drip off rooftop gargoyle statutes. The animation is crisp and gorgeous.
The sound is everything you want to hear as the engines roar from the Batmobile. Son Of Batman is right there with the best of the rest of the DC animated film series. The plot? Starts off great but sadly stumbles a bit toward the end with cliché finales. The typical boss headquarters blowing up, the “fight to the end”, ect. I will say this though, Damian is easily one of my favorite Robin’s of all time now. The kid is a ruthless killer, and his borderline comedic scenes almost stole the show several times over.
If you are like me and a huge fan of Batman, then this definitely deserves a spot in your movie collection. For the casual movie goer though, I suggest this film as a weekend rental.
I give Son Of Batman a flawed and yet entertaining 2 1/2 out of 4 Throwing Stars!