Son of Batman Blu-ray ReviewApril 29, 2014
Son of Batman, the 20th DC Universe Animated Original Movie and an adaptation of Grant Morrison’s comic series “Batman and Son”, finds the Dark Knight (played by Jason O’Mara, who also voiced the character in Justice League: War) discovering that he has a child with Talia Al Ghul (Morena Baccarin). Filled with great action, witty dialogue, and superb animation, Son of Batman satisfies on many levels – it’s personally one of my favorite DC animated films since Batman: Under The Red Hood.
After the headquarters of the League of Shadows is attacked, Talia and her father Ra’s Al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame) attempt to defend the fortress in a breathtaking fight sequence. Right from the start, the eponymous son of Batman, Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan), showcases his incredible ability – shooting and slicing down wave after wave of mercenaries and facing down Deathstroke himself (Thomas Gibson). Soon after, Talia takes Damian to Gotham City to meet his father, as she believes he’ll be safer with Bruce for the time being. Damian has been trained his entire life to inherit Ra’s title as head of the League of Shadows, and possesses wisdom and skill far beyond his ten years. However, it falls to Bruce to teach him respect, restraint and control, as when Damian lands on the doorstep of Wayne Manor he’s essentially an entitled, petulant child. His egotistical attitude quickly gnaws at the nerves of butler Alfred Pennyworth (David McCallum), and the original Robin, Nightwing (Sean Maher).
Damian quickly assumes the mantle of Robin (after providing a few cheeky remarks at the expense of Nightwing’s original Robin uniform), and vows to track down and kill those who attacked the League of Shadows compound. Over the course of the film Damian learns to curb his rage and ruthless nature, eventually becoming a huge asset to Batman.
As for the voice acting, Stuart Allan is great as Damian Wayne, easily capturing the character’s sardonic wit and egotistical nature. Jason O’Mara does a solid job in his second turn as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, after Justice League: War. Giancarlo Esposito was a cool choice for Ra’s Al Ghul, but sadly the character isn’t in the film for very long. Sean Maher plays off of Allan’s Damian quite well, and the two offer up some of Son of Batman’s funniest moments. Morena Baccarin is merely decent as Talia, as she seems to be phoning in the role a bit and spends most of the movie as a damsel in distress. Thomas Gibson’s voice seemed out of place as Deathstroke – his voice just doesn’t fit the character in my opinion, but maybe I’m too used to Manu Bennett’s awesome interpretation of the character on CW’s Arrow.
The Blu-ray of Son of Batman offers some good extras and featurettes. “The Fang and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins” tells the story of Ra’s Al Ghul’s beginnings as a doctor before his wife was murdered and he gave into the maddening effects of the Lazarus Pit – whose rejuvenating energy has also granted him nearly 500 years of life. It also sheds some light on Talia as a character, beginning life in the comics as nothing more than a femme fatale and growing into a much more nuanced, layered character that would one day manage to seduce Batman – if Bruce Wayne would not marry Talia and take Ra’s place as the head of the League of Shadows, she would make an heir.
“Strange Blood Ties: Damian Wayne” focuses on Bruce and Talia’s son, who would one day take up the mantle of Robin as one of Batman’s greatest sidekicks. It talks about Damian’s upbringing as the heir to the League of Shadows throne, and how he struggles to fit in in the Batcave alongside Nightwing and Alfred, who he sees as simply beneath him, before Bruce instills a sense of honor and respect in Damian. The feature also showcases issue 666 of Batman, which showed a future where Bruce is not successful at getting through to Damian, who becomes a much more chaotic, lethal, and darker version of Batman. This is an interesting story element that I wish would have been explored in Son of Batman, but sadly it was left on the cutting room floor.
The final extras on the Son of Batman Blu-ray include “Designing the Characters with Phil Bourassa”, where the lead artist goes into great detail about how he took the character designs from rough sketches to final renders, including his thought process behind coloring, linework, and adapting designs from the comics. We also get a sneak peek at the upcoming Batman: Assault on Arkham animated film, which is based on the videogame series and looks great so far. Finally, there’s four Batman cartoons from the DC Vault, including an episode of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond.
While Son of Batman makes considerable alterations to its source material, there’s still a lot to like about the 20th animated feature from DC. Son of Batman has perhaps the most action of any DC animated feature thus far, and some great dialogue and characterization as well. The animation is beautifully rendered, and the Blu-ray features a respectable amount of extras and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.