In recent times, anything that isn't The Dark Knight Trilogy for DC has been missing the live action cinematic mark, while DC Animation Studios has been steadily producing solid animated features based on comic book arcs. Adaptions of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Year One and recently Geoff Johns’ Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has demonstrated that translating great comics into films can definitely work. After DCs commitment that their movies would tie into their animated franchise continuity, director Ethan Spaulding and writer James Bobinson have the unfortunate task of taking massive liberties with Grant Morrison's sensational comic book run Batman and Son and squeeze its square peg into the round hole that is Son of Batman.
Ra's al Ghul’s League of Shadows compound is attacked by excommunicated member Deathstroke and his army of mercenaries forcing Talia al Ghul’s and her son to escape and seek protection from his father Batman. Meanwhile, the kidnapped scientist Dr Kirk Langstrom is being forced to mass produce his Man-Bat serum.
Batman having an heir and opening the door to his legacy should, first and foremost, feel like a canonical Dark Knight story. Bobinson is distracted with attempting to squeeze Damian’s origin into the Batman/Robin parental tragedy and the character doesn’t need it. Damian’s ambivalence as a character is what makes him intriguing. Fleshing out the origin that Morrison intended that incorporated Bob Brown and Denny O’Neil's run from the 70s into his all-inclusive tapestry of the character is what this universe needs. Bobinson and DCs ‘New 52’ selective amnesia reject 75 years of stories. The subsequent villain lip service to the ‘rogues gallery’ ignores the tragic irony of Batman’s heir being born from the bloodline of one of his greatest enemies.
The direction is rushed and each setting looks like it’s there to change scenery instead of evoking a mood. The uniquely gothic aesthetic of the other exclusively Batman animation differentiates the character and the world of Gotham. The current DC animated studios have their aesthetic and apply it universally to their Justice League stories, namely War and Flashpoint, but these stories need to service their varied group of characters instead of simply all things Gotham City.
The voice casting of Jason O'Mara as Bats just doesn’t work. It’s clear that he’s the poor man’s Christian Bale. Kevin Conroy IS the voice of Batman but even Peter Weller (The Dark Knight Returns) and Ben McKenzie (Year One) are markedly better for their respective roles. Two inspired pieces of voice casting though are Morena Baccarin (Homeland, Firefly) as Talia and Sean Maher (Firefly) as Nightwing/Dick Grayson. Imagining Baccarin in that role caused tingling in my Al Ghul's; while Maher has the right ‘pep’ for a Grayson away from Wayne’s tutelage.
Son of Batman is not Batman and Son. It’s a pig wrapped in a silk cape and cowl.
[rating=1] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Written by: James Bobinson (story) and Joe R. Lansdale (screenplay) Based on the comic book written by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert
Voice cast: Jason O'Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson,Morena Baccarin, Dee Bradley Baker, Xander Berkeley, Giancarlo Esposito, David McCallum, Fred Tatasciore, Bruce Thomas, Sean Maher
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