Showing posts with label Batman vs Robin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Batman vs Robin. Show all posts

Batman vs. Robin review

I love Damian Wayne. I think the little dude is simply an awesome hero. Quick-witted, hilariously blunt, and surprisingly formidable, he quickly became my favorite Robin. Damian's had some great stories in the comics, but unfortunately, his animated debut in Son of Batman wasn't exactly the strongest feature from the new DC Animated Universe. However, he's getting a second chance in the spotlight with the appropriately titled Batman vs. Robin. Yes, the father and son technically do fight, but the "vs." really applies to their relationship. Can Batman be a father and a hero's mentor? Can Damian earn his father's trust? Does he even want to earn it or will Bruce's methods push him away? This one is all about character, readers. Don't worry, there's plenty of punching and kicking as well!

This animated feature doesn't draw any strong parallels to Grant Morrison's "Batman vs. Robin" storyline (at least none that I recognized) and it instead takes some major inspiration from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Court of Owls" and Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's "Born to Kill." Both are pretty excellent stories ("Born to Kill" is without question one of my favorite New 52 arcs), so it's understandable to go into this movie with some pretty high expectations, even if you weren't a fan of some of the recent animated features. Thankfully, there's a solid creative team behind this movie and it really does show.
Directed by Jay Oliva (The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) and written by J.M. DeMatteis ("Kraven's Last Hunt"), Batman vs. Robin is all about the difficult relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian. If you watched Son of Batman, read the comics, or just quickly googled the character, then you know Damian was raised by Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, and the League of Assassins. Batman is all about solving conflicts with a strict no-kill rule (well, unless they're basically zombies), so that makes their dynamic an interesting one. Damian was raised to believe that killing your foes is the right thing to do, and Batman is doing his best to make his child realize he needs to resist taking fatal measures. Seeing as they've been apart for so long and Damian was raised by villains, there's also a wee bit of a trust issue going on. As if things weren't difficult enough as is, the Court of Owls enters the pictures to make matters far more complicated. In this story, Talon takes Damian under his wing and attempts to tell him that yes, killing bad guys is the right thing to do. Seeing as Damian and Bruce are arguing so much and they're having trouble connecting, Damian isn't exactly opposed to the idea of joining forces with another "hero."  If you've read Snyder and Tomasi's work, you can tell DeMatteis has pretty much given Talon Morgan Ducard's role. If you haven't, well, go read those stories! Seriously, check 'em out.

The story here is solid. Unlike some of the other movies, it doesn't feel like it's rushing through character-driven scenes in order to get to the explosive conclusion. Sure, the action is probably the part that'll really win you over and I'll admit Batman's stubborn attitude can make him frustrating instead of simply seeming unaware about how to properly balance being a father and a hero, but this movie did a good job handling both character and story progress. It really did stand apart from the source material in a creative way, too. It's really cool that Talon is basically Ducard and that brought more way more emotion to the story. Aside from Batman: Assault on Arkham, the latest DC animated movies haven't done a great job selling their villains. Ocean Master and Black Manta didn't receive nearly enough focus; Deathstroke's story felt uninspired and seeing him lose to Damian in an extended fight is tough to swallow; Darkseid was basically there for one big boss battle. That really isn't the case here and they make sure Talon is there for plenty of kick-ass action while also playing a substantial role in the narrative. The twists probably won't drop your jaw, but it all plays out in an entertaining way and there's a legitimately heartwarming moment in the end -- one which is well-earned. It's brief and predictable yet still totally effective. There's no shame in admitting it'll potentially make you tear up. As the overall narrative moves forward, it never loses sight of making sure to focus on its primary theme: the bond between a mentor and their protege. Even during the opening conflict, this theme is front and center... in a very twisted way, though.
When Jay Oliva is directing, you know you're going to get some exciting action sequences. The choreography -- especially during the final fight between Batman and Talon -- is thrilling and there's plenty of amusing shots. The debut fight with the Talons is downright vicious and watching Batman do everything he can against seemingly impossible odds is a blast; I loved seeing Bruce use different pieces of equipment throughout his fight. It's great to see they just didn't have him to go hand-to-hand the whole time since that would have been totally foolish. Dick Grayon fans will probably feel disappointed by the hero's role, but there's a handful of seconds in there of the agile dude unleashing and it's terrific. Short and sweet sure beats nothing at all, right? The crowded battle is a lot of fun and offers a nice amount of variety. From displays of technique to various gear to a spiffy armor that's taken out in such an unexpected way, the big conflict is a really good time. Plus, even Alfred gets in on the chaos. It's nothing spectacular, but it's still pretty entertaining seeing the guy take part.

There's some great melee combat and fun madness in here, but I do have a criticism: the handling of Damian's capabilities in fights. I don't mind making him formidable -- he should be -- but it'll take some serious plot devices for him to give some iconic characters trouble, and the way he took advantage of them didn't really feel justified. I know it's made clear he'd lose against Bruce in an all-out fight, but the fact he's giving him that much trouble without any other factors playing a role is a little baffling. I can't help but feel like Grayson fans will also feel disappointed. It would have been cool if that brawl concluded the same way as Damian's first violent fight with Tim; that way it isn't downplaying Grayson and still gives Damian credit. I also wish Damian's impressive intellect played a bigger role.

As for the performances, I have to say Jason O'Mara has grown on me. I won't say he's my favorite Batman, but I do believe he's come a long way since Justice League: War. Even when enraged or upset, he gives Bruce a more controlled tone, and I think that's fitting for such a brilliant character. Stuart Allan's perfectly fine as Damian and Jeremy Sisto delivers as Talon, yet the real treat is Kevin Conroy returning to the Wayne family. He doesn't have many lines, but making him voice Bruce's father, Thomas, was a nice dose of fan service. I know we've seen the death of Bruce's parents a gazillion times now, but it's appropriate for this story. Thankfully, it doesn't drag out the scene of his parents being gunned down and instead focuses primarily on the follow-up.
I do have some minor and personal criticisms -- many of them really aren't even worth noting -- but one that I do want to mention takes place early on in the movie. It's a minor spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want even a tiny part potentially ruined. If we're dealing with the world's greatest detective, it's tough to believe his reaction when he first sees Damian and Dollmaker out in the snow. If Robin's weapon had blood on it (for example, he could have cut the guy's leg to make the villain trip), the Dark Knight's reaction would be easier to swallow. Instead, I was left feeling like Batman would demand to know what happened instead of immediately blaming his son. I get there's the issue of trust, but after what they went through in Son of Batman and the time they spent together that we haven't seen, it felt like an unnecessarily harsh response. I know the situation was dark and it impacted Damian personally, but it seems like Bruce's interactions with Damian made him surprisingly cold and mean. Even when he's just curious about what his son is reading, he pretty much swipes the book from Damian's hands! I also wish this movie took advantage of some of the story elements that took place towards the end of "Born to Kill," but at the same rate, you have to respect them for doing their own thing with these two story arcs. Oh, and I thought having the owl carrying a bat was a little too blunt. But hey, that's like, a few seconds out of the whole movie. No biggie. 

I know some of you weren't the biggest fans of Son of Batman and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. Those experiences may have you feeling uninterested in this latest feature and honestly, I wouldn't blame you for feeling that way. I didn't love those two features, either. However, I'm here to tell you that you really shouldn't let those two movies prevent you from watching this one. Batman vs. Robin is pretty awesome and it's definitely worthy of a purchase. While those previous movies disappointed because of lackluster villains or very generic story beats, this one thrives because it has a solid balance of character insight, a fleshed-out bad guy, and excellent action sequences. Batman: Assault on Arkham is still my favorite post-Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox animated movie, but this one absolutely takes second place. Even if you're not a fan of the story, the action is pretty much guaranteed to win you over. (Unless you hate Damian, that is.) Here's hoping the next Batman movie -- you know, if we do get another one -- is every bit as good as this one. And if we do get one, I'm still hoping for "Hush" or maybe even "Knightfall" as a two-parter. A man can dream, yeah?

Oh, and just so you know, there unfortunately isn't a credits scene. Bummer, right? But hey, at least Justice League: Gods and Monsters looks cool. Bruce Timm for the win!