What’s it About?
Batman learns he has a violent, unruly pre-teen son, secretly raised by the terrorist group the League of Assassins.
“Son of Batman”
Directed by Ethan Spaulding
“Son of Batman” from director and animator Ethan Spaulding (The LooneyTunes, The Simpsons, Avatar: The Last Airbender) is an exciting but flawed DC Universe Batman film. “Son of Batman” is written by Joe R. Lansdale and based on the comics written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Andy Kubert. SoB is not a shining example of what DCU can do best and what has done very well in the past but it has a few seminal moments in the story and animation that keep it from completely sinking under the weight of some heavy handed execution with dull characterizations and weary and sluggish voice over work.
One of Batman’s greatest enemies, Ra’s al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito), sheltering his daughter Talia (Morena Baccarin) and Grandson Damian (Stuart Allan) inside his hidden fortress, is assaulted by a desciple of his named Slade aka known as Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson) in an attemot to usurp him and the League of Assassins. Young Damian, attempting to protect the compound from a bloody assault, injures Slade by taking out his right eye. Talia, meanwhile, stays above fighting the assassins from a turret tower with a mechanical arrow gatling gun in a very violent and exciting action sequence. Eventually, Slade and al Ghul face off and al Ghul is overtaken and Slade escapes. Talia and Damian try desperately to have al Ghul heal in the Lazarus Pit but to no avail, al Ghul sucuumbs.
Fearing for the life and upbringing of Damian, while she tries to track down Slade herself, Talia decides it is time to take Damian to Gotham to keep out of sight and to raised by his biological father: Bruce Wayne aka Batman. Once there, Damain and Bruce take a very long time to bond since Damian is a bit rough around the edges being raised and trained by assassins and al Ghul and Talia. He is defiant, angry but skilled and ultimately undisciplined. In one scene, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises and brazzenly tells Bruce that he is there because “All of this wil be mine one day.” Yeah, he’s a bit of a Bat Brat and needs a kick in the ass.
Damian is frosty with just about everyone (he constantly bosses Alfred around and calls him “Pennyworth”) and hard to really get along with. Eventually as Batman trains and reins in Damian, he continues to investigate some chemical factory heists and robberies that lead him to Killer Croc and Dr Langstrom (Man-Bat). But when things are connected, then Batman, with the help of Nightwing (who also clashes and fights with Damian after defeating Ubu), Alfred and Damian they figure out there is someone more deadly at the root of the crimes. You may be surprised by who eventually shows up in Gotham. Or not.
For anyone who has read the books, it may not be too much of a shocker but I felt that the story, which wobbles along in spots, still had some legs towards the third act. I think, though, that Spaulding’s film never fully realizes the characters and the smart exchanges and interactions between Damian, Batman and Nightwing (done well by Morrison in the books) are scarce. I am trying to keep everything spoiler free, here and you can bet that there are some pretty wicked action and fighting sequences involving Deathstroke, Batman, Nightwing and Talia. Killer Croc, who is in the film too briefly, is well done and voiced with menace. The action scenes are bloody, realistic and brutal keeping in touch with the flair and style done in the books by Kubert. But, I felt that the voice over work in spots were very bland and unenthusiastic. Allan as Damian doesn’t have enough attitude and comes across very cartoony (I know, ironic) and not eager enough. Jason O’ Mara’s Batman is, unfortunately, a bit dull and uneven. I felt Esposito’s Ras al Ghul was strong and Baccarin fares the best as Talia making her voice presence very vigorous and athletic.
The one character that suffers the most, in my opinion, is Slade/Deathstroke. He is portrayed as a whiney, stodgey and lifeless assassin with a dumb motivation for revenge on the Wayne family and Gotham. He is the least fleshed out of these interesting characters and comes across very underwritten and he NEVER even throws a punch or kick in Batman’s direction. Where in the books it took Robin, Nightwing and Batman to take him down. The animation is a mixed bag and inconsistent. The flow and look of the characters change from sequence to sequence. One moment favoring Anime style then to more of a traditional comic book style. But that is not really a bad thing, I suppose. Spaulding’s film still has strong presence, vibrant colors and good shadowy detail. The choppy editing during some of the fight scenes (Ubu’s fight with Damian is a bit wonky) stand out and one can’t be helped but feel that the movie is rushing to it’s conclusion. Slade’s connection to Ras al Ghul makes no sense and the exclusion of Tim Drake and Jason Todd will piss fanboys off here for sure.
“Son of Batman” is my least favorite of the recent New 52/DCU films. It is a bit uninspired and cliché. The film embraces very stylized and violent action over good characterizations and execution. At the end of the day, though, this is still a comic book based animated film made to entertain and be a short diversion between live action superhero films. In that regard, the movie is an ok watch and if you do not go in expecting Oscar winning voice over work or drama of Shakespearean proportions then “Son of Batman” can be fun and quite genuine. If you don’t mind stupid one liners and dumb dialog at times with a dose of silly characters doing uncharacteristic things then the movie can be enjoyable but just not that memorable. I hope that DC gets a bit more back on track if they continue their “New 52” story-lines in the animated universe. With SoB, they don’t totally strike out but it could have been done with more flair, drama and heart. OK for a one time watch. If you really expect a very accurate adaptation of the books then proceed with caution or look else where. Owning is probably for completists only.