Son of Batman: Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, May 10, 2014
I am firmly in the camp that the whole premise of Batman having a son was a bad idea. That said, Son of Batman is a moderately entertaining film and certainly better than the last original DC animated film, Justice League: War. The film is an adaption of 2006 Grant Morrison storyline “Batman and Son” although the film makes wholesale changes to the plot and characters.
In the League of Assassin’s mountain stronghold we meet young Damian, the son of Talia al Ghul and grandson of Ra’s al Ghul. Although still just a boy Damian has grown up in the league and is already an extremely skilled fighter as well as having a genius intellect. The fortress is attacked by Deathstoke and a force of armed soldier. Deathstroke had been Ra’s al Ghul’s second-in-command but was tossed out. He has returned looking for revenge. The League manages to fight off the invaders but Ra’s al Ghul is gravely injured and not even the restorative Lazarus Pit can save him. He dies leaving Damian shattered but vowing revenge.
Talia tells Damian it’s time he finally meets his father and takes him to Gotham to meet Batman. Batman is skeptical at first but runs his own tests to confirm that Damian is indeed his son. Damian is shown the Batcave and given full run of Wayne Manor, much to Alfred’s annoyance as Damian proves a petulant, demanding, and egomaniac. The strength of the film lies in the relationship between Damian and those around him, notably Batman and Nightwing. Nightwing replaces the Tim Drake Robin role from the comics which causes the film to lose that rivalry aspect between the two. There are some humorous bits where Damian keeps asking to drive the Batmobile and the like but ultimately the relationship between father and son is barely explored.
They learn that Deathstroke has kidnapped the family of Dr. Kirk Langstrom, the guy who created the Man-Bat formula. Deathstroke forces Langstrom to help him create an army of super-ninja man-bats (I kid you not it was also in the comics) that he will use to take over the League of Assassins. Along the way Batman and Nightwing have to teach Damian some basic life lessons such as you simply can’t go around killing everyone…you know, the basic stuff.
Son of Batman is one of the most adult-themed animated films yet, featuring strong language and a heavy dose of violence. You wish however that the relationship between Batman and Damian would have received the same treatment instead of handled with so much dry humor. Deathstroke was not part of the original storyline. In the comics it was actually Talia who kidnapped Langstrom’s family and is the main antagonist. I supposed with Deathstroke playing such a prominent role in the Arrow TV series that they wanted to keep him front and center.
Deathstroke as the villain is fine…Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds) as the voice of Deathstroke, not so much. Gibson may very well provide the worst voice performance in any DC animated film. His Deathstroke sounds like a stressed accountant. Compared to Manu Bennett’s gravelly voice oozing with bad intentions, Gibson’s take is positively feeble. Jason O’ Mara returns for his second turn as Batman/Bruce Wayne and while he is no Kevin Conroy, he’s more than serviceable. Screen veteran David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) provides the voice of Alfred for the second time and is a standout.
Son of Batman makes a lot of changes from the original story arc, some good some bad. Its biggest missed opportunity was in failing to deal more with the relationship between father and son. As a pure comic action film however, it still manages to hit enough high notes to make it worth checking out.
The Fang and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins (10:00) – A look at the history of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins featuring interviews with Grant Morrison, Mike Carlin, and more.
Strange Blood Ties: Damian Wayne (15:00) – Explores the history of the Damian Wayne character from comics to animation.
Designing the Characters with Phil Bourassa (9:37) – Character designer Phil Bourassa talks about bringing all of the characters to life in animation and how costumes were designed.
From the DC Comics Vault – As is the customer with all of these DC animated films they come with episodes from previous animated series’. The episodes here are culled from Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Brave and the Bold, and Batman Beyond.
Sneak Peek look at at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Batman: Assault on Arkham (7:29) – A extended look at the next DC animated project which is a prequel the Arkham Asylum videogame.
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Mania Grade: B-
Voice Talents of: Jason O'Mara, Stuart Allan, Morena Baccarin, Giancarlo Esposito, Xander Berkeley, Thomas Gibson, David McCallum
Written By: James Robinson, Joe Lansdale, Grant Morrison (Comic story)
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy
Studio: Warner Brothers
Original Year of Release: 2014
Special Features: See Below