Nerds On FilmReview: Batman VS. Robin

Runtime: 120 Minutes

This is the animated adaptation of Scott Snyder’s “The Court of Owls” storyline that ran through most of the first year of the New 52 Batman.

For those following along, this story picks up after the events of 2014’s Son of Batman.

There were a lot of great elements that shined through for this latest installment of DC’s animated features.  The Bat-Family dynamic was on full display in this feature.  The moment that Bruce puts down being Batman for the night and shifts his priority to showing Damien a classic movie, served as a reminder for cornerstone of Snyder’s storyline.  It really gave the whole film some sentiment.  We even got a couple brief glances of the relationship between Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne.  The film also got to shine some light on Alfred.  His dialogue was quick witted and when he came barreling into the cave wielding a shotgun, the fan in me jumped with delight.

DC has also been known for the excellent voice direction in their films, but it’s become a bit more inconsistent lately.  This film seemed to get a lot more right than wrong.  You have series staples, and can do no wrong with Troy Baker, who comes into this corner of the universe as an Owl Lieutenant.  Jeremy Sisto does an incredible, take-notice job as the voice of Talon.  Weird Al sounds anything but weird playing The Dollmaker at the beginning of the film.  Even the great voice director herself, Andrea Romano, makes a cameo as the Bat Computer and Jill.  There was another Easter Egg here for long time fans: Kevin Conroy returns!  But, he returns as Thomas Wayne.  He was great to hear, but at the same time, DC has worn out its welcome a bit with gimmicks and left me a little tired.  The one major misstep was with Stuart Allen reprising his role as Damian Wayne/Robin.   At first I found the voice a bit grating, but that mostly went away after getting deeper into the film.  I would have left it there, but I watched another film featuring a child lead actor weekend, The Babadook.  The differences between the two performances were years apart. Needing someone to carry a film series, I really would have like to have some improvement over the last film.

The style of the DC films these days are still very Japanese animation inspired.  I have grown more accepting of it since it looks like there is not going to be any deviation from it in the near future.  However, there were some really stand out instances that made the choice distracting.  Bruce Wayne out of costume looks very wide in the face, but when in costume as Batman, his features are razor thin.  Perhaps black really is a slimming color?  The costume design on Batman also seemed scaled down which is not inherently a bad thing, but it looked like Batman was wearing black underpants on the outside of his costume at times.  The stark contrasts of body type remained jarring through the entire film.

There were a couple character decisions in the early minutes of the film that set a strange tone.  The Dollmaker walks into a warehouse and appeared to be a frightening and threatening presence that imprisons and mutilates children, then runs away from Robin, who is in fact a small child.  You also see Batman go from punching the Dollmaker’s “children” to leaning down and helping the children in cages in a matter of seconds.

The main problem with this film is that it was boring.  I paused the film figuring I was half way done and I was less than 30 minutes into the 120 minute run time.  Great moments like Batman being gassed and left in a white prison maze seemed to be over and done within seconds. Remembering back to the source material, the film managed to take all the interest out of it and gave it a shoe horned feeling. The film tried to cover 12 issues (and tie-ins) of story and perhaps rushed through too much because there were never moments to pause and feel the weight of the situation.  It really made me wonder why this was not a 2-part movie similar to how they handled the animated version of The Dark Knight Returns.

Overall, I would give this movie a Rent It. (On a scale of Buy It, Rent It, Leave It)  It had its moments to make it watchable and get a little more excited about the film series moving forward.  However, it is not one that I would watch again or pass along to children.

Ryan Mount is the newest THN Love Slave and has the best Twitter handle.