Warner Bros. continues to dominate Marvel in the animation space with their latest release, Son of Batman. Continuing their new continuity established in Justice League: War, this iteration of Batman is introduced to his 10-year-old son, Damian. While the quality of these direct to video releases have been hit-or-miss as of late, this one is somewhat a return to form, telling the best story since Superman vs. The Elite, though this still had a few problems.
Son of Batman follows the same threads as 2006’s Batman and Son story by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, which started Morrison’s 8-year run on Batman. After an attack on the League of Assassins from Deathstroke, resulting in the death of Ra’s al Ghul, Talia takes her son to meet his father. It then becomes Batman’s job to curtail the murderous boy who is seeking vengeance for his murdered grandfather. Also, Nightwing.
Jason O’Mara reprises his role as Batman, and gives a solid performance. Two Firefly alums are present with Morena Baccarin as Talia and Sean Maher as Nightwing. Newcomer Stuart Allan voices Damian, with Thomas Gibson as Deathstroke and Giancarlo Esposito as Ra’s. It’s with the last two that I take umbrage. While Esposito does a fantastic job as Ra’s, he can’t have had more than a page worth of lines, only appearing in the movie for 5 minutes. It seemed like a waste. Gibson however, with a booming voice, seemed too monotone toward the end, using the same tone to deliver all his lines. By the third act, I found it grating. The animation was great, aside from the 3D renders (Batmobile, etc).
While the story was great — tweaked and streamlined a bit from its original print version— there were two characterizations that felt off. First, Damian didn’t feel angry enough. Few have been able to capture his particular snark. Aside from Morrison, only Peter Tomasi has been successful. Here, he seems a little subdued, moreover, easier to redeem and come around. The comics had years to make Damian likable, this only had 70 minutes. I can forgive this as it served the great purpose.
Deathstroke seemed completely off. His origin was changed, having him jealous over being snubbed by his former master, Ra’s. I’m not claiming fanboy-foul, decrying how “they screwed up another character.” Rather, pointing out how this seemed off. Then again, this may well be the New 52 iteration, not the one I’ve come to know post-Crisis, which is fine. This isn’t my character. What is bothersome is the generic-ness (made-up word, I can do that) of it all. The part seemed templated (two made-up words), then they went through the DC wikia to find a villain they could best mold to fit it. I could name half a dozen better characters who could have done Deathstroke’s part. Also, the Manbats — Menbats? — clogging the tube was a bit stupid. But, comic books, so, whatever.
Easily, the best moment was Nightwing’s appearance. He and Damian had a unique chemistry: both sons of the Bat, their relationship wasn’t explored long enough before the New 52 happened. Seeing the two together, rather, meeting for the first time, was great. While it was nice to see stills from their battle in the credits, I would have liked to have seen the whole thing. It was pretty cool seeing Dick, lacerated, calling Bruce.
The DC animated flicks have been a bit wishy-washy for a while. Son of Batman was the first I’ve really enjoyed in a while. Here’s hoping this renewed vigor can continue.
Wish there were more Nightwing and Damian? Think Esposito was wasted? Comment below!
May the DC animated universe never die.