Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Son Of Batman (2014) direct-to-video animated movie review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Stunning detailed artwork and character designs, dynamic fight sequences, smooth character motion, timely comedy without going overboard, 

The Bad: lack of cast chemistry, cheesy over-acted dialogue from villains, disappointing music, some lazy animation shortcuts,

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

DC's shared direct-to-video animated universe enters its second chapter with SON OF BATMAN. Taking inspiration from Grant Morrison's Batman and Son comic story arc, SON OF BATMAN reveals the illegitimate love child of Bruce Wayne and former nemesis Talia, daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, leader of the league of assassins. When the league , is betrayed by its deadliest member,  Deathstroke, Talia sends her son Damien to his father in Gotham city. But Batman has much on his hands, fighting crime and handling his company's falling profits, to take care of a 10 year old. A 10 year old who hacked into NORAD when he was 6, was trained in every art of combat, and who has no qualms about bloodshed.

These clashing values and personalities should have made an intriguing study of this father father/son relationship.  Here is a man who is suddenly saddled with the responsibilities of fatherhood, of balancing is double life of swinging billionaire/crime fighter with a new life of a parent which he never had.  The comics delved into Bruce's lingering insecurities of a man who had his childhood taken from him on tragic night. How is he, who's own younger days were filled with grief and hatred, able to deprogram me this vengeful, angry kid that is his son?

SON OF BATMAN (the film) fails to offer any glimpse into the head of Bruce Wayne. Character study is overshadowed by wanting to move the whole ninja/assassin hostile takeover story forward. As such, we get the character development taking a backseat to the action. We do get some nice chemistry in the few scenes between Damien and Alfred, as well as  budding rivalry with Nightwing. But between Batman and his son? Disappointingly flat.

Thankfully,  their voice actors do their best to bring out their characters' personalities. Jason O'Mara's Batman is a nice blend between Christian Bale, without being too raspy, and a young Michael Keaton. Those who prefer Kevin Conroy's deep Batman voice would no take some time to get used to this new portrayal. Stuart Allen as Damien is the star of this show, bringing a level of professionalism to the role despite his young age. On the other hand, our villains, Ra's Al Ghul and Deathstroke,  are horrible. Deathstroke especially sounds like acting in a bad school play. 

Visually, SON OF BATMAN boasts artwork very reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not surprising since the director Ethan Spulding directed a good number of Avatar episodes. Here, he truly revels in the new PG13 rating of this film, bringing the violence to whole new levels bordering on absurdity. Characters are literally roasted
 get their eyes gouged out
 and blasted to bloody bits

The character designs maintain that japanese anime look consistent with the previous JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR feature. Level of detail is strong with deep shadows, metallic sheen and creases. Just look at Batman's suit.

 TheAnswerStudio gives us generally smooth animation and character movements but the level of detail does tend to drop in such scenes. Another shortcoming is in crowd scenes such as the massive ninja battle that opens this movie. Animation short cuts are very obvious here.

All in all, SON OF BATMAN works better as a set up for bigger stories. Assuming BATMAN UNDER THE RED HOOD is still canon, and with Warner Premiere turning to DC's New 52 for animated adaptations, we could be seeing a whole slew of Bat-family titles on the horizon. An animated "Batman: The Court of Owls" would be epic and "Batman: Death of the Family" would serve as a powerful conclusion.  An adaptation of Grant Morrison's final Batman inc chapters would be an emotionally powerful epilogue bringing the entire Damien Wayne saga to a close.

One can only hope.
*****************************Review End***************************
Entertainment: A-
Story: B+
Characters: B+
Animation: B+
Art: A
Music: C-
Voice work: B+
Replay Value: A-
"Brains": C-

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