Well, it's that time again. DC and Warner Brothers have given us the latest in their series of straight-to-video animated films about some of those great DC characters! (And by "great DC characters," I mean Batman and/or Superman, because the suits determined those are the only ones that sell well and hence the only animated films we're going to get.) It arrived on Friday, and watched it over the weekend, so let's crack the shrink wrap and take a look at...
Son of Batman
Directed by Ethan Spaulding
Starring the voices of Jason O'Mara, Stuart Allan, Morena Baccarin, Thomas Gibson, Giancarlo Esposito, Xander Berkeley, David McCallum, and and Sean Maher.
Backstory: So, a few years ago in the Batman comics, they figured it was time to shake things up and add a new Robin. The latest to take upon the mantle: Damien Wayne, the long lost son of Bruce Wayne and Talia, the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul. Conceived during one of their romantic dalliances, young Damien was being trained from birth to be the world's greatest assassin, and eventually take leadership of Ra's Al Ghul's organization, the League of Assassins. People weren't sure what to make of Damien at first: brutal, violent, sadistic, and spoiled from a life of privileged, but under the guidance of his father, he did become a great hero and worthy successor to the role of Robin. Of course, it was time to bring him to life in animation. The latest animated offering, Son of Batman, is loosely based on Batman & Son, the storyline that originally introduced Damien.
Plot: Deathstroke mounts an assault on the headquarters of the League of Assassins, with the goal of taking leadership of the organization of Ra's Al Ghul. With Ra's Al Ghul dead and the League of Assassins now at war with Deathstroke's legions, Talia knows there's only one man who can keep young Damien safe while she leads the war against Deathstroke. It's time for Damien to meet his father: Batman. At first, Batman isn't sure what to make of his young son. Spoiled, vain, arrogant, and thirsty to avenge his grandfather's death. But, Batman realizes the young man has potential, and they soon launch their own investigation into Deathstroke's plan, which brings Batman back to his old nemesis, Dr. Kirk Langstrom, aka the Man-Bat. What is Deathstroke's ultimate plan? Can Batman stop his son from heading down a path of vengeance?
What I Liked: The most pleasant surprise was Sean Maher (Simon from Firefly) popping up to do the voice of Nightwing. He's a really good Nightwing, and I like how Nightwing and Damien instantly adopt a sibling rivalry. There's some good fight scenes. Jason O'Mara has the great gravelly qualities of Batman's voice perfect. Oh, and Talia's cleavage.
What I Didn't Like: OK, I've seen and/or read the story of Robin's origin story many times now to know that this is pretty by-the-numbers. Thomas Gibson is woefully miscast as Deathstroke, being unable to bring the qualities of gravelly menace to the voice that the role requires. I'm sorry, I hear that voice, and he'll always be Greg from Dharma and Greg. But perhaps the biggest missed opportunity is in the Bruce Wayne/Damien Wayne relationship. There's no father/son dynamic at play. There's no struggles on Batman's part as he deals with fatherhood. It's all, "Oh, yes, here's another fine orphan with qualities to make him a fine Robin." Couldn't we have had Batman struggle just a little bit with the knowledge that he's FATHERED A CHILD and attempt to be a father?
Final Verdict: So formulaic. Really offered up nothing new, or anything that made Damien such a notable character in the comics.
Bonus Materials: Goodies on the Blu-Ray include a featurette on the League of Assassins, a featurette on Damien's brief history in the comics, a featurette on the character design, 4 bonus cartoons from the various Batman animated series, and a sneak peak at the next animated film, Batman: Assault on Arkham. Which is going to be based on the best-selling Arkham video games.