Batman vs. Robin
Batman vs. Robin 2015
April has unintentionally become animation month here at Flights, Tights and Movie Nights as I take a look at a couple home video releases as well as catch up with the last couple Marvel animated movies I haven’t gotten around to yet. Batman vs. Robin is the latest DC Animation release that was originally touted as their first original story, though it is apparently partly based on the Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo as well as a sequel to last year’s Son of Batman which was a decent, though fairly mediocre effort from the studio. It has a much stronger underlying theme of what being a father and being a son means, though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Road to Perdition which I had just recently watched. It was still a mighty fine effort with some nice performances, impressive action sequences, and a few twists and turns along the way. And FYI, Batman vs. Robin is currently available via digital download, and will be released on DVD this Tuesday, April 14th, and as a warning I will be delving into the film in its entirety, including any spoilers.
With such a treasure trove of Batman villains it’s often curious when a writer decides to introduce a new one rather than go with an established, or even a lesser known villain. Here, the villain is the Court of Owls, a clandestine group of rich and powerful members of Gotham’s high society that have been controlling parts of the city for centuries, but had gone underground for a while and only recently began exerting their power once again. One bit of annoyance here is that this film yet again decides to revisit the night in Crime Alley, something that seemingly needs to be done in about every other Batman film. At least it does have a bit of a reason here in that Bruce remembers hearing about the Court of Owls through a tale his father told him when he was a child, and he also thought that the Court was involved in their death. So, he tried to investigate while he was still a child but ended up finding nothing. It also helps that Thomas Wayne is briefly played by perennial Batman voice Kevin Conroy.
But what the heart of this story is the father and son relationship between himself and Damian Wayne, the son he unknowingly had with Talia Al Ghul, raised by her and Ra’s Al Ghul, and returned to Bruce in the previous movie. Damian isn’t quite a typical 10 year old as he has been raised as an assassin and only recently been trained by Bruce in the art of restraint and justice over vengeance. But while progress has been made over the course of a few months to a year or so, Bruce still doesn’t fully trust Damian. His lack of trust extends to both his potential for killing as well as his possible lack of fighting prowess and this causes him to turn into an overprotective and overbearing father. While Damian has already grown overly mature for his age and has been acting out on his pre-teenage rebelliousness, escaping nightly to patrol the streets of Gotham as Robin. This fracture between the two is capitalized by newcomer Talon who is working for the Court of Owls. He tries to encourage Damian’s more violent impulses while widening the void between him and his father.
If the relationships between the characters weren’t already complicated enough, there’s yet another layer to build upon, and many are father/son relationships. There’s already the tenuous relationship between Bruce and Damian which isn’t helped by his pseudo prodigal son Dick Grayson who now goes by Nightwing. And as Talon spends more time with Damian, they begin to develop a father son relationship with Talon training Damian to be his replacement. We also get a glimpse into Talon’s own fractured relationship with his abusive cat burglar father who Talon initially looked up to, but ultimately turned on when he called the cops. Talon then went on to have his own pseudo-father figure in the Court of Owls who trained him to become the agent of death he is now. The film even starts off with a twisted example of a father son relationship when they fight the Dollmaker voiced in a surprising turn by a very creepy Weird Al Yankovic who has tortured and surgically altered several children to become his own twisted doll sons and daughters. And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also the additional twist that Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend of several months also happens to be the leader of the Court of Owls as well as Talon’s lover.
If all of those relationships seem complicated, it’s because they are, but this hits the mark of a good story as it deftly handles them all so that they make sense within their own contexts and never become overly confusing or convoluted. There are also several subtle moments where we get to see Bruce’s own struggle with how he thinks of Damian as a son, but also as a child raised to be an assassin. The best moment is when the two of them are fighting each other, while they are going all out Bruce still has a moment when they are falling through one of Gotham city’s ever so many skylights and he grabs Damian in a protective manner. There’s also a nice moment when Bruce is under some psychotropic drugs and he has a vision of an adult Damian who has become a Batman more like the Punisher.
As far as the animation goes, as usual it is top notch. The fights especially are very fluid and well choreographed. The only negative which is often the case in these films is that they are rarely able to animate vehicles very well. There is a car chase sequence which is the weakest element of the entire film, especially as Bruce Wayne appears to be driving a very middle class sedan rather than a high priced sports car. The violence once again is something that is stretched to the limits of what a PG-13 rating can get away with, as Batman gets bloodied up pretty good a couple of times, and there are two rather violent deaths with a heart that is ripped out of someone’s chest, and another who is stabbed through the throat. All in all, a very solid movie that rises above DC’s relatively mediocre releases and is nearly on par with some of my own favorites like Flashpoint and Under the Red Hood. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.