Batman: Bad Blood
Batman: Bad Blood 2016
I can’t believe it’s already time for the first superhero movie of 2016, and like most years it’s a DC animated movie released digitally. This is the continuation of the story that started with Son of Batman and continued in Batman vs. Robin. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Son of Batman, I really enjoyed the continuation in Batman vs. Robin. This continues the story even further with some nice action beats and a huge increase in the Bat Family. Unfortunately, it introduces a large number of characters that feel like they have a long history with the rest of the characters, but really just come out of nowhere unless you’re aware of them already from the comics. But as usual, the action, the story, and the animation are all on great display. And, as usual with current and classic movies, I will be talking about this film in full, including any possible spoilers.
It’s difficult to talk about this film without mentioning the actual title of the film, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the popular Taylor Swift song that makes it hard to not hear that song every time you see the title. Especially since the song also has a reference to “mad love” which may or may not be an intentional reference to the origin of Harley Quinn. Aside from that, it has a lot of interesting plot elements that are reminiscent of other great Batman stories, like Under the Red Hood since there is a new vigilante in town who happens to use guns, and there’s the return of a Robin in a very different form. There’s also plenty of time for all of the characters to have their moment of badassdom, including Alfred.
What makes this film a little hard to get into at first is the sheer amount of new characters introduced with minimal set up. First off, we’re introduced to the Batwoman, not to be confused with Batgirl. This is Katherine Kane, daughter to a soldier whose mother and sister both died in her presence. She seems to have a past with Dick Grayson, but is also a lesbian. And while it’s nice to include the fact that she is an openly gay character, it’s done with a fairly clumsy dating scene that literally has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Next up is the introduction of Jake Fox who ends up becoming the Batman/Iron Man crossover called Batwing. He was also a soldier who seems to have mostly avoided any attempts to work with his father Lucius Fox until he finds out that Lucius works for Batman. And finally, we get introduced to the big bad called the Heretic and his band of random minions plus the Mad Hatter. There is initially a moment of vague recognition when Batman sees a flash of the Heretic in the Batman suit, but it’s not until closer to the end of the film when it’s revealed that Heretic is actually an artificially aged clone of Damian Wayne which is more than a little out there.
The mystery of the film is one of the stronger elements, it kicks off with the apparent death of Batman at the hands of the Heretic with Batwoman in witness. In the coming weeks, Gotham needs someone to fill that void so Dick Grayson as Nightwing takes up the mantle in order to fill the void, with Damian Wayne’s Robin coming back from some type of monk training to help out. There’s quite a few shocking reveals, like Batman alive and captured, being brainwashed by Mad Hatter. The reveal of Talia Al Ghul’s plan, and the reveal of Batman’s Watchtower. The Watchtower was one Easter Egg that actually works well compared to some of the characters, since it wasn’t a major focus it’s easily dismissed for someone who might not be aware of the significance, especially since it also fits into the timeline with the other New 52 Justice League stories like War and Throne of Atlantis that fits this into the early stages of the Justice League.
Bad Blood also gets into the mindset of the Robins to a certain extent, and family in general. There are plenty of different relationships that could be explored. The most messed up one is obviously the one between Talia and her “son” the Heretic. He’s a child that’s been given essentially an artificial mind with no memories, and when it all comes down to it, she’s willing to kill him without a moment’s thought for being yet another defective copy. But she also has similar disdain for her true son Damian, even though she’s not so quick to kill him, she also doesn’t entirely accept him for what he has become and instead wants to reprogram him via Hatter’s technology to make him “better”. Dick Grayson also has a moment to reminisce about his childhood growing up under Batman’s care, something he describes as ultimately very “lonely”. While Damian ends up at the end with the best part of the deal when we get to see a moment of Bruce having a real father/son moment after the battle has wound down. Meanwhile, Batman is also wary of expanding his Bat-family, initially dismissing the help of either Batwoman or Batwing, even though he finally comes to accept their help so we can get a shot of a ridiculous amount of superheroes heading after the Penguin of all people in the closing shot, with a sneak peek at Batgirl in her current outfit.
There was a lot to like about this film. As usual, the voice cast worked well. I doubt that Jason O’Mara will ever become thought of as a “definitive” Batman the way that Kevin Conroy has, he seems to slowly becoming the consistent voice of Batman in these films and doesn’t do a half bad job of it. The fight scenes were some of the most entertaining parts of the film, they felt very dynamic and tense. It’s hard for me to figure out where this falls for me when compared to the other DC Animated works, but at least in the current group of interconnected titles, this was above Son of Batman, but not as good as Batman vs. Robin for me. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.