How can you not get totally excited about a DC Animated movie inspired by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's Batman and Son? Okay, maybe the Damian haters aren't too happy, but for everyone else, it's thrilling they chose this story to tell in their own way. Naturally, it's only inspired by the source material, so don't expect it to stay true to Morrison's script. Some elements remain, but for the most part, it is absolutely its own story.
I wasn't sure what to think when I heard Damian's voice in the previews, but upon watching the whole movie, I do think Stuart Allan's a good choice for Bruce Wayne's son. He conveys the blunt arrogance you'd expect from the character. You may think he sounds like a brat at times, and that's the whole point -- it definitely fits. The best moments with him aren't when he's viciously attacking Ubu or arguing with his father. Damian truly shines in pretty much any and every scene he shares with Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by David McCallum). McCallum's dry delivery is the perfect contrast as these two take verbal jabs at one another. In a movie filled with sword attacks and exploding helicopters, it's the banter between these two that becomes the most entertaining part of the film.
I won't lie to you, I wasn't the biggest fan around of Jason O'Mara's performance as Batman in Justice League: War. To me, it lacked the determination and force you'd expect from the Dark Knight ,and that really stood out right with his first line in that movie. This time around, however, I was digging it a lot more. Sure, it's not Kevin Conroy or Roger Craig Smith, but the potential's certainly there and, aside from one bad line (which, to be fair, is an issue with the script and not him), this movie changed my mind about him.
Ra's al Ghul (voiced by
Gustavo 'Gus' Fring Giancarlo Esposito) only has a very brief appearance, but, man, it's awesome. Despite immediately thinking of Breaking Bad when Ra's spoke (sorry, I just couldn't help it), it still felt like a pretty fitting voice for the character. It's calm yet still commanding. Watching him deflect bullets and slice foes was good fun, it's just too bad we didn't get to see a little more of him before he's removed from the picture. His daughter, Talia al Ghul (voiced by Homeland's Morena Baccarin) doesn't get much depth here. She's either blatantly hitting on Bruce or acting like an emotionless hard-ass. Without spoiling it, she basically becomes a plot device, but hey, at least she gets a badass scene or two before that occurs.
The PG-13 rating alone should imply this one isn't for the younglings, but just in case you've decided to disregard the rating, I'll elaborate. Son of Batman isn't as violent as The Dark Knight Returns, but it still has plenty of blood. There's nothing over the top with gore, but there's a whole lot of stabbing, slashing and shotgun blasts that'll put some people in dire need of some band-aids. As for language, someone almost drops a certain four letter word (spoiler: it begins with "f") and Slade gives Batman a very... blunt name. It's a name which would likely make younger kids to ask their parents what the nickname means. So yeah, this movie definitely isn't geared towards a younger audience and the rating should make that clear, anyway.
Seeing as this is part of the new continuity, it's a shame Deathstroke, a very popular and deadly character, was handled like this. First and foremost, instead of coming off as confident and formidable lead villain, he felt far too pompous (his delivery plays a role in this, obviously) and more like a guy who wants to be the big bad but really isn't cut out for it. To make matters even worse, he's honestly given no respect as a combatant. In this movie, it would have been amazing to see Batman and Damian need to work together to best Slade Wilson. Instead, his encounter with Batman literally made me exclaim, "what?!" and what followed was used to make Damian look like the badass. Damian endures an unrealistic amount of damage and keeps on trucking just fine, but I will admit, it's a wicked showing for him. I get that's needed -- he's the main focus of the movie, after all -- but to have Slade Wilson struggle with the ten year old feels like its wasting the character's potential in this new animated timeline. If you don't care about Deathstroke, this won't bug you. But for everyone else, it's a major bummer. Oh, and one more thing: it almost felt like his agenda was made for Bane. Maybe they didn't want to use him because they're hopefully saving him for a different film down the road (fingers crossed for Knightfall!)? Well, at least Deathstroke had a cool design (with his mask down), so at least there's that.
I'll be blunt: the subplot with Langstrom wasn't all that engaging. When you're introducing us to the dynamic between Batman and his arrogant son, the scenes with Langstrom's family just left me wondering when we'll get to see more of the title characters again. I mean, it wasn't necessarily bad or anything along those lines, but it didn't add the emotional weight it was seemingly going for.
Nightwing's intro offers a great laugh, but unfortunately, he feels like a missed opportunity after that point. It would have been neat to see him ease into the role Tim Drake had in Grant Morrison's story, but instead, his part feels very limited and sadly, we never get to see a display of his very rad agility. Plus, a fight -- one that many fans would love to see -- is glossed over for a laugh. Don't get me wrong: I did chuckle, but I would have much rather watched the entire thing unfold (static bits are shown during the credits, though).
Eventually, the movie shows Batman utilizing different equipment in his fights. You don't need to be the world's greatest detective to know you can't beat everyone with your fists and feet, after all. However, Batman displayed no intelligence whatsoever in his fight with Killer Croc. I understand why the outcome had to go a certain way, but it would have been great to see him at least attempt to use some different technology instead of simply punching and kicking to no avail. It should have been clear that melee options wouldn't cut it after brutally punching Croc in the face multiple times accomplished nothing. This probably won't be a big deal for many, but as a battles junkie, it stood out to me.
Two more minor gripes: some of the shots seem to last just a little too long. It's almost like the scene needs to cut away a second or two before it actually does. Like I said, it's a minor gripe, but this occurs quite a few times, so it generates a few awkward pauses. Also, the opening battle is certainly cool, but when you have to animate that many characters, it means some are just going to stand around and do nothing as chaos is unfolding around them or they'll wait for an odd amount of time before taking action. It doesn't ruin the battle, but it's noticeable a couple of times.
DC Animated has produced some absolutely fantastic projects (e.g. Under the Red Hood, Wonder Woman, Superman vs. The Elite, etc), so it's understandable to begin one of their new movies with fairly high expectations. Son of Batman is able to deliver some satisfying action and the dynamic between Damian and Alfred is legitimately hilarious, but everything else doesn't leave much of a mark. It's not bad, but it's not really all that memorable, either. I'd say if you're a big fan of the DC Animated universe -- and I suspect that applies to a lot of you -- then sure, give this a purchase. Even if you don't love it, it'll likely be tempting to give it a re-watch one day (I know I sure will) and the bonus features are worth checking out (especially the Assault on Arkham one). It may not be the next Under the Red Hood, but it's still an amusing ride.