Batman has finally gotten another DC film. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s always good to see DC bringing out Batman and Superman films by the dozens. Superman’s have stopped for the time being so Batman really needs to pick up the slack. With at least 2 more films coming up in the near future (5 if you count BVS and the two Justice League films) he’s still doing well. The only problem is that Batman can be a harder character to portray accurately than Spiderman and Sonic. His films should always be masterpieces, but this has not always been the case. I have to say that this film was mildly disappointing, but I wasn’t expecting a whole lot since this wasn’t really a groundbreaking arc. Nontheless, we shall discuss why it did not rise to the occasion and what this means for future DC films. Of course, it’s still not a bad film, it just lacked a few things. (Spoilers will ensue, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum)
The plot can mostly be guessed from the title, but here it goes. Batman actually had a kid a while back and based off of Damian’s origin it must have been around 8-10 years ago. (The comics may say that it happened later and I’ve heard about the accelerated growth, but I’m purely talking from the film’s perspective. It didn’t say anything so we can’t make that assumption…this time. The plot was a little dicey at that point, but we can discuss it more in the latter part of the review.) The League of Assassins are quickly defeated by hired thugs with guns and Talia (Mother of Damian) brings Damian to Batman for safekeeping. Batman decides to keep Damian safe while the kid wants to avenge his father. (His father was murdered by the villains, but I assume that you may have guessed that since this is classic origin story 101 mechanics) Batman is going to have to keep Damian in line before the kid strays onto the dark path. This could get ugly, but Batman has Alfred at the ready. Meanwhile, Slade Wilson, AKA Slade, AKA Deathstroke wants revenge on Damian for an injury that occurred during their first fight.
I’ll admit that I had a lot of fun writing the plot for the film. Time for things to get a little more serious as we discuss the pros and cons for the film. The cover is pretty uninspired, but then I look at the other recent DC films and I realize that it could have definitely been worse. This cover just won’t stand out at stores and it could hurt sales, but it doesn’t impact the overall rating at all. Just a little sidenote.
The first thing to mention is the fact that the opening fight scene is not interesting. See, the first scene in a film is typically about the Uncle Ben figure dying, The Parents of the main characters being awesome, The Big villain doing something like blowing up a city, or something else. This film goes the first route and we all know what to expect from the trailer so it’s supposed to be visually exciting. That’s not what happens I’m afraid. I felt like DC took a few cues from Marvel in this film and that’s Never a good thing, at least in the animated world.
The intro is exactly the same as the intro to Ultimate Avengers. Instead of aliens we have guys with guns, but it’s the same effect. Instead of focusing on making the hand to hand epic and dodging lots of bullets with acrobatics, we have the famed splash effect from bleach. Every stab is followed by a splash and a poor villain gets crushed by another villain. The violence isn’t that bad, but it is continuous. Every slash has more blood splashes and it’s more unnecessary than anything. What made it a little worse is the obligatory eye stab.
For me, that’s always been a no no. I wear glasses, which may help, but I’ve never enjoyed that kind of violence. I find it more grotesque than anything. It happened in JL War as well and it seems to be a new trend. Not necessarily that this will happen every time now, but the New 52 lineup of films seems to be going for this new blood effect. It would seem that these kind of fights will be present a lot more. I prefer seeing a lot of energy tossed around because blood everywhere unnecessary. This is likely not the most violent DC animated film so far, but it definitely contends and it’s at least in the top 3. It’s something to consider if you don’t care for it, but it’s nothing that will make you look at the rating again. It’s just a little unexpected for DC. (Something I’d expect more from the Marvel animated films pre current era)
Another thing that I didn’t care for in the intro is the guns vs swords scenes. I agree that the swordsmen should be doomed and the film got that right. Then we move on to Talia and Ra’s. You’ll likely need to stifle a grin or fill your mouth with popcorn quickly because it’s hard to believe what you are watching. 3 guys block the doorway to where Ra’s is and they start firing their bullets. After they’re already firing, Ra’s runs towards them. He deflects a few bullets and jumps into the air rather dramatically. Then he slices the first guy and slices the second guy. None of the bullets hit him and none of them hit Talia or Damian either. I know that humans dodging bullets with ease because they have a costume on is superhero 101, but they could have made it more believable. It was one of the most unconvincing scenes that I have ever experienced.
It was to give the three of them props of course since they’re the only League of Assassin members who can fight, but it was too much of a stretch. The film should have at least given them mech suits so they could just endure the bullets. My final problem with the intro would be Slade, but I’ll cover that in his section. As you can see, I had a lot of problems with the intro, but things always get better once Batman appears to save the day and remind us why he’s one of the best comic book characters. (Superman will always be the best of course)
Batman is the main character of course, but he basically gets the same amount of screentime as Damian. My main problem is that Batman is portrayed to be a very inexperienced crime fighter who talks a good game, but can’t really back it up. He’s also more of an Iron Man character in that he’s a bit of a romanticist in both hero and superhero forms. That’s not how Batman is supposed to be. I say that he looks very weak and inexperienced due to the Killer Croc fight scene that occurred at the beginning of the film. “I’m not done with you Croc” is Batman’s epic line as he tries some tricks. They don’t work and he quickly turns to run, but Killer Croc just knocks him to the ground. After that, Batman takes a pretty big beating and he’s saved by Talia. That was incredibly embarrassing. That’s Batman’s very first scene and he’s crushed by a villain that he has a lot of experience fighting. There’s really no excuse for this and especially not after Batman’s tough talk.
Things only got worse for the Caped Crusader as we find out that he was drugged and tricked into having Damian. He forgot about this affair of course, but then he admits that it was enjoyable or part of it was. No…..No way is this the Batman that I remember. That was terrible and I already couldn’t take the design that they used in this film seriously. Whoever wrote the script must have taken a nap during that part and then someone added it in. The rest of the film is Batman being outdone by Damian at every turn, but Batman does get to outshine Robin. He tries to redeem himself by beating up Slade, but it doesn’t really work considering the villain’s portrayal in this film. Batman did have some glimpses where he appeared to be a good character, but they were very short and far apart. Wrecking Batman isn’t an easy thing to do so the film can be proud of this…maybe.
Damian is a big focus in the film and it shows his change from Assassin to crimefighter. He’s pretty unbearable as Damian and his scenes can be pretty wince worthy. As you know, I don’t care for kids as protagonists in live action due to the bad acting, but also for animation when they are shown to be kids. (Shows like Naruto avoid this by having the character be kids in theory, but they are portrayed as adults and basically animated as such) Knocking down Wayne’s trees was pretty uncalled for since he must have known what he was doing and he constantly made things hard for Bruce. Batman has a secret identity to hide after all and that’s why I keep addressing him by different titles. Damian nearly blew Mr. Wayne’s identity and I’m sure that some people will put two and two together. (Rich guy + new kid and Batman suddenly has a kid sidekick….hmmmmmm) Luckily, Damian’s better one he becomes Robin. We don’t get a whole lot of that yet, but the sequel should show more of this. He does pretty well against Deathstroke and he’s certainly a tough fighter. I wouldn’t mind if he was a little less full of himself since he can’t back it up yet, but he’s getting there. He just needs to learn how to fight a clean and honorable battle, but Batman will teach him. I think the film went a little overboard on his rebellion faze and seeing him outsmart Batman at every turn was more insulting than cool. Nontheless, he has the potential to be a solid character. He’s no Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Tim Drake, but he upholds the Robin legacy.
Nightwing is what you’d call a filler character. He has no point in the story and he’s just there as a guest star. Naturally, this means that he doesn’t get to fight anybody off screen and he’s actually used to hype someone else up. He gets his hero moment at the end of course, but it could have been a lot better. Nightwing is a great character so he should have gotten a fight of his own or at least a better role. I’m all for quick guest star roles, but the guest star should look good. That’s really the whole point of having a guest star.
Slade is probably the biggest joke in the film. Getting beaten by a kid is disgraceful in itself, but he also ran away from a 400 year old man. That was his first scene by the way! I knew right then and there that Slade was going to look pretty bad and that’s basically what happened. The film shows that he’s not confident about his skills, which is why he had to turn and run. Batman managed to take him out in a few seconds when they fought so Slade realized that he only stood a chance against a kid. After that, he plunged towards a vat of acid and I had to wonder why this guy calls himself Deathstroke. Sure, he can threaten defenseless citizens, but he’s definitely not much of a fighter. I definitely did not like him in this movie.
Finally, a character who did look pretty good. Of course, one can argue that she was a little too perfect and the argument would have many valid points. That being said, I’ll take a character who’s too good than someone who’s not good enough. Talia is the resident hand to hand specialist and she saves Batman after she saved The League of Assassins. Remember that she did both of these things within the first 15 minutes of the film. The film essentially turned her into a DC version of Black Widow and she is already significantly tougher than the Avenger. She could have easily been one of the best characters…until we remember how Damian came to be. Then we remember the cringe worthy Batman scene where she reminded him of this and then she drops down the character ranks. So, she could have been a pretty epic character, but scenes like this don’t do her any favors.
Ra’s Al Ghul is only around for the beginning of the film, but he made for a decent villain. He doesn’t really have much of a personality and he’s just a generic tyrant who wants to rule the world, but at least he can fight. We even got some good afterimages for his character when he was fighting. Ra’s may have been a big threat to Batman back in the day, but he’s always getting defeated lately. It may be time for Batman to find a new villain.
Killer Croc is here to remind us that this is still Gotham City and the villains haven’t faded away just yet. He beats up Batman so he fulfilled his role as a villain. It’s a little sad for him in prison since it must be boring in there, but he’s gotta serve the time. It was just fun to see him be featured in a film since he doesn’t get quite as much screentime as the other big Batman villains.
Alfred doesn’t get a huge role here, but he makes sure to get most of the punchlines and quick jabs at Damian in the form of witty comebacks. It’s hard not to root for Alfred since Damian can be pretty obnoxious to him. His role is very small, but that’s how Alfred roles. It’s best to have him in small doses or they may wreck his character arc like in the Dark Knight Rises. Alfred’s a solid character and that’s all I can ask for.
Ubu is one of the only named villains in this film and he’s not very skilled. Every big villain has a few disposable minions and this guy fits the bill. He has a gun and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s also got a pair of claws that instantly propel him from generic grunt level to Master Assassin (Slade) level if the film is to be believed. He gave Damian a pretty close fight like Slade and while he was soundly defeated in the end, he gave it his all. Ubu is extremely unlikable though and the film makes sure to show this to us. It’s rather unnecessary as well. We know that Ubu is already a convict after all…do we need to know more?
The music for the film definitely inspired. It’s virtually nonexistent, but that is really the case for most superhero films. The animation is a little dicey. It definitely doesn’t scream 2014. It would have looked sharp around 8 years ago or so, but it just didn’t click. It actually reminds me a lot of Avatar The Last Airbender. The Gotham scenes at night are still good and night scenes are a very important part of the battle. The Daytime scenes were a little too unremarkable though. This could have played into why the fight scenes weren’t very interesting, but there are other reasons as well.
Now, the review has been pretty negative up til now. It was pretty unavoidable because the film had a multitude of mistakes. It wasn’t all bad though. The film still had a lot of action and Batman had some good moments. Damian can only improve from here and it’s always fun to see Nightwing’s real design. Alfred is a good supporting character and the sequel can afford to have a better plot since the introductions are out of the way. I do prefer this film to The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One. As least, I believe so. Technically, this one has a lower rating than those so it’s possible that I liked them more than I remember….it’s possible. It could also be like the MCU where the films are all so close to each other that I keep on switching them around. (Luckily, Avengers and Cap 2 are immune to this)
Overall, This was not the best Batman film. I didn’t have very high hopes for the film based on the storyline that it was adapting, but the trailer proved to be more exciting than the film. (Much like DBZ Battle of Gods) There wasn’t enough Batman in it. I don’t just mean the character, but the universe. The stakes just weren’t high in this film and parts of it didn’t feel like a superhero film. That’s not good since the film is only 70 minutes when it should have been longer to flesh out the characters and give Bruce more time to help Damian become a better person. Because of how short it was, Batman basically ditches Damian from the start, which makes it easy for the kid to do whatever he pleases. The film was a little overly violent and the villains were pretty terrible, which didn’t help matters. The whole plot with the Manbats didn’t add anything to the film and seeing them all get stuck in a tunnel and then eaten by Sharks wasn’t fun either. There was just no reason to add these creatures and it basically added a form of animal violence to the mix. They barely count as animals luckily so it’s not quite as bad as it could have been, but it still wasn’t fun to see. The animation could have been better and I’d like a solid soundtrack as well. That being said Batman fans may enjoy this film so I wouldn’t totally rule it out. Just know that this isn’t the Deathstroke that we are all used too. Watching the characters casually dodge bullets can also be fairly amusing. I’m not sure how I feel about this film getting a sequel, but it definitely has room for improvement and I could see several of my negatives being fixed for that one. Bringing Batman back to his current status if Master of all Trades will be a good start. If you want to see a really well done Batman film, check out the Batman Gotham City Racer video game and then rethink if you really want to see a Batman film.