Please note that there may be spoilers ahead, so read on with caution.
This is the fifth part in our ‘Batman Week’ series, where we review a collection of Batman films leading up to the release of video-game Batman: Arkham Knight, which will be reviewed on 27th June. To read previous reviews in the series or to check the schedule, click here.
(C) Warner Bros., DC Comics
Son of Batman is one of the most recent release in the DC Animated Universe, and unlike other entries such as Batman: Year One and Superman Unbound, received a particularly frosty reception, currently holding a 6.6 score on IMDb. However, I don’t think Son of Batman is half as bad as people make it out to be, and although it’s no masterpiece, there’s certainly something to like here.
Son of Batman begins with the death of legendary supervillain Ra’s al Ghul, leaving his grandson Damien with mother Talia. She sends Damien to meet her father, the Caped Crusader, and although they have sparse ideological differences, have to come together to fend off not only mercenary Deathstroke, but also an army of Man-Bats descending on Gotham.
The plot of Son of Batman, quite like other Batman films, is its biggest downfall since it tries to spread itself too thin. There is a deep, character-driven plot here involving the relationship between Damien and Bruce, which is one of my favourite parts of the film, but these moments are cut too short to make way for the action-laden and ridiculous main plot involving an army of mutated Man-Bats that Deathstroke plans to use, which I found absolutely ridiculous. The plot is very over-the-top at times but deep and emotional at others, but never picks which side it will stick to, meaning the plot ends up being quite run-of-the-mill and forgettable.
The performances in Son of Batman are also not too great. Jason O’Mara plays the Caped Crusader and doesn’t do a terrible job, but since the character of Batman is quite monotonous and lacks emotion, it becomes difficult for him to show any form of range, and although he wasn’t awful, I still would’ve preferred Batman veteran Kevin Conroy. The majority of the cast is just ‘meh’ really, with nobody really standing out as they do in, Batman: Assault on Arkham, for example. However, there are a few car-crash performances, most notably Thomas Gibson as Deathstroke. His performance is generally abysmal, with no form of emotion and no variation in his reactions to certain events. His performance drags the film down, and it probably would’ve been a better idea to have O’Mara play Deathstroke to allow Conroy to put on the metaphorical cowl once more.
The animation style is quite odd as well. At times, I really got into it, enjoying the edgier take on certain characters such as Deathstroke and Nightwing, both of which are designed brilliantly, but there are some moments that are really jarring. At times, the limbs and heads of characters seem out of proportion to the rest of their body, and in the moments where vehicles are used, they are animated in 3D instead of the 2D used for the rest of the film, which, personally, really took me out of the moment.
Quite like other areas, the script is a mixed bag. There are some subtle and brilliant jokes sprinkled in for children and adults alike that keep the film fresh and accessible, but it relies far too much on exposition-heavy, cheesy dialogue, and clearly doesn’t treat the audience with the respect that previous films in this universe have. The majority of the plot points are communicated through these straightforward speeches and there is never a veil of subtlety to let the viewer work something out for themselves,which I found quite disappointing. That said, the characters are mostly written to resemble their comic-book counterparts, especially Batman, who is very dark and brooding, Dick Grayson’s Nightwing, who doesn’t mind cracking a joke or two, and Damien Wayne’s Robin, who is arrogant and big-headed.
From a technical standpoint, the action scenes are handled well and it was refreshing to see some blood spurt from the wounds of the fallen, giving this film a much darker and serious tone, which helps it in the long run, although it is contradicted by the ridiculous Man-Bat plot. Music is also good, and accentuates some of the more emotive and action-packed moments in the film, and although I won’t be rushing out to buy this film’s soundtrack, it did its job well. There are also a series of great Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, and although I won’t reveal any of them, most of them will have DC Comics fans grinning from ear to ear.
Although it can’t compete with other DCAU entries, Son of Batman is worth a watch thanks to its darker tone, variety of characters and good design and direction, although it prevented from flourishing due to an exposition-heavy script and some clunky animation. Son of Batman is no train-wreck, but it never reaches the heights its character-driven plot had the ability to.
I give Son of Batman 7 out of 10.