Son of Batman, an adaptation from Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son story arch, is the tale of Bruce Wayne discovering he has a ten year old son named Damian. Damian is the love child of Bruce and Talia al Ghul and is quite formidable in his own right. Talia, daughter of one of Batman’s oldest and most ruthless villains, Ra’s al Ghul, has always been after Batman along with her father…but for different reasons. Ra’s has always wanted “The Detective” (as Ra’s always calls him) to take over his empire and continue his plans for global cleansing. Since this involves mass genocide, Batman has never gone along. Since he can’t have the Bat as his protege, Ra’s uses the next best thing…his son.
Damian is a pompous, a-hole of a person. Like his grandpa. But, much like his grandpa/mother/father, Damian sure does know how to kick a little ass. However, unlike his father, Damian has absolutely no qualms about killing. In fact, during the opening scenes of the movie, Damian, Ra’s and Talia are overseeing a training exercise at Ra’s mountain compound. All is peaceful until an army of helicopters and ninja clad mercenaries storm the complex causing massive damage to the facilities and Ra’s League of Shadows followers. Who could be behind such an assault? Why, none other than the spurned heir to the throne: Deathstroke. Yes, Slade Wilson (the aforementioned Deathstroke) was next in line to take over Ra’s position as The Demon’s Head until Damian was born. This kind of ticked off ol’ Deathstroke, so he and his band or mercs descend upon the complex to wipe the slate clean.
After the travesty that occurs at Ra’s palace, Talia decides that the safest place for Damian is in Gotham City with his dear old dad. The only problem? Batman had no idea he even had a son! “Oh, by the way. Here’s your ten year old son who is kind of a d-bag, can fight almost as good as you and will kill without a second thought…surprise!” After Damian gets acclimated to his new surroundings at The Batcave/Wayne Manor, it’s back to the action.
Damian wants some bloodletting to occur after what happened back at Demon HQ, so Deathstroke is high on his priorities list. After almost killing a thug to get to Slade, Nightwing (a favorite among us here at Free for All) stops the killing blow only to find himself squaring off against this little hellion. After Batman teaches him that just because he can kill doesn’t mean that he should and that it would turn them into what they are fighting against, Damian dons the Robin outfit (not before making fun of the old Dick Grayson one). After some much needed training in stealth and detective work, Deathstroke announces to Batman and the newly crowned Robin that Talia has been captured; this is just a ploy for Slade to kill Damian, however, but the boys need to get her out anyway.
The plot thickens whenever Dr. Kurt Langstrom enters the fray, though. Of course, Bat-fans will know Langstrom as the Man-Bat. So when Slade enlists Langstrom to create an army of Man-Bats, it’s trouble for Batman, Gotham and the world. So now not only does Batman and Robin have to save Talia from being executed by Slade as well as saving the world from an army of super-powered flying baddies. Phew! No rest for the weary, I suppose. Good thing Nightwing and Langstrom whip up a cure and save the day as the winged armada take flight. The final act of the flick takes place in an underwater drilling facility, which also has a life giving Lazarus Pit, that was once owned by Ra’s. The final few moments of movie are very intense and worth the watch by itself.
DC Animated does one thing really well: action. There is no short amount of action scenes all throughout this movie, including the credits (which I found very clever). The opening scene in Ra’s al Ghul’s stronghold is brutal and several bodies hit the floor. The scenes in which Batman and Robin are seen fighting and fleeing the flying Man-Bat beasts are dramatic and intense. However, all that being said, the main pulse-pounding fight scene takes place between Robin and Deathstroke in the underground drill rig. The crazy martial arts and sword fighting mixed in with the facility falling down in flaming heaps all around them is the obvious centerpiece in the show. It was glorious.
The voice acting, which is normally stellar in the DC Animated world, was a mixed bag unfortunately. I found that Jason O’Mara (who voiced Batman in the Justice League: War film (thank you, DCA continuity!), was the standout here; his delivery as the stoic Batman was spot on and he did a great job portraying a standoffish father as well. I was pleasantly surprised by Stuart Allen’s portrayal as the unfeeling, impulsive Damian. He also delivered a lot of the comedy, which is important in a dark theme such as Son of Batman, very well. Speaking of comedy, David MaCallum’s Alfred was fabulous; his interactions with Damian were absolutely hilarious. Thomas Gibson (Deathstroke) and Morena Baccarin (Talia Al’ Ghul) were both pretty disappointing though. The real key to being a solid voice actor is to make it seem as if you’re not reading from a script and these two had moments where it was painfully obvious that that was exactly what they were doing; which is weird since they are both very good actors. It wasn’t as bad as Michelle Monaghan’s Wonder Woman in JL: War, but disappointing nonetheless. The biggest disappointment, however, was the fact that Giancarlo Esposito (best known as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad) was in such a small part of the film. When I learned that he was cast as Ra’s al Ghul I was stoked…but then he is only in maybe ten minutes of the movie and I was more than upset.
That being said, this was probably the least happy I’ve been with a DC Animated movie. It’s not bad by any means, but when stacked against some of the more recent films that DCA has released…well, it’s not close. Good but not great. I believe that you should still watch Son of Batman, especially Batman fans, and most will not be disappointed in the least. I, however, am now looking forward to Batman: Assault on Arkham (being a prequel to the stellar Batman: Arkham games) that will be coming out later this year. In the meantime, check out this trailer for Son of Batman and decide for yourself if this movie is in your wheelhouse. Enjoy!