Synopsis – Bruce Wayne is missing. Alfred covers for him while Nightwing and Robin patrol Gotham City in his stead. And a new player, Batwoman, investigates Batman’s disappearance.
My Take – I have been a huge DC Comics fan for about 20 years. Read a ton of comics, read all the acclaim graphic novels, seen almost all the live and animated shows and movies. While the world gears up for the release for the second installment of their shared DC cinematic universe with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (with Man of Steel being the first), & continues to love their TV interpretations in the form of The CW‘s Arrow, The Flash & Legends of Tomorrow along with CBS‘s Supergirl, Warner Bros. Animation keeps churning out some awesome iterations of their New 52 adaptions. The last couple Batman animated films were loosely adapted takes on iconic comic book arcs, some are more faithful than others; like in Batman vs. Robin (adapted from parts of the “Court of Owls” arc) stayed fairly true to the source while films like Son of Batman took more liberties with the source material and by liberties I mean share nothing with the “Batman and Son” arc aside from the title. While the quality of their current series of films have varied from disappointing (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis) to alright (Son of Batman) to quite awesome (Batman vs. Robin), this film assured entertainment mainly as it’s in the hand of the right man for the job – Jay Oliva, the director of other DC iterations such as Batman vs. Robin, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Justice League: War, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox & Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 & 2. So does this film add to the roster of the good ones? Of course yes! Sure, the movie isn’t anything new or groundbreaking like Under The Red Hood or Mask of the Phantasm but it is a vast improvement from Throne of Atlantis or Son of Batman. Although Batman was largely absent during the course of the movie, it was a wise idea to let the new blood take over, as many of us know, Batman’s vast universe is constantly evolving as well as expanding and Jay Oliva masterfully presents us with a daunting dangerous universe that requires more then just the presence of Batman.
That being said, it would be nice to see a future Batman movie that primarily centralizes on just Batman. Following the events of Son of Batman and Batman vs Robin, this latest installment of the ‘family saga’ involves the disappearance of Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara) after his encounter with a mysterious new villain known as the Heretic (voiced by Travis Willingham). The story follows Nightwing (voiced by Sean Maher) who must take over the mantle of the Batman, and with the help of Damian Wayne aka Robin (voiced by Stuart Allan) must reclaim Gotham which has plunged into chaos upon the news of Batman’s disappearance. Joining them in this task are Batwoman (voiced by Yvonne Strahovski) & Lucius Fox’s son Luke aka Batwing (voiced by Gaius Charles). In addition to temporarily being Batman, Dick must not only solve the mystery of his former mentor’s disappearance, but keep his crime fighting family cohorts together. A number of other baddies make their appearance–the Mad Hatter chief among them–and the leader of the gang turns out to be none other than Talia Al-Ghul, daughter of the late (maybe, always hoping for a recon job) R’as Al-Ghul. It seems they’re into mind control, and without giving too much of the plot away, they’re out to get their piece of the world and need Batman in order to achieve their goal. Their are several subplots joined together and admittedly the different angles might feel at times overwhelming, especially when the movie itself has relatively short run time. However, it handles itself well. There’s barely a moment when it dawdles too long on one perspective, shifting between the characters with fast pace. The film also provides new insights to the past of the new bunch of characters, even for returning ones. Making sure that everyone gets ample share of screen time, especially the latest & lesser known Batwoman. It’s nice to see a strong female character who can carry herself and be fragile as well. One of the many appeals of Batman franchise is its vast universe. His large array of allies and foes is more developed than many other superheroes’. While it’s a risk giving them leading roles instead of the titular characters, the film succeeds in presenting the story of a team, a family in the business of fighting crime, dysfunctional it may be. The Damian Wayne we see here is still very much the same character we’ve had before–arrogant, short-tempered, angry–but very slightly (and I mean very, very slightly) he does seem to have grown up a bit. I was able to catch the difference, but that was only because I was really looking for it. I suspect that casual fans that see this film will see Damian as the same character he has always been and that may very well put them off. I do get his obvious desire to find his father and why, in his own superior-minded way, he feels he is the rightful heir to Batman’s legacy, which puts him at odds with his current role of remaining as Robin while Dick Grayson gets to wear the cape and cowl. In speaking of whom, lets talk about Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Nightwing. If Damian comes off as the arrogant and off-putting young pupil of Batman, Dick has always been the opposite.
The original Robin that we all think about, Dick is one of the best heroes in the DC Universe, having a dark side and being a mere man using his amazing talents to fight crime like Batman does, but he is also a much more lighthearted and optimistic character and probably more of a leader, kind of like Superman. After years of working under Batman Dick was allowed to grow up and become his own hero, Nightwing, to get as far away from Bruce’s shadow as possible, so, as Dick outright tells Damian at one point, having to now wear the Batman costume himself is the last thing Dick wants, but he does it because he knows how much Gotham desperately needs Batman and, quite frankly, can’t survive without him. Also, as the one who has served with Bruce the longest, Dick is probably the one who understands Batman’s mission statement the best ans will do the best job keeping that pure, much to Damian’s frustration. There a reference made to Talon from the previous film that I actually found rather humorous. But beside Damian and Dick, we are also introduced to two more character that make their animated debut in this film. Sure, there have been several different Batwoman before, including in animation, but this is the first time where the current incarnation, Kate Kane, has been lifted from the comics and for what I know of the character she seems like a pretty good adaptation. We meet her right at the beginning as a women with pale skin in a Bat costume (which I swear bears a striking similarity to the Batman Beyond outfit, but maybe that’s just me), and she takes on the villains with guns, the weapon that Batman has vowed never to loose. Their is an interesting backstory and a look into an often understated gift that Batman has – his ability to motivate and inspire others without even realizing it. Though it takes about half the movie to introduce him, Luke Fox (son of Lucius Fox) dons the Batwing armor and makes his glorious animated film debut bringing to the home-video market the trappings of what could eventually become Batman Incorporated. The voice cast is stellar! Jason O’Mara does a solid job. Yvonne Strahovski is excellent as Batwoman, and Sean Maher as Nightwing lends a nice touch to the proceedings. Morena Baccarin & Stuart Allan are awesome! Robin Atkins-Downs as the Mad Hatter was appropriately creepy. On the whole, ‘Batman: Bad Blood’ is one of the more enjoyable DC Animated films in recent years. The necessary twists to the original comic book arcs are working in their favor so far. If you are a Batman fan, give this is a watch!
Director – Jay Oliva
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 72 minutes