BATMAN VS. ROBIN
Director: Jay Oliva
Screenplay: J.M. DeMatteis
Available: (April 14,2015) DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital Download
Oh what a difference a day makes. See I didn’t particularly care for DC Animated’s Son of Batman animated feature, however their latest DVD release Batman Vs. Robin ranks among my favorite animated stories.
The story isn’t a direct adaptation of any single graphic novel but instead creates a new narrative using bits and pieces of the respective works of Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison. Events pick up months after Son of Batman, Damian is struggling to adjust to the non lethal mantle of Robin. As the tensions of trying to balance the relationship between father & son with mentor & student reach a boiling point, the murderous appearance of Talon drives a rift between Bruce and his son. Damian will have to choose between the morals of the Batman and the assassin life he’s always known. Along with Talon comes the Court of Owls. The secret society from Scott Snyder’s Batman arc are looking to recruit Bruce Wayne into their ranks when he goes public with a plan to economically fix Gotham City.
Where Son of Batman had problems balancing its characters, Batman Vs. Robin firmly acknowledges this is Damian Wayne’s story and keeps the focus on him. Even when Bruce faces off against the Court, Damian is the thread that ties everything together. Instead of simply translating one single story, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis opts to craft and almost brand new tale from the elements of the original writers who created Damian and the Talons. He does this without sacrificing the young Wayne’s internal struggles between nature and nurture. In many fans eyes Damian is the best Robin and we see all the reasons why on screen.
The Court of Owls is also handled in a different way from Snyder’s amazing story. Here the group isn’t as methodical as when they used calculated moves to push Batman to his limits. It might seem that they’re a little too direct for a secret cabal, but when you only have 90min to tell a story you don’t always get the luxury of subtlety. All of the spirit of the Court is still here with them being believed to be as old as Gotham itself and the analogy of Bats and Owls being mortal enemies is still prevalent.
Visually, Batman vs. Robin is everything that came from the previous Batman animated film. If you enjoyed it, you’ll love this one. Elements like Talon and the Owls strip artist Greg Capullo’s original designs to their bare bones. The end result isn’t such a bad thing, but I would have liked to have seen more of his non essential details in the visual adaptations. Outside of main Talon, none of the others have any perspicuous traits. Action sequences are crisp and as substantial as some of their comic book counter parts. You’ll get Nightwing vs. Robin round 2, the Court of Owls underground mausoleum, and that Wayne Manor battle from Night of the Owls.
The performances are a bit hit and miss. Stuart Allan’s voicing of Damian Wayne is what he sounds like in my head when I read him on the page. This movie also brings the always-stellar Troy Baker in a smaller role as Owl Lieutenant. Jeremy Sisto’s performance as Talon needed a little more distinction. His moments of conveying emotion didn’t pop more than the characters regular speaking moments. It just felt a bit incomplete. You guys, Kevin Conroy is Thomas Wayne! But the most interesting choice is Al Yankovic (yep the weird one) voicing the Dollmaker in the opening. His brief take is creepy, laced with madness and pain; in short it’s spot on.
Director Jay Oliva puts together another solid DC Animated story full of tense moments and excitement. For anyone looking for a literal page-for-page translation of Scott Snyder or Grant Morisson’s books, you won’t find that here. What you will find is a great take on newer fan favorite elements of the Batman mythos. Is it worth putting on your shelf? Yes.
Batman Vs. Robin will be available April 14, 2015. Fans at Wondercon will be treated to a special preview.
With iZombie being a hit for CW and these animated movies becoming less and less PG-13, it might be time to get Vertigo in the mix. My wishlist for upcoming films include Sandman, American Vampire, and (not Vertigo) Gotham Academy. What are on your lists?