Son of Batman (2014) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for stylized violence including bloody images, and some suggestive material
Running Time: 74 min.
Cast: Jason O'Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Dee Bradley Baker, Xander Berkeley, Giancarlo Esposito, David McCallum
Director: Ethan Spaulding
Screenplay: Joe R. Lansdale (based on the comic by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert)
Review published April 30, 2014
Talia al Ghul (voiced by Morena Baccarin, Serenity) and her pre-teen son Damian (Allan, Guess How Much I Love You) head from their Himalayan stronghold to Gotham City searching for Batman (O'Mara, In a World...), who is revealed to be the boy's father, in what can only be alluded to as some sort of situation involving a date rape drug given to Bruce Wayne that Talia took advantage of to conceive their love child (I'm not joking). Damian wants to get back at the person(s) responsible for the attack on his home. In other parts of Gotham, Deathstroke (Gibson, Eyes Wide Shut) is building up his own army of "man-bats".
Son of Batman is loosely based on a well-known comic arc from 2006 called, "Batman and Son", and will likely disappoint fans of the Grant Morrison work due to its lack of adherence to its source material, while it isn't strong enough on its own to entertain those unaware. At 74 minutes, it's not a long feature-length outing, but it sure feels like it, drawing out fights that foster no interest, while excising ones that do (a battle between Nightwing and the new Robin is skipped over except for a few stills in the closing credits), and one might wonder if it's not worth plunking down the money to read the original 4-issue story arc this is based on instead.
The problem with Son of Batman isn't just that it largely ignores its source material, it's that where it does go is dull, and proceeds to tell its story in as generic a way possible. Deathstroke, who seems to have a personality wholly different from his print counterpart, only has a cool costume to engage with, and when you see Batman and Damian taking on a squadron of flying man-bats (men-turned-monsters with giant wings), you'll probably just want to shut off the film then and there and save yourself the monotony. Sadly, the execution only gets more ridiculous from there.
Perhaps younger viewers will like Batman having a youthful sidekick, aka the new Robin, that is even more cutthroat than he is, but most others will find the one-note characterization too thin and predictable to be engaged by. More often than not, he's downright annoying, leading many viewers to wish that Batman will decide to stop coddling the tyke and lay the smack down on him. For a flick that seeks to skew toward youngsters, it is surprisingly violent in its approach, with quite a bit of body slashing, eye-gouging, and blood that even the comic book tends to eschew.
After Justice League: War, that's two swings-and-misses in a row, as the normally sure-footed DC Animated Universe line is beginning to lose its luster. This one's for Batman completists only.
©2014 Vince Leo