In the recently released animated feature, Son of Batman, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's comic storyline for their title, Batman and Son, gets a fresh adaptation. That is not to say that this is necessarily kid-friendly. However, before I delve into this newest addition to the DC Animated Universe, please be forewarned that ahead lies spoilers. Caution.
Onward then. There are many notable differences between the graphic novel and the animated feature. I will not elaborate on all of them. However, I did glance through the book before a second viewing. Familiarizing myself with the basic plot points, I noticed that many of them are still included. The script simply changes the circumstances of much of the story. However, at it's core, it's the same basic story. Kudos to James Robinson, credited with the story of feature, and to screenwriter Joe. R. Lansdale, for at least trying to preserve most of the elements of Morrison's creation, Damian Wayne.
To say that Damian is toned down for an animated film is not really being honest. Within the first five minutes, we see him pick up a handgun and mercilessly kill several attackers. Each shot that is fired is a kill shot. It's rather striking to myself as an older viewer, and troubles me that I often find features like this in the children's aisle in most stores that sell DVD's. Perhaps DC should finally make an R-rated animated feature so that it gets the treatment it deserves. Perhaps not. Time will tell. I'm still surprised that both parts of The Dark Knight Returns didn't get R-ratings. Those both walked a fine line, as they included much of the extreme violence found in Frank Miller's original story.
Anyway, Damian kills, maims, and apparently is the person who took Slade Wilson's eye. I don't know. Yet, his basic nature is there. A pre-teen with the martial arts skills of a master assasin, who has been raised as the grandson of the Demon's Head himself. He is brash, arrogant, violent, and spoiled. However, even Bruce finds himself having a hard time ignoring the skills of his estranged progeny. Thus, begins Damian donning the mantle of Robin. He even meets Dick Grayson, now Nightwing, who finds the boy's presence to be agitating, to the say the least.
Despite the attention to detail, there is simply something about this particular animated feature that I found lacking. I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it is that Batman, himself, seems second in skill to his son at times. Damian takes on Deathstroke by himself at least twice. He takes his eye. Yet, still there was something lackluster about this particular animated feature. The addition of Deathstroke I felt was a bit, well for lack of a better word, lame. His inclusion on the series Arrow inclines me to believe that perhaps Slade is being a bit recycled on the script writing table at DC. A completely original villain would have been perhaps far more sinister as there would have been uncharted territory of a new character to play with.
It certainly has nothing to do with the voice acting work by an always amazing talent of voices. As always, the ever-talented Andrea Romano puts together an excellent cast, with a few returning actors from previous features. Reprising his role as Batman from Justice League: War is Jason O'Mara. So far I am incredibly pleased with whom DC has passed the torch to. Though, we do have to look forward to Assault on Arkham, where Mr. Conroy will be gracing our earholes once more, Bat-children.
Joining O'Mara as Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul's son, Damian, is relative newcomer Stuart Allan. Allan also voiced Billy Batson in the Superman/Shazaam short that was released some time ago. Allan seems to hold his own, and perhaps we will see him again in future Batman installments to this current DC Animated-verse. Morena Baccarin voices Talia convincingly, and even goes so far as to call Bruce "beloved" more than once. A nice touch on her part and the writers' parts, repsectively.
Additionally, Thomas Gibson voices Slade Wilson/Deathstroke with poise and precision, excellent qualities for the Terminator. David McCallum reprises his role as Alfred Pennyworth, previously voiced in Gotham Knight. Also, Bruce Thomas voices Commissioner Gordon and the treacherous Ubu. What is interesting to note is that Thomas played Batman onscreen in the old OnStar commercials, and even played him again in the pilot and first episode of the short-lived Birds of Prey series on the WB. Just an interesting sidenote I learned amidst the review process.
Overall, this film could have been a lot more, but it was entertaining, nevertheless. Stay tuned for the next one, Bat-kids. Batman: Assault on Arkham, will feature the Suicide Squad, Bats, Joker, and Harley Quinn. Supposedly, it is based more on the Arkham Asylum video game. Though, I hope it is much closer to the graphic novel. We shall see. Until then, stay vigilant. The war continues.
Son of Batman:
Reviewed by Chris Gering