HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Batman Vs. Robin
HTS Overall Score:79
Once more into the fray my good friends. It’s been a few months, but WB and DC are back again with another animated adventure. This time with a direct follow up to last years “Son of Batman”. Last time we saw Bats (Jason O’Mara) having to take in the illegitimate son between himself and Talia Al Ghul, Damian (Stuart Allan), and raise him as his actual son. Now, months later, Damian has taken on the mantel of Robin and is following the caped crusader into battle. Even though Damian is following Batman’s orders (or at least MOSTLY following them), things aren’t exactly pleasant at home. Like a rat in a cage, Damian’s raising by Ras Al Ghul and the League has left him with a killer instinct that is barely controlled by the ever vigilant Batman. Letting himself out late at night to roam free and clear his head, the young boy runs across another vigilant, one who doesn’t hold the exact same ideals that Bruce has tried to instill into the boy.
While Damian is being recruited by this vigilante, this “Talon” (Jeremy Sisto), Batman is assessing a new threat to Gotham city. There had been legends of an ancient society that has ruled Gotham for generations. The elite and wealthy of Gotham who banded together into a secret group that controlled and molded the city into what they wanted it to be. Instead of just being petty criminals they deigned to believe that they knew what was best for the city and in a way that the poor plebeians couldn’t. Now this society is back once more, after years of silence and they are back with a bloody vengeance. They call themselves the Court of Owls, and it seems that Talon is their assassin of choice to get the job done. Much like Batman, they keep order amongst chaos, but like the League of Assassins they choose much more lethal ways to get their point across.
With father pitted against son by Talon, it’s not long before the shaky truce between Batman and Robin starts to crumble. Damian decides to become Robin no more, against the wishes of the Bats and decides to betray his newfound father and feed him to the wolves. However, not everything is at it seems, and some loyalties can’t be shaken, and Robin must find out who he really is. Is he a mindless killer, a tool of Batman, or is he something completely different than either?
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=42610[/img]I’m really enjoying how these DC animated films are actually showing continuity amongst themselves. Not every film is going to be directly related to the other, but they are contained within the same universe and many of them ARE directly connected. Being a direct sequel to “Son of Batman”, “Batman vs. Robin” is actually best served best as the second part in a double feature (and the slightly truncated runtimes of these animated films makes for the perfect two parter). Taken from the graphic novel “The Court of Owls” the film is a dark tale that focuses on one of the universes more tortured Robins. We get to see Dick Grayson as Nightwing (Sean Maher) for a small portion of the film, and we get to see some of the contrast between the two. One an orphaned boy that Bruce took in as a son, and the other his own flesh and blood, but separated since birth. The relationship between Bruce and his protégé’s is rocky, but the respect is there. That is actually one of the foundations of the whole Batman comics. He’s fantastic at his job, a brilliant businessman and an even better Dark Knight, but lousy at building relationships. Dick has bitten the bullet and learned to cope with Batman/Bruce as an adult, but the headstrong Damian is seething with hatred and anger in a way that rivals even Jason Todd.
Voice acting is pretty solid for the animated film. While we don’t get to hear the famed Kevin Conroy voicing the Batman himself, we do get a cameo of him as Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father) telling a bedtime story. Jason O’Mara does a decent job at voicing the brooding super hero, but has always been a bit flat for my tastes. I was really surprised at Sean Maher as Nightwing though. His soft voice isn’t the first I would have associated with the high flying hero, but blends in seamlessly with the rest of them, and actually brings the young man to life. Stuart Allan is a child actor and thus does a solid job as far as child actors do in these types of roles playing Damian. I do love to hear David McCallum (Ducky in NCIS) as Alfred, though. His lilting British accent fits in perfectly for the role and adds a little bit of light cheerfulness to the sometimes stodgy butler.
The film isn’t perfect, as there is a couple times where I buried my face in my hand, but that has to do with the source material. The one thing that has always been a slight irritant to me in the comic book universe is the ability for many people to learn the identity of Batman only to have them killed by the end of the movie, making the whole reveal moot. It’s a part of the comic sub culture, but it’s always something that has sort of taken me out of the moment and caused me to think “wait a minute, they just found out who Batman is, whelp, they sure aren’t going to make it to the end”).
Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, suggestive images and thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=42618[/img]Presented in your standard 1.78:1 formatted for widescreen TV aspect ratio, “Batman vs. Robin” looks rather nice with its 1080p AVC encode. Much like “Son of Batman”, it sports some very nice detail and some solid colors, but is marred by the DC animated film curse, banding. Now the banding is actually not as bad as many others in the same line, and for the first ½ of the film I almost didn’t notice it unless I was actually looking. However, in the latter half it picked up and became a lot more noticeable, especially in the dark tunnels of Gotham and in black backgrounds. Black levels are strong and lend an atmosphere of brooding and melancholy that a Batman film deserves, with only a few instances where I had to say the blacks were a bit washed out. Fine detail is good, and lines look solid, and while I noticed a layer of softness to the animation, it wasn’t detrimental to the overall picture. A solid encode with some flaws, it does well as a follow up to last year’s outing.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=42626[/img]These animated films seem to follow a standard sound design as well, for the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track sounds rather similar to “Son of Batman’s” track as well. The audio is a bit front loaded, but there is some nice ambient usage of the surrounds that fills out the rears quite nicely. Batman’s bat plane, as well as the crash of glass in the background or a bullet whistling over the shoulder adds to the dimensionality of the track and allows those sides and rears to get some use. The LFE is strong and powerful, loud in fact with some nice thumb to much of the fisticuffs and batsplosions happening throughout the movie. The only complaint I have with it, is that while it was loud and powerful, the LFE seemed to lack that weighty “thick” feeling that makes the low end feel full and vibrant. Dialog is clean and clear, with the vocals locked firmly in the center channel. Solid A track.
• Gotham’s City Secret: The Mythic Court of Owls
• Talons of the Owl
• Batman vs. Robin Audio Commentary
• A Sneak Peak at Justice League: Gods & Monsters – An advance look at the next DC Universe Original Movie with the creators and cast.
• Bonus animated features from the DC Comics Vault (4 Episodes)
• A Merry Melodies “Blue Ribbon” short, “Super Rabbit”
After being slightly frustrated with the “Aquaman” entry into the DC animated lineup, I was happy to once again go back to Gotham and have fun with Batman and crew. The story is well crafted, and takes a good adaptation of the source material, despite some of the questionable voice talent in used. The audio and video are very solid, and despite the standard banding, looks and sounds great. While I, of course, recommend the movie on its own merits, the obvious connection to “Son of Batman” makes them best watched one right after the other, so I would say time to watch both.
Starring: Stuart Allan, Troy Baker, Kevin Conroy
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis, Bob Kane
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish (Latin and Hispanic), German DD 5.1
Runtime: 80 minutes
Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD & Digital HD April 14th 2015
Buy Batman Vs. Robin On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Give it a Watch
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