HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Son of Batman
HTS Overall Score:78
Once again Warner Brothers is making a killing on their DC animated library. Marvel is just tearing up the live action landscape and with DC trying to play catchup their animated super hero film franchise is making up for lost time. Starting years ago with “Batman: The Animated Series”, “Batman Beyond”, “Superman the Animated Series”, etc, they grew to bigger and more feature length animated films, like “Batman: Gotham Knight” and the “Justice League” film. With the success of those two movies they continue to churn out films that really delve in the comic books in ways that the DC feature films just can’t seem to get a handle on. As such, they have garnered a rabid following that is eating up the stories (just as Marvel is putting out feature film live action movies that grasp the essence of the comics). Now we have the latest, a dark and brutal telling of how Batman comes across his fifth and final Robin (well, 6th, if you really include Carrie Kelly from “The Dark Knight Returns”, being that its non canon).
Ra’s Al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito) is master of his dark league of shadows. However, as with most men of evil, he has some enemies. While training his men in the League of Shadows fortress, they are attacked by an old apprentice, Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson). Realizing that they are outnumbered, Ra’s orders his daughter Talia and grandson Damian to leave the castle. Barely escaping with their lives, after witnessing the death of their leader, Talia takes Damian to his father, Bruce Wayne. Knowing that she can’t take care of the child and that she must avenger her own father’s death, Talia leaves Bruce with the child and takes off. No stranger to orphaned children, Bruce (Jason O’Mara) allows Damian to tag along. Realizing the seething rage under the surface, Bruce tries his best to impart his own brand of honor and justice into the boy’s fragile psyche.
While Damian uses Bruce’s resources to track down his father’s killer, Bruce also is keeping an eye on the enigmatic ninja. It seems that Deathstroke is employing the help of a scientist and brewing up a batch of mutagenics in order to create the perfect human/animal hybrid soldier. Before long it’s only inevitable till the Dark Knight and his new apprentice come face to face with the madman taking over Ra’s Al Ghul’s criminal enterprise. There Damian must decide whom he wants to become. His father? His Grandfather? Or will he craft his own legacy and blend the two methods.
Batman has always been a personal favorite of mine, and while I love the original Batman movies of the 90’s, I was never a fan of Nolan’s trilogy. The animated series was so vibrant, and full of life that the dark and grim series just never really captured the essence of the character. With “The Animated Series”, and my personal favorite, “Batman Beyond” the Waynes and Robins were truly alive. Here is no different. It’s sad to no longer hear Kevin Conroy as the voice of bats, but O’Mara does a very solid job of the caped crusader. Morena Baccarin does a great job as Talia Al Ghul, and even newcomer Stuart Allen does an admirable job as the newest Robin. The only character I had a hard time getting over was Deathstroke. Voiced by Thomas Gibson, all I could hear was Greg from “Dharma and Greg” the whole time. The voice just felt a bit too young for an aged and wizened apprentice of the immortal Al Ghul legacy.
The story starts our fast and furious, not shying away from the animated blood and carnage, as Deathstroke’s men lay waste to Ra’s Al Ghul’s fortress. The fight scenes are fluid and seamless, which is always impressive being that the film uses hand drawn animation, unlike the CGI fest of modern animated movies. I liked the animation as it gives a throwback to the older Batman films, instead of looking all slick and shiny. As the dynamic duo starts to bond it gets a bit cheesy, especially near the end where you come to the inevitable conclusion that Damian is going to act like his father, even though all that pent of rage and training would have made it a bit hard for him to just “come around”. Even with that little gripe, the story was quite engaging and it’s fun to see another Robin grace the animated screen. So far we’ve had Damien, Dick Grayson, and Jason Todd on screen. My only hope is that we get to see Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown get their chance at donning the little birds costume in one of DC’s adventures on film. We can only hope. Next we have a slight change of pace as we go to Arkham Asylum with “Batman: Assault of Arkham”, which showcases a unique animation style and a return of Kevin Conroy as our beloved Dark Knight.
Rated PG-13 for stylized violence including bloody images, and some suggestive material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=17242[/img]The “Son of Batman’s” 1.78:1 AVC encode is a good, if not great, at times transfer. The colors are appropriately brooding and bathed in darkness, as one would expect from a Dark Knight movie. Blacks are usually quite good, with only a few scenes, especially the club scene and in Deathstroke’s Lazarus pit scene, looking a bit faded. Detail is also quite satisfactory, with the individual lines looking clean and crisp, with only a few instances of line break. Jaggies are at a minimal, and I only noticed a little bit of Haloing around a few items. The real issues for the film is the curse of Warner Brothers animation. The wonders of color banding. Usually the color banding issue is only seen during dark scenes, but there were a few lighter shots that suffered from this issue as well. Normally it’s kept to a minimum, but this time I noticed it a lot more. So much so, that I almost had the score graded at a 3.5, but the rest of the benefits just BARELY pushed it into the 4/5 range.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=17250[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track was a tad better than the video. The vocals are crisp and clean as expected, with the mains adding in some nice panning effects. The track is just a little bit front loaded, but not in the same range as a drama or other such dialogue heavy movies. The surrounds are used abundantly, but they are a bit soft in my opinion. Same goes for the rest of the ambient noises in the front channels. The vocals just seemed a bit hot, compared to the rest of the track (or the rest of the track was a bit soft, whichever you prefer). LFE is good, but not stellar, adding some much needed oomph to the low end and some whallop with the explosions. That being said I’ve much better from Warner in regards to their animated LFE channels, so I was left just a slight bit disappointed. The track is quite good, almost verging on excellent, but the soft ambient noises and just solid LFE pushes it down just a hair.
• Featurette – “The Fang and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins”
• Featurette – “Strange Blood Tie: Damian Wayne”
• Featurette - "Designing the Characters with Phil Bourbassa"
• A Sneak Peek at the next DCU Animated Movie - Batman: Assault of Arkham
• From the DC Comics Vault – 4 Bonus Cartoons
“Son of Batman” is a jump up from the decent “Justice League: War” and serves as one of the more violent animated Batman cartoons in the DC lineup. It’s quick, fast paced and brutal, with probably the darkest Robin to date. I felt as if the story could have been fleshed out just a little bit more, and the ending wasn’t as perfect as the original comic, but it’s still a very fun animated film and shows why DC is dominating the animated super hero market for the time being. The solid audio and video make it a welcome addition to anyone’s DC comic library. Recommended.
Starring: Jason O'Mara, Stuart Alan, Thomas Gibson
Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Written by: Bob Kane, Grant Morrison
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, German DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 74 minutes
Own "Son of Batman" on Blu-ray and DVD on 5/6/2014
Buy Son of Batman Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
More about Mike