How does one screw up the introduction of a character into a beloved mythos? Well allow Son of Batman to show you how with three easy steps! First you make sure that they have no likeable traits, make them a bloodthirsty psychopath that’ll endear him to the fans. Secondly you make sure he has that persona throughout all of the film, can’t have him showcase pesky things like kindness and growth right? And finally the third step is to make sure he only has one goal throughout the entire film and have the father figure beat you over the head with how bad that goal really is. That is how Son of Batman manages to handle Damian Wayne’s entrance into the Batman animated mythos and believe me it only takes a few scenes to prove how annoying he can get. The question I think best fits this film is that when the main character fails to entertain, does that mean the film itself is inherently bad?
Son of Batman is about the revenge of Damian Wayne against Deathstroke for killing his grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. Batman plays the father figure, Talia plays the headstrong mother, Alfred plays the nanny and Dick Grayson is there for the ride. It kind of plays like a sitcom when you think of it like that, especially with the reoccurring problem of Damian being a one note character who still, by the third film in this franchise has changed very little on his attitude. Unfortunately this is the first film and the worst offender when it comes to Damian being a pompous jerk who’s “holier than thou” act gets old too fast. The story basically boils down to him learning how to control his anger and not kill people. There may be a manbat army, the League of Shadows being destroyed, and Deathstroke running around acting petty, but all of that doesn’t really matter by the end of the film and acts more like window dressing. It’s pretty to look at and a cool idea, but in execution you probably should have stopped while you were ahead.
It takes the film an hour and twenty minutes to get that one point across to Damian, and they will pad this out believe me. The only saving graces during the film was the ending fight scene and the humour that came from Alfred and Dick dealing with Damian. Who would have known that the selling point of this film would be the humour? All you need is some ice puns in there as well. Yet I won’t say this film is as bad as Batman and Robin, since it manages to actually move from start to finish and solve the one dilemma the film presents us with. The main character learns a lesson and the film ends. It at least doesn’t cripple your sense of sight or even numb the mind with terrible jokes, as the jokes in this film work well bouncing off of Damian’s wet blanket attitude.
The action scenes, no the animation is actually really low budget and that is noticeable for the most part. Looking at the beginning raid on the League of Shadows, you can see they were saving their animation down the line. Often the faces look cramped, especially Ra’s and Deathstroke, and the fight scenes were not the most inventive in order to have a bunch of nameless grunts die in flashy fashion without using much of a budget. The entire film kind of feels that way, when you look at the lack of variety with the Ubu fight or even fighting off the Deathstroke goons and manbats. All of it is shot blandly, done in uninteresting fashion and manages to effectively add nothing to the film since both the manbats and Ubu add nothing to Damian’s journey besides “oh this kid’s got anger problems”. And even the manbats don’t really do much at that.
The inclusion of Dr. Langstrom feels more like a nod to fans of Batman as the manbat sideplot only adds more padding than anything. Actually when I look at most of what the villain does in this film, it feels inconsequential to what is really important to the film at hand. Deathstroke feels sad because Ra’s dumped him as his protégé when Batman and Damian came into his life, so Deathstroke acts petty throughout the entire film trying to take over the League. I mean I understand Damian being a pouty kid, because he is a kid but Deathstroke really doesn’t pull it off well. I mean Slade Wilson is meant to be one of the deadlier enemies in DC, but here he feels relegated to schoolyard bully status as he is jealous of what he doesn’t have and focuses in on that one thing throughout the entire film. All he wants is to kill Damian to prove a point to a man he already killed…I mean what part of killing a kid to appease a dead man makes sense as a motivation? It just feels beneath him.
I won’t lie though that the finale is actually compelling to watch. The fight scene between Deathstroke and Damian is appropriately brutal and actual showcases the best animation in the film (so that’s what they were saving the budget for). There is some interesting choreography in there, which is absent through the rest of the film, and it wraps up Damian’s journey pretty nicely. If the journey wasn’t as painful as it was then maybe the finale would feel more poignant, but I didn’t believe that Damian should have changed at that point because of everything else I saw in the film. Damian tries every chance to disobey and undermine Batman, so I felt like him learning a lesson wouldn’t have been in his character.
The biggest problems with this film is predictability, bad character writing, and a pointless narrative. I mean all of the beats were there in this review, the film just pads it out with more material that in the end is pointless. The film just didn’t feel like it was trying to care about how we related to Damian or how obvious and drummed in the message of “killing is bad mm’kay” is during the course of the film. Son of Batman feels like a low effort start to what is one of my most mixed animated trilogies I have ever watched and if it wasn’t for the second I would say pass this film up altogether. There is some fun moments, enough to make you not bored out of your mind, but by the end of the film it all feels like one big set-up to a punchline you are not in on. Son of Batman is more the story of Damian and Batman dealing with father and son issues than anything else. Everything else in the film just doesn’t matter and can be skipped, that would save you probably forty to fifty minutes.
Ah it is good to be back! Sadly being back with this film is not exactly what I would call great as I was hoping to really enjoy this movie yet found myself always being held back by the characters. Held back by the depth that just wasn’t there even though it pretended it was. I want to like more DC films, but they do make it hard sometimes with one of the more mixed batting averages of a studio I have seen in this decade.
So have you seen Son of Batman? Do you think a movie with a terribly written lead character be good? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a wonderful day!