While he’ll be challenging Superman for box office supremacy in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice next month, Batman is the unquestioned king on the Warner Animation home video front. The latest animated feature, Batman: Bad Blood, assures everything remains status quo in terms of another outstanding action-packed and entertaining effort starring the Dark Knight.
Sticking with the established Batman animated continuity since Son of Batman has proven a wise move as it avoids the need to constantly reintroduce the characters and establish the foundation. It definitely makes adding new characters to the fold easier.
With Batman (Jason O’Mara) presumed dead, Nightwing (Sean Maher) is called to continue the “family business” and become Batman, much to the chagrin of Batman’s son Damian aka Robin (Stuart Allen). They’re joined by Batwoman (Yvonne Strzechowski), who was the last person to see Batman alive, and Batwing (Gaius Charles), the son of Wayne Enterprise’s CEO Lucius Fox (Ernie Hudson).
Despite quickly working in abbreviated origin stories for Batwoman and Batwing and juggling a slew of familiar Batman foes including the Mad Hatter, The Calculator, Killer Moth, Firefly and Blockbuster, the story moves at a brisk pace and the characterizations are fitting their comic book counterparts.
Longtime DC Comics vet J. M. DeMatteis (Justice League International, Vol. 1) handles the script, which very loosely adapts Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Batman Reborn. In the comics storyline, Batman was presumed dead and Nightwing assumed the role of his mentor while Damien Wayne was Robin.
DeMatteis definitely gets the switched dynamic of the Dynamic Duo down with Batman being the more laid-back member to the more brooding sidekick.
Considering Warner Animated typically cranks out 2-3 Batman based films each year, I would have loved to have seen this take on Batman and Robin explored for a couple of movies. Especially since Batman spends nearly as much time here with Batwoman as he does Robin.
Since they’re a consistent moneymaker the Batman films tend to have high quality animation. The characters move smoothly and the design strongly captures that comic book art style more than an animated visual.
At this point, fans of the DC Animated product can rest assured if Jay Oliva is directing, the movie is going to be exceptional. While Oliva’s strengths have always been clear, hard-hitting action sequences, he dials it up several notches this time.
The action scenes here are so exceptional that it resembled films with sensational fight choreography like The Raid. It’ll be interesting to see if Oliva can top these battles on future projects.
The lone gripe I have is consistent with the other recent batch of Batman-specific Warner Animated projects — the borderline gratuitous violence and needless deaths of established villains in the Batman mythos. If Warner Animated is still cranking Batman films every year, by 2020 the only surviving villains will be The Calendar Man, Crazy Quilt and Ten-Eyed Man.
And as always, it’s a shame other prominent DC characters like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and the Legion of Superheroes can’t get new animated feature films to showcase other realms of the DC Universe besides Batman beyond the confines of the Justice League.