More a mash-up of two of the most highly regarded Batman stories in the last 20 years than its title implies ‘Batman vs. Robin’ stands alongside the best efforts of Warner Bros. Animated.
While I’d argue Grant Morrison’s ‘Batman vs. Robin’ (Read here: Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin) and Scott Snyder’s ‘Court of Owls’ (read here: Batman: The Court of Owls Mask and Book Set (The New 52) (Batman: the New 52) stories warrant their own movies, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis (one of the creators behind the brilliant ‘Justice League International’ comics during the late 80s — get that here: Justice League International, Vol. 1) does a commendable job tying those stories into a cohesive story.
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Jason O’Mara) is still getting used to the newest addition to his Bat family — his recently discovered son Damian (Stuart Allan). Unlike his other young protégés, Damian was raised by The League of Assassins and his more violent tendencies frequently puts him at odd with Batman’s philosophy of ‘justice, not vengeance.’
The two are also clashing as Bruce isn’t quite ready to introduce his new son, not even to his girlfriend Samantha (Grey Griffin) and Damian feels trapped within the walls of Wayne Manor when not out on assignment. Batman and Robin’s bond is further tested by the arrival of Talon (Jeremy Sisto), a vigilante willing to go to greater extremes than Batman and wants Robin to be his new partner.
As Robin considers the offer, Batman learns that a childhood legend of the clandestine Court of Owls and their assassins, the Talons, may be real and plotting to kill him. Incredibly, the few scenes with young Bruce investigating The Court is more engaging than most scenes showcasing Bruce on the TV show ‘Gotham.’
Director Jay Oliva (‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,’ which you can get here: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox [Blu-ray]) always skews a bit violent with his films — get used to a lot of gratuitous blood sprays —but he knows how to stage fluid easy to follow action scenes even with multiple combatants. Like the comics, the Talons prove an actual threat to Batman, who too often is portrayed like Superman, Snake-Eyes and Wolverine in a bat costume.
Oliva even works in a newer Bat accessory in a pivotal fan-pleasing scene.
My biggest gripe is the shoddy treatment of Nightwing (Sean Maher), who is constantly made to look inferior to both Damian and the Owls in combat. Granted the film isn’t called ‘Nightwing vs. Robin,’ but making the original Robin more competent would make everyone else look like elite fighters as opposed to Nightwing being the weak link. As a nice nod to Morrison’s storyline where Nightwing assumes the role of Batman and teams with Damian, DeMatties gives them a few scenes to play up on their relationship.
DeMatteis initially sets up a good mystery about the Court’s leader, but the payoff is a bit too ‘Scooby Doo’ as the evil top dog is the only other major character introduced. Talon’s character model is far too fashion model to compliment Sisto’s outstanding voice work.
The shift in focus to the New 52 has not been kind for Warner Bros. Animation projects as there’s slim pickings for stellar stories worthy of an animated adaptation. Fortunately the rules aren’t as strict for Batman projects resulting in this pre/current New 52 hybrid that will entertain fans no matter their DC Comic preference.
And because I’m a moron who apparently can’t be bothered to fact check all the time, I screwed up Jay Oliva’s name, which he graciously helped me come up with a clever way of not forgetting next time.
@LylesMovieFiles Thanks for a great review Jeffrey! BTW it’s OLIVA not Olivia. Every time I see that i think of Olivia Newton John. :)
— Jay Oliva (@jayoliva1) May 12, 2015