The DC Universe Original movies keep coming, and there are a few changes as they move forward. Starting with “Justice League: War” there is now a continuity being formed. Using the New 52 Universe or the DCnU (DCnewUniverse) as a basis coming out of the “Flashpoint” storyline, “War” was the beginning of a new cohesive universe for the animated films (with the exception of the upcoming “Assault on Arkham” which is set in the Arkham game universe). “Son of Batman” is the 19th animated film, and the first to take place in this new continuity. And though the source material was published before the DCnU, its repercussions were felt long after, and it still worked well within the new setting.
For those of you not comic savvy, the source material I speak of is Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Son,” which began his long run on the character and introduced the world to Damian, Batman’s son with Talia Al Ghul. The coupling appeared decades ago in the “Son of the Demon” graphic novel, but wasn’t brought into the mainstream comics until this story. Since DC is starting from scratch with this new animated universe, they can make all the changes they want to create a unique take on things.
The film starts with an attack on the headquarters of the League of Shadows, led by former member and right hand Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson) that ends in the death of Ra’s Al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito), and sends Talia (Morena Baccarin) and her son Damian (Stuart Allen) running to Gotham. Knowing that Batman (Jason O’Mara) is the only man to constantly thwart her father, Talia has decided he is the only one that can keep the boy safe. Damian however is only out for revenge, and feels honor bound to get it. This obviously puts father and son at odds over Damian’s eagerness to kill. Meanwhile, Talia has taken what’s left of the League to seek revenge herself, and stumbles on Deathstroke’s plans as the new head of the League. As Batman and Damian work through their growing pains and Damian takes on the mantle of Robin, things begin to gray for the young warrior, and by the time things are looking up, Deathstroke puts his hostile take over into overdrive.
But none of this would matter if the voices didn’t sell the characters or the art didn’t deliver on expectations. I’m pleased to say it all works. I know when it comes to Batman’s voice many believe there is only one, the legendary Kevin Conroy. I agree he is a definitive one for me too, but not the end all be all. Jason O’Mara was one of the better voices in “JL: War” and he’s gotten better since. O’Mara is voicing a more experienced Batman this time around, and we even get to hear his Bruce Wayne. Giancarlo Esposito shines in his few moments as Ra’s Al ghul and Thomas Gibson gives an air of superiority to Deathstroke. Stuart Allen voices Damian with a sense entitlement and imperial smugness that is only made worse by the fact he’s a ten-year-old. Character designs once again by Phil Bourasa do not disappoint. His work has been amazing since “Crisis on Two Earths.”
“Son of Batman” really pushes the envelope for a PG-13 rating. The opening action sequence alone has whole groups being cut down by machine gun fire. People are stabbed and sliced and there is a shocking amount of blood. Hell, Damian himself kills a few people. This film is definitely not for younger viewers. That said, the action is fast paced and exhilarating, and the movie as a whole is pretty fun to watch.
There’s been a definite improvement in special features over the last year, but we still don’t get a making-of featurette, just sneak peeks. But the featurette about the source material are always good. This one gives a primer on both Damian and Ra’s and the League of Assassins with “Strange Blood Ties: Damian Wayne” and “The Fang and the Demon’s Head.” There’s also a designing the characters featurette, and the mandatory episodes from DC Animated vault.
All in all this was a very good outing for the first real foray into DC’s new animated universe. It introduced a new character (who I hope to see more of), told a good story, and had me entertained all the way through. I look forward to the next one, which I believe is the Aquaman film, and applaud DC on starting something new. If you’re a Batman fan, “Son of Batman” is a must see.