Damian Wayne is back in the ‘Son of Batman’ Blu-ray
The newest DC release from Warner Bros. Animation features Damian Wayne, a character benched from the comics since last year. Will the movie make Damian’s fans happy?
I miss Damian Wayne. The biological son of Bruce Wayne, Damian started off as a cocky, elitist and blood thirsty kid raised by ninjas until coming to Gotham to take over the title of Robin alongside his father. Despite being what I can only really describe as “a little shit,” there’s something endearing about the kid. The more he worked with other members under his father’s symbol, the more he saw the positives to his father’s idea of justice. Arguably the best moments of Damian in the comics come from his partnership with Dick Grayson once Dick became Batman, but I also love the family-friendly comic Li’l Gotham. Unfortunately, that comic ended in December and Damian was killed off over a year ago in the current comic canon. Personally I don’t think it was handled very well (Robin deaths rarely are) and it’s telling that there are already rumors of him being brought back to life one way or the other in the next year. Until then, we have his origin in Son of Batman, the newest Warner Bros. Animation feature.
Son of Batman starts off a bit fast. Actually, that’s an understatement. In the first scene, Ra’s al Ghul is giving his grandson Damian a Circle of Life-esque speech about how the League of Assassins is the legacy of their family and one day it will all be his. And immediately after, Damian’s uncle is shot out of nowhere. Less than three minutes into the movie and it’s just absolute bloodshed. It’s kind of abrupt. It probably doesn’t help that the bloodshed has some anime styling — lots of extreme blood spurts but no blood on the blade and little to no blood on the ground. And there’s a lot of violence. If you think because this movie focuses on a child character that it’s appropriate for kids, realize that we see a man burning alive and later got several shots of his charred body as he’s slowly dying. This is not a family-friendly Batman cartoon. Of course, the comic it was based on, Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son, isn’t family-friendly, either.
The animated feature plays loose with the comic’s story, particularly in changing the antagonist from Damian’s mother Talia to Deathstroke, who has killed Ra’s before we can even get to the title screen. With Deathstroke taking control of the League of Assassins’ assets, including a scientist working on a dangerous mutagen formula, Talia al Ghul must send her son stay with his father (three guesses who that is) while she figures out how to take back control. Talia is a character that I enjoyed immensely when I first saw her in Batman: The Animated Series as a woman who commands respect and feels deep loyalty for both Bruce and her father. The comic version of Talia (especially Morrison’s version of her) is not nearly so sympathetic, especially in Batman and Son. She’s still not the most ethical of characters — it’s still her League that commissioned the mutagen Deathstroke is pursuing after all, and the movie brings up the at best dubious consent issues that led to Damian being born. In fact, Talia’s relationship with Bruce is ten kinds of messed up and unfortunately the movie glosses over that to get to the plot. That being said, Morena Baccarin’s Talia manages to be a morally gray character that you can at least root for as she fights to take back what’s hers and her son’s. Some fans of Batman and Son won’t like the change, but I do.
The plot isn’t exactly captivating — it’s standard bad guy wants to use super science to create a super army — but the character interaction is a lot of fun. While Damian’s American accent is irritating and illogical considering where he grew up, he grew on me just in his commitment to superiority. This works best when he’s playing off other characters, like Bruce or Alfred. Alfred, voiced by David McCallum is so delightful in his sarcasm towards the elitism of Damian. His sarcasm might be the best part of this movie. I also enjoyed blue-suited Nightwing (Baccarin’s fellow Firefly alum Sean Mayer) dealing with Damian’s put downs and his skill with sharp objects. One of the best lines is when Alfred is stitching Dick up after his fight with the little devil and Dick complains about what a hypocrite Bruce was for giving him the riot act about safe sex during his teenage years. I actually paused the movie to laugh at that.
I’m still not sure how well Bruce works here, but I’m of the opinion that Batman always works better as a character when he has someone to work with. So here, Bruce’s best moments are when he’s trying to explain to Damian why revenge will hurt him ultimately more than it could hurt Deathstroke. It would have benefited from another scene of them working together.