Alas, Judge Clark Douglas is the son of Harvey Bullock.
Vengeance runs in the blood.
"Leave the sperm donor out of this."
Facts of the Case
When League of Shadows leader Ra's al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) is assassinated by the vengeful Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson, Criminal Minds), Ra's' daughter Talia (Morena Baccarin, Firefly) and grandson Damian (Stuart Allan, Rise of the Guardians) are forced to go on the run. Determined to keep her son safe, Talia opts to leave Damian with his biological father: Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman (Jason O'Mara, Life on Mars). Until now, Bruce had been entirely unaware of his son's existence, but he reluctantly agrees to take the boy under his wing. The only problem: young Damian is a pretty well-trained assassin who is absolutely convinced he doesn't need some grown-up looking after him. Will these two ever learn to get along? Will Batman be able to protect Damian from Deathstroke?
Son of Batman is an adaptation of a story by Grant Morrison—the very beginning of Morrison's long, ambitious Batman run. As the opening chapter to a sprawling tale which saw Damian Wayne grow and evolve over time, the story is reasonably effective. It's probably the least compelling portion of Morrison's run, but it lays the groundwork for stories to come efficiently enough. However, as a self-contained DC Animated Universe film, the story doesn't work. That's partially because it doesn't manage to capture the elements which allowed to comic book version to be at least somewhat successful, and partially because limiting the adaptation to this particular, small piece of a much larger story leaves almost no room for character development.
The biggest problem: Damian Wayne is an unlikable jerk, and that never changes over the course of the film's 74-minute running time. He's a spoiled, entitled, violent little brat. The only reason we're given to root for him is that he's just a kid and his enemy is a vile killer, but that's not really sufficient. Damian treats Batman, Alfred, Nightwing and pretty much everyone other than his mother with contempt, and he never seems to learn from any of his mistakes. At times it seems as if the flick is going for a bit of The Odd Couple-style comedy with Batman and his spawn, but the laughs never land.
The second-biggest problem: the young actor playing Damian is unconvincing as the precocious badass presented by the script. In one scene, Damian enters the lair of a mob boss, beats the mob boss to a pulp, then turns to a handful of prostitutes cowering in the corner and commands, "Leave, harlots!" That seems kinda terrifying and weirdly funny on the page, but the meek, innocent vocal performance Stuart Allan provides is insufficient. I'm sure Allan is a nice kid, but he simply isn't a good fit for the role. For that matter, Jason O'Mara's Batman (who is basically a supporting character in his own movie) is a little odd, too, sounding more like a rumpled film noir detective than The Dark Knight. Still, I got used to him after a while.
The other major problem is that at least half of Son of Batman is devoted to chaotic action scenes, and the action just isn't very good. The animation seems cheap and stilted in contrast to other DC animated flicks, and the fight choreography is pretty unimaginative. The generic nature of these scenes is only amplified by the clunky dialogue. Deathstroke has a speech near the end which basically amounts to, "I'm the bad guy and you're my enemy, so die!" Also, there's a sequence in which Damian show his skills by deflecting a bunch of bullets with his sword. It's a pretty standard action-movie trope, but no less silly for its familiarity.
Technically, this is the second film in the interconnected "New 52" DC Animated Universe (which started with the mediocre Justice League: War), despite the fact that the comic book run it draws from was written in the pre-New 52 era. It's clear that Damian is meant to be a part of this new continuity from here on out, and maybe future films will do something interesting with him. Even so, Son of Batman fails at introducing the character in a compelling way and at making the case that he deserves to be a significant part of this world. DC is 0-for-2 in this new connected universe, and they need to turn things around quickly if they don't want to tarnish the reputation of the generally well-respected line of direct-to-video animated films.
Son of Batman (Blu-ray) has received a solid 1080p/1.78:1 transfer. Sure, it highlights the general cheapness of the animation, but that's to be expected. Detail is generally strong and colors are bright and vibrant, though there's a bit of noise every now and then. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is sturdy and typical, filled with explosions and gunfire but generally less aggressive/immersive than your average live-action blockbuster. Supplements include three featurettes ("The Fan and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins," "Strange Bloood Ties: Damian Wayne" and "Designing the Characters with Phil Bourassa"), a sneak peek at the upcoming Batman: Assault on Arkham flick and four standard-def episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond. Plus, we get a DVD copy and a digital copy.
Son of Batman is one of the weakest DC animated flicks released to date; a limp adaptation of a story which probably shouldn't have been adapted in the first place. Here's hoping they do a better job than Damian of learning from their mistakes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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