DC remains largely faithful to the tone – if not text of Morrison’s “Batman and Son” with the animated Son of Batman.
“Son of Batman does a very serviceable job at providing a protracted adaption of Grant Morrison’s Bat-epic, while also managing to tell a complete story with only a few hiccups along the way.”
Son of Batman
Release date: May 6, 2014 (USA)
Director: Ethan Spaulding
Stars: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson
Running time: 74 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
The direct-to-DVD Son of Batman pulls off a Dark Knightian feat that I wasn’t sure was possible: condense Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Son” comic book storyline into a mostly sensible and coherent animated film. Morrison’s story introduced Damian Wayne, the offspring of Bruce Wayne and Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Talia. Damian had been raised by Talia and Ra’s to be Bruce’s equal, yet without the moral lessons that make the Caped Crusader who he is. As such, Damian comes off as a pompous, arrogant monster of a child. Whereas Morrison took nearly five years to slowly humanize the son of the Batman, the DVD manages to pull off the task in less than 90 minutes.
The film jumps right to the action with Ra’s al Ghul overlooking a mountain aerie, alongside his daughter Talia, his son, and his grandson Damian. Ra’s explains to Damian that one day the compound and all he surveys, including the Earth itself, will one day be his domain. During this conversation, Ra’s and his organization, the League of Assassins, come under attack by ninja mercenaries (I guess? They all look vaguely like Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe). During the mayhem, Ra’s confronts the leader of the assault, who reveals himself to be Slade, also known as Deathstroke. During the battle, Slade injures Ra’s with a mortal sword wound, and attacks Damian. Deathstroke slinks away via helicopter, but not before Damian can permanently damage Slade’s right eye with a sword wound of his own.
Of course, comic book fans know Slade as Deathstroke the Terminator, thorn in the side of first the Teen Titans and, later, the DC Universe at large. More recently, viewers of the CW series Arrow have seen ol’ one-eye cause trouble for Oliver Queen and company. While it’s always a treat to see Slade cause a dust-up for the DCU, his inclusion here feels somewhat forced and shoehorned in. The move has the feeling of some sort of attempt at cross-branding synergy. “Hey fans! You remember Slade from Arrow, right? Well, hot damn, here is causing bad juju for the Dark Knight, too!” Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son reads more like the first chapter in a long saga Morrison has developed, with the main antagonist being Talia herself. Since this movie has less time with which to work to develop a self-contained story, changes in the tale’s antagonist are expected. Even still, there are any number of villains from Batman’s menagerie of rogues that seem like they would be a better fit for the story. But I digress.
Fearing Slade’s retribution, Talia brings Damian to Gotham City to Batman, Damian’s father. This is news to Bruce, obviously, and he and Talia verbally swordplay, during which Bruce mentions something being slipped in his drink during his last rendezvous with Talia. (Note: Everyone seems so casual about this, but, essentially, Batman got roofied and it legitimately made me feel uncomfortable. It’s not the subject matter that made feel squeamish, but just the nonchalant manner with which all parties were treating the issue.) Bruce agrees to take Damian into his care, while Talia takes assassins from the League to bring down vengeance upon Slade and his army.
The film spends a good deal of time on the relationship between Bruce and Damian, with Bruce finding it wearisome trying to balance his new role as father and wrangler of the rude tornado of pomposity that is Damian Wayne. Damian sees the mantle of Robin as his birthright, but he doesn’t have the restraint and tempered disposition needed to be Batman’s partner. Despite his reservations, however, Bruce begins to see potential in Damian, slowly allowing him into his life and teaching him as a sensei would a student.
(Also: Man-Bats. Freaking. Man-Bats.)
In Son of Batman, the filmmakers give us a more tempered Damian Wayne—insolent, sure, but not the obnoxious brat that we knew in Grant Morrison’s pages, which is probably a smart move. When I first met Damian Wayne in the comics, I bristled at his personality, his entitlement, his brutality and presumption, which is exactly the emotional response Morrison was trying to elicit. This DVD introductory story to Damian lasted a scant 74 minutes, with no promise that the audience will see more of the character. As such, it’s understandable that the filmmakers adapted the tale of the Bat and his brat in such a way that softens Damian’s edges. Damian’s still obnoxious and entitled. But I felt more pity for Damian and his situation initially than I did in the comic book version of the story. The viewer gets the idea more quickly that Damian is a product of his environment, from his training by his grandfather and mother to his training by the League of Assassins at such an early age. This sympathy is due in no small part to the voice cast, but especially to Stuart Allen, who brings a tenderness to Damian behind his sometimes brusque and harsh dialogue.
Son of Batman does a very serviceable job at providing a protracted adaption of Grant Morrison’s Bat-epic, while also managing to tell a complete story with only a few hiccups along the way.
So what did you think of Son of Batman?