Fair warning: this review is not going to be kind.
To put it bluntly, watching this movie was painful – and the thing that pained me most of all was the way this hot mess utterly and completely failed its characters on every level. So let’s start with the obvious, the newly discovered father/son relationship between Batman and Damian, i.e. that which should have been the whole point of the movie. Just the premise alone has so much potential: Batman’s hitherto unknown son with Talia al Ghul; a boy who has been raised essentially to be a bad guy (seeing as Grandpa is the raging psychopath who runs the League of Assassins), but who now finds himself dumped in the lap of his good guy father, who he’s never met. And now Batman, who let’s face it is not the most warm and fuzzy of caped crusaders, suddenly has to figure out how to be a Dad to his homicidal heir… Just consider, for a moment, how awesome that story could have been – Batman trying to save his son’s soul; Damian trying to prove the right of his might, and Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing aka Bruce’s son in everything but DNA), caught right in the middle. I mean, how much meaty, juicy goodness is there in that premise? This story should be great, right? Right?
Wrong. Because unfortunately, they just blew it entirely – the story we do get basically has no character at all. Damian is a whiny brat who acts like some spoiled rich kid instead of a highly trained, possibly psychopathic killer – and he’s an idiot, time and time and time again. And what does Batman, everyone’s favorite legendary hard-ass, do about it? Why, he just kind of stands there bemused and watches, weirdly seeming almost proud of the way his son manages to nearly get them all killed, time and again – because, you know, it’s perfectly reasonable that a highly trained assassin-prodigy would somehow have managed to learn NO DISCIPLINE AT ALL.
*headdesk* *facepalm* *headdesk*
So basically, Damian does nothing to earn Batman’s respect, and seems to learn nothing from Batman in return – because you know, Batman is doing next to nothing to stop Damian this whole time – and then, THEN, we come to the most egregiously painful moment of the piece, which is when Damian suddenly declares he’s going to follow his father’s righteous path, and chose his legacy over his Grandpa’s. And why does Damian decide this, you ask? I’ve seen the movie and I still have no freaking idea – because there was NOTHING there. There was NOTHING to justify that random outburst, NOTHING Batman taught Damian at all, really (I mean, Bats does shout “we don’t kill!” once, to no particular effect, but that’s literally it) – no wisdom imparted, no learning curve, no proving of their worth to each other, no personality clash or earning of respect; nothing, nothing, NOTHING to earn that moment, or really even justify it at all. It was basically just one incredibly clunky, after-school-special line that came out of the blue – and that was supposed to be the whole point of this entire movie? Epic, epic story fail, to say the least.
So now that we’ve established there was no point to this movie – was there any redeeming factor at all, you wonder? Maybe some fun Nightwing vs. Damian action, at the very least, as Bruce’s son-in-everything-but-DNA butts heads with Bruce’s genetic offspring? Once again, that would be a resounding no – and again, just consider for a second how much fun that could, and should, have been, if we could have watched Damian try to prove he’s better than Nightwing, even as Nightwing proved to Damian that there IS something to The Batman Way, something Damian could never learn from anyone else. But once again, this movie utterly and completely failed its own premise, as over the course of the entire movie, there’s basically ONE face-off between Damian and Nightwing – and it literally happens off-screen. Oh, you heard me right – off-screen; as in, we don’t even get to see it.
*Looks at sky, wishing for anvil to fall and crush this movie into oblivion*
And then, just to add a garnish of even more stupid to this whole affair, this movie also decided, just for fun, to throw a lovely pound of sexism into the mix.
Because not only did Talia al Ghul get to share the utter and total lack of character the rest of the cast enjoyed, but she got even less – she literally was a walking plot device – and even better, she also got to have her chest hanging out the entire time. Plus the whole plot of this movie basically hinges on Talia being stupid – as first she stupidly leaves Damian to face the bad guys solo, then later she stupidly gets captured after what has to be lamest rescue of all time. But hey, that’s what female characters in superhero stories are for, right? To be walking plot points, conveniently stupid and helpless at appropriate key moments, while sexually available at all times? I mean, there’s literally one scene when Talia all buts humps Batman, and then says, oh by the way, meet your son, he’s only been standing close enough to hear me verbally molest you this entire time. Just…gah. So basically, this movie totally ignores the fact that Talia was a woman who historically was able to play Batman like a fiddle, in favor of making her a bimbo prop, all assets clearly on display, whose only worth at all stems from birthing The Great Male Heir, Damian. Just, shoot this movie now.
So at this point, you’re probably just desperately hoping the movie might, for the love of all things Batman, at least manage to have some decent action – but honestly, when it came to the fighting, all throughout this movie I was just…bored. I think it was George Lucas who once said, a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing, and that was basically all this movie was – hand waving and guns blazing, to no effect, to no real story purpose. And frankly, I thought the martial arts were weak – Damian’s sword play wasn’t all that exciting, and the League of Assassins couldn’t seem to even manage a basic forward stance, let alone cool fighting (and they all died ridiculously easily for supposedly terrifying assassins – I’m just saying.) And the general running and punching seemed fairly rote, by the numbers. All in all, it just was dead air.
And then, just to add insult to injury, after the filmmakers came out at the end of the screening (I saw the premiere at Wondercon), they proudly said – hey, we got to do a PG-13 rating for once, so we wanted to make sure you got your money’s worth! I mean, seriously, WB? SERIOUSLY? Do you honestly believe boobies and blood spatter is all we want from a Batman animated movie? Do you not understand why people love Batman AT ALL?
*Fangirl rage* *Goes home, puts on episode of Batman Beyond to cleanse brain*
Cripes, what a freaking waste of perfectly decent animation.