Batman vs Robin (2015): The Woes of Comicbook Fatherdom
Context: Animated Feature
Overall Excellence: 8
Batman has a new ward and Robin, and it turns out to be none other than… his own son, trained and raised by Ra’s al Ghul. Damian has the weight of his training on his shoulder vs the weight of Bruce’s stern hand and Bruce’s attempt at training Damian. Bruce has the best intentions, but he just isn’t getting how to raise a son, let alone a Robin who has known bloodshed and vengeance in his training and has to fight those urges in him.
This is the core central throughline conflict of this film. Unlike many DC animated films that are more concerned with a lot of mindless action and broad general strokes, a plot like this is very unusual. It is full of layers and depths, in the meaning of what constitutes a father/son. It’s not Bruce’s fault that he never got the chance to raise the now ten year old boy, and yet, now this is his responsibility. Given Damian’s ties to Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce goes into way over protective father mode, and this, of course, is only a recipe to cause further conflict.
Nightwing, aka the original Robin, and a very solid and reliable Alfred Pennyworth round out the cast.
So not only do you have this very unusual plot for a WB animated film, but the main bad guys are not your standard cadre of all too familiar Batman villains. No Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, etc. Nope, we get the Court of Owls. You may know them from the comics they appeared in, but I found it refreshing that they went with one of Batman’s lessor known enemies and did a really solid job of portraying them.
The movie has good character progression and depth. The voice acting is all good, the animation works, the story and plot are interesting and they all tie very well together without anything seeming forced. I usually feel very underwhelmed by the DC and Marvel animated direct to video films, with an occasional surprise and this is definitely one of those surprises.
While the focus is clearly the story, this film doesn’t skimp on action, either, and at the same time, it doesn’t overdo the action, as many of these animated films do.
THE FINAL WORD
I highly recommend this. Easily my favorite direct to video animated superhero movie released having either Marvel or DC characters. These are the kinds of stories I want to see in these films, ones that aren’t just excuses to throw as much action in an hour and 20 minutes as they can. Cause, too much action and not enough actual story and character development ends up rather blah. This one, is just right.