Directed By: Jay Oliva
Writing credits: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Grant Morrison (characters), Bob Kane (Characters)
Starring the voice talents of:
Jason O’Mara / Batman/Bruce Wayne Al Yankovic / the Dollmaker
Stuart Allan / Damian Wayne Sean Maher / Nightwing/Dick Grayson
David McCallum / Alfred Pennyworth Robin Atkin Downes / Grandmaster
Jeremy Sisto / Talon
While Damian Wayne struggles to cope with Batman’s no-killing rule, he soon starts to believe that his destiny lies within a secret society known as The Court of Owls.
For anyone who has ever felt that Batman needs to be knocked down several pegs, this is the movie for you. Within the 72 minutes of this animated film we witness Batman get stabbed, gassed, driven off of the road, and beaten nearly to death — almost too many times to count. The fact that most of these attacks are done by random, faceless underlings is a little much sometimes.
Batman vs. Robin at its heart, is the story of the overbearing father vs. his rebellious son. Damian Wayne is the fourth Robin, by my count, and represents the child that many modern adults believe “just needs time”. The truth of it is that Damian is a pain in the ass that constantly pushes against his father, even when it doesn’t make any sense to do so.
Now to be fair, the character was raised by Ra’s Al Ghul and the league of assassins, so it’s only right that he might have issues with sparing his opponents’ lives. Enter in a new character, known as Talon, who believes in killing ones enemies and it’s easy to see which direction the story is heading.
Al Yankovic takes a new approach in voicing the Dollmaker. Yes it is “Weird” Al Yankovic behind the voice. Dollmaker comes across in a creepy way that few other Batman characters truly can. He’s the perfect adversary for a child with issues because he has created a group of children with issues. Robin is physically alone while battling Dollmaker, but he has Batman in his ear bud barking constant comments like “Remember, Robin, Justice…not Vengeance!” It easily makes us sympathize with Robin and dislike Batman, even when we constantly hear the disrespect in Robin’s voice.
When Robin finally has Dollmaker in his hands, he struggles with whether he should kill him or allow justice to prevail. The turmoil seems fabricated for drama, but it is necessary to further the plot seeing as Dollmaker has a very bad day when the film’s secondary villain, Talon, shows up. Menacingly voiced by Jeremy Sisto, Talon might as well look at Robin and say “come to the dark side”. He leaves as quickly as he appeared with a very important part of Dollmaker in his hands. Batman shows up just in time to accuse Robin of crossing the line and “blah, blah, blah”. I know that building the tension between Batman and Robin is the point, but the lack of time to actually build up tension seems too contrived to be convincing.
After the opening credits we arrive at Wayne manor where we meet Alfred and a new character named Samantha. This sets up an interesting introduction between Samantha and Damien because we discover that Bruce has yet to fully adopt Damien as his ward and hides the fact that Damien is his biological son. Samantha leaves in a hurry for some type of emergency business meeting, leaving Bruce and Damien to attempt to have a bonding moment, one that again seems manufactured.
I’m glossing over a lot of plot points in the film to avoid spoilers. The main concept, as I said before, is the battle between a bad father and an even worse son. There are plenty of action sequences and the animation is as slick as any I can remember. DC is king when it comes to animation for Superhero tales.
We get to see ten-year-old Robin battle an adult Dick Grayson. I believe the sparring match is set up to demonstrate how impossibly skilled Damien is, but again it seems a little ridiculous that a ten-year-old child could stand against a fully-grown man trained by the Batman. Regardless, it’s awesome to see Nightwing in the story as he’s one of my favorite characters. Shortly after, we get to see Batman totally demolished by multiple unknown characters. Apparently these Ninja-like opponents are capable of combating DC comics premiere martial artist nearly to death. Their ability to instantly recover does assist them in beating Batman despite him supposedly being prepared for anything at all times. Not to worry, because apparently he ate a can of Spinach and recovers in no time from injuries only a character like Deadpool should heal from.
There’s also a plotline dealing with a century old sinister cabal of wealthy individuals within Gotham that desires to recruit Bruce Wayne into their midst. It’s only serves as window dressing and isn’t played out fully. The true heart of the story is how many times the storytellers can have Batman, Nightwing, and Talon beat on Robin. It’s enough violence that I think the movie might eventually suffer backlash for its depiction of what can be perceived as child abuse. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; Robin truly comes across as a brat who needs a severe beating, but some people out there that might get offended.
Batman vs. Robin is extremely well animated. The action scenes are slick and well done. There will be a lot of Batman fans that hate the fights because Bruce comes across as only mortal. He gets hurt, he bleeds, and he gets outplayed a few times. The voice acting is excellent and even Kevin Conroy makes a surprise cameo as a key player in the Batman mythology. I don’t know why they didn’t use him as Batman, but Jason O’Mara is still acceptable. All things considered, it is not my favorite Gotham movie by a long shot. It is better than almost every animated Marvel movie, but we all know that’s not saying much. If you can pick Batman vs. Robin up on sale, it’s worth a look, but if not just wait a bit. I’m certain the price will drop.