Batman vs. Robin review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Following up on the lukewarm Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin finds itself with more character and a better plot for the father/son dynamic duo. There are no more groan-worthy moments where Damian Wayne pleads with Bruce Wayne to let him drive the Batmobile. There are no more awkward moments where Damian barges into Bruce’s day job trying to figure out his crime-fighting lifestyle. This is supposed to be a kid who has spent his entire life raised by assassins, had his family killed by assassins and went on a brutal rampage for revenge against the assassins. Finally, there is a story better suited for the clashing of Bruce’s non-lethal methods and Damian’s more deadly tactics.
The villain they must face this time is the collective underground society known as The Court of Owls. Comprised of Gotham’s wealthy elite, the masked-group conspires to rule the city by deciding who lives in their vision and who dies. Those that need to be dealt with are handled by the Court’s army of Talons, undead beings that mercilessly attack their prey. They prove to be quite the foes for Batman after beating him to pulp and sending him limping (and floating) back to his lair.
Even though the story comes with zombie minions and a rather silly giant robot for Batman to battle them with, the characters have far more engaging personalities and ideologies at play. Lead Owls assassin Talon prays on Damian’s past teachings to woo him into his fold of brutally punishing criminals. Meanwhile, Bruce recalls legends of the Court being spoken of from the early days of his childhood after his parents’ demise. The two clash on their opinions about the Court of Owls and battle each other more with intense moral questioning rather than family bickering.
I’m very impressed with this adaptation to the one of the best Batman arcs of the past five years. The original story by Scott Snyder is amazingly preserved in animation by the direction of Jay Oliva. One of the most memorable moments from that run was in issue #5 where Batman wanders wounded through the Owls’ lair. While this movie doesn’t quite embody the sense of changing perspective the way the comic did, the psychological creepiness of Batman’s isolated escape is just engaging as when I originally read it.
The returning voice cast still hasn’t won me over completely, but they’re starting to grow on me. Jason O’Mara still hasn’t hit that tone of Batman, but his Bruce Wayne is decent enough for trying to be the father figure and playboy for most of the picture. Stuart Allan’s role as Damian is sufficient enough for voicing the young character with a few bursts of brilliance to his performance here and there. There are even some surprises in the cast that includes Kevin Conroy voicing Thomas Wayne and Weird Al as Toyman. They blend well enough into their roles that they’re not instantly noticeable.
Batman vs. Robin is slowly carving out a solid arc for the direct to video line of Batman movies. The action has improved, the voices are better, the stories ripped from better comics and the story is beautifully dark. It appears as though DC Comics’ animation division is finally starting to hit a consistent tone with Batman in their DTV movies and it’s shaping up to be pretty darn spiffy. It feels good to finally appreciate a Batman animated movie where they can get away with a violent father/son dynamic amid battling hordes of the undead. These are the types of Batman movies the DC Comics animation division should be making and I hope they can keep up the momentum for their most iconic of properties.