Directed by Ethan Spaulding
Although the outer sleeve of the Blu-Ray packaging sports a sticker touting this as “Based on the Graphic Novel Batman and Son,” that is only very loosely the case and in its broadest strokes. And if Grant Morrison, who wrote that story arc at the beginning of his seven-year epic run metatextually de-/re-/a-constructing the very definition of the Dark Knight Detective (for more on which, see the just-published Anatomy of Zur-en-Arrh by Cody Walker, see below), is actually acknowledged in the credits, I missed it. There's not much Morrison here anyway. For all intents and purposes this movie takes the basic idea of Batman unexpectedly being presented with the fact that he has a son by Talia al Ghul in the context of a struggle for power within and over the League of Assassins and leaches it of any of Morrison's quirky psychological brilliance. I would have hoped for more, given it is now credited as “a story” by James Robinson, who can himself be awesome – but who can also be pretty uninspired. We get the latter Robinson here, depending on how much of his story passes into the final script by Joe R. Lansdale.
The animation is, as usual, of very high quality, if a little too anime for my taste, but little else stands out. Well, stands out good, I mean. I have some real problems with this movie on several levels. In no particular order: The voice acting for Batman doesn't work for me – of course, if it's not Kevin Conroy, it never works for me. But I found the voice too highly pitched and informal for what I “hear” for Batman (i.e., Kevin Conroy...). The characterization of Batman seemed off. In particular, I didn't buy that he would just let Talia go off at the end of the story avowedly to rebuild the international terrorist League of Assassins! The use of Deathstroke as the villain of the piece – both how he was used, as a disgruntled, cast-aside heir to Ra's al Ghul, and his death at the end. Hitherto, the DC Animated Original Movies have not been bound by any overarching continuity, of course (whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is not pertinent here), but my understanding was that with the release of The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: War there is meant to be a more cohesive New 52-inspired continuity going forward (whether that is a good thing....). If so, what a way to waste a popular, important sometime villain, sometime anti-hero! I'm not the biggest Deathstroke fan around, but even I think his treatment here is just sad.
I could probably go on, but don't feel like spending any more time with this. I don't like writing negative reviews, and actually intended to let this one pass without comment, but then I sat down and out it came. … Your mileage may vary, of course, but this makes the second DC Universe Original Movie in a row that I've been ambivalent about [LINK]. Which saddens me. I am a DC Comics fan … but that's getting less rewarding in any medium these days. Sure there's good stuff, but so much is just meh.
But if you want to read a mind-bendingly brilliant take on Batman, pick up Morrison's original graphic novel ... and keep reading from there all the way through Batman R.I.P, Final Crisis, Batman and Robin, The Return of Bruce Wayne, and Batman, Incorporated. (The aforementioned Anatomy of Zurr-en-Arrh has a list of the original issues in an appendix.) You may hate it. You may love it. You can tell where I stand.