Guys, I mean, guys, Damian, right? Damian Wayne, Tiny Little Badass. I love him so much more than is reasonable to love a fictional character. I’m so glad that his animated debut did well by him. I was worried. (Also, technically, not his animated debut, but Batman: The Brave And The Bold’s version was closer to Bruce Jr. than Damian.) And Son of Batman has it’s issues, but it’s portrayal of it’s title character is not one of them.
The opening scene shows the League of Assassins training under the gaze of R’as Al Ghul, Talia and Damian. They are attacked by Deathstroke, and R’as is killed. Damian is devestated by his grandfathers death and kicked some asses. Because, he is Damian Wayne, Tiny Little Badass. After saying that her father is now gone for good, Talia tells Damian it’s time to meet his father. His father, of course, is busy fighting Killer Croc.
After getting a fun reminder that Damian was conceived when Talia raped Bruce. (That’s always a fun thing to bring up, ain’t it?) Bruce takes Damian back to Gotham, and Damian is rude to Alfred. Then cuts up some bushes and Bruce is impressed. Then he sneaks out and breaks into Wayne Enterprises, and tracks down one of Deathstroke’s henchmen and is found by Nightwing. The new Dynamic trio discovers that Deathstroke has kidnapped Dr. Kurt Langstrom to create an army of Man Bats and kidnaps Talia and Langstrom’s family to make sure it happens. Damian and Bruce go after Deathstroke and there are lots of fights and Dick swoops in in the Batwing and saves everyone and Talia gives Damian to Bruce to train.
There are some (a lot) of changes from the original graphic novel and I normally don’t mind that kind of thing, but since this involves most of my favorite characters I’m a little (a lot) more specific about what I would and would not like to see.
Now, I’m always happy to see Dick, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not in favor of replacing Tim’s role in this particular story. Mostly because it sets up an antagonistic relationship between Dick and Damian. That shouldn’t be the case. Dick and Damian poke at each other, but it’s more good natured, Damian and Tim hate each other, Damian and Dick just bicker like all brothers. I know that I’m being nitpicky, and it’s frankly at the bottom of the problems I have with the changes. (The Dick and Bruce interactions, however, are flawless. Their first conversation, over comm link begins with Bruce saying “Talk” and ends with a long heaving sigh. It’s perfect.)
The big one is what the movie does to Talia. In Batman & Son, Batman & Robin: Reborn and Batman Incorporated Talia is a villain, manipulating her son and ex lover to play a game of her own devising. In Son of Batman, she’s a victim, unable to revive her father, giving up her child and then kidnapped and almost killed by Deathstroke. It’s frankly, kind of a bummer, and the feminist critic in me has to call it out. Also, so much boobs, but I read Red Hood And The Outlaws so I don’t think I’m allowed to get pissed about that anymore. But it takes away from a good deal of the story’s complexity, as well as Damian’s character conflicts to remove the element of having to choose between his parents. Talia sending Damian off to be Robin with her blessing basically takes all of the drama out of that particular development. As does the fact that Tim isn’t forced to step down from the post against his will because of Damian’s arrival.
There are some moments that sting a lot knowing Damian’s ultimate fate. His declaration that Wayne Enterprises will “Be his some day,” Talia saying to Bruce that their son is the future. These things hurt, but I also think that the decision to adapt this particular story bodes well for Damian’s future. It’s also an interesting decision that the credits consist almost entirely of images of Dick and Damian fighting one another. If we get an adaptation of Battle For The Cowl or Reborn I will never stop squeeing. Ever.
The movie is saved by the flawless action, seemless character design and truly inspired adaptation of Damian. Damian’s strange mix of skill, arrogance, cynicism, naivete and childishness are hit on perfectly.
Voice Cast! Jason O’Mara’s Bruce is growing on me. It’s good, it’s not Kevin Conroy or even Bruce Greenwood, but it’s satisfactory. He’s supported very well here, so that makes up for it. Morena Baccarin is Talia, and it just makes it all the more disappointing what they did to her character. Baccarin is the perfect choice and embodies the part so well, it would have been nice to see her doing what Talia is supposed to be doing. (Not getting chained up by B-Listers, I can tell you that much.) Sean Maher’s Dick is again, serviceable. Since this character’s last two versions were done by Neil Patrick Harris (Batman: Under The Red Hood) and Jesse McCartney (Young Justice), I was going to have trouble staying whelmed. You can’t beat one of my favorite actors and my favorite version of the character, but Maher does a decent job. Giancarlo Esposito is Ra’s Al Ghul, and he only gets one scene, but I mean, that’s just great. I kind of want to see this cross over with Year One and see Brian Cranston’s Jim Gordon have a conversation with this R’as. Then blow him up in a nursing home. Obviously. Thomas Gibson is Deathstroke and he’s good. I’m not crazy about the character and prefer his Marvel Mirror Version. (But frankly, who doesn’t?)
I didn’t forget Stuart Allan, who played Damian. I just wanted to single him out. This kid did a really fantastic job and deserved his own little section here. Everything I said about how the writing got his characterization right? Double that for Allan’s vocals. Really, really superb.
And so, we have reached a stopping point on our journey here friends! I’ve enjoyed this little trip and thanks for taking it with me. Don’t worry, my far too detailed treks into DC Animation aren’t going anywhere. I’ll still review each new movie as it comes out, and I have an idea about Young Justice and Justice League, but we’ll see how that pans out. We’ll check back in when Assault on Arkham hits in a few months.