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The notion of Batman having a son never really held a ton of weight with me. Nevermind there have been some strong stories that have come out in the comics regarding Damian Wayne and his origins. However, I think the reason for my indifference toward the idea of a child of Batman has to do with the fact that I believe on some level, Batman himself is still a child in some ways, trapped by an unspeakable boyhood trauma, which causes him to take to the rooftops and streets each night in a corrupt city fighting an essentially unending war on crime. How could he possibly raise a son to be a well-adjusted man, when he isn’t that? Bruce Wayne is the facade of a normal man, while he truly is Batman in his soul. How can he be a Dad?
Now on the other hand, Batman having a surrogate son (or daughter), as has been the case with a number of previous Robin’s: sure, I’ll buy that. It feels more acceptable for him to have a surrogate child, particularly in the case of someone like Dick Grayson, who is a kindred spirit and kid brother to Bruce. The two of them having similar reasons for their nightly patrols, gives their relationship more weight and meaning, one thing I felt was lacking a bit in the relationship between Batman and Damian.
In this adaptation of Grant Morrison’s and Andy Kubert’s Batman and Son storyline, there were several opportunities to capitalize on the potential of the father/son dynamic between Bruce and Damian and I felt that those interactions, which could have been profound, ended up being very superficial. Damian as a character wasn’t strong enough for me either. I’m still not sure if it had anything to do with how his voice was delivered by Stuart Allan or what, but I didn’t feel as connected to him as I thought I should have. He didn’t feel developed enough, which I think could have had something to do with the fact that his relationship with his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul, the main father figure that Damian has known all his life, wasn’t given the weight it needed to have in order for me to get behind Damian’s reasons for his actions after Ra’s’ death at hands of Deathstroke, voiced solidly by Criminal Minds’ Thomas Gibson. The film simply establishes Ra’s al Ghul as Damian’s grandfather and then quickly moves us into a thrilling opening action sequence and then he’s gone. We get no interactions between Damian and Ra’s al Ghul that shows us how important that relationship is to Damian, which results in Damian feeling rather flat as a character. For a film about the son of Batman, that is a bit of an issue.
Another issue I had was with the treatment of Talia Al Ghul, voiced very capably by Morena Baccarin. She was slightly misused, one of three designated damsels in distress and she should not have been. Especially as a senior member of the League of Assassins. Of course, Batman and Damian as the new Robin, have to rescue her, which becomes her ultimate purpose in this story; to get caught and act as a motivator to be saved. While we’re there, I’d like to note that Talia’s relationship with Damian is another one that was underdeveloped. I thought I was given so much more in a brief conversation between Damian and a familiar face from the Bat-universe by comparison. I would have loved it if that relationship were explored more deeply, but it wasn’t necessary for this story. Sometimes less is more.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad addition to the DC Animated Universe at all. Aside from the underdeveloped relationships and a couple questionable voice performances, including Jason O’ Mara’s Batman, which I felt was a little lackluster here, there are some really strong action sequences. This film possessed a hint of anime to it. From its visual identity to how the fights were choreographed to how the characters moved when in action. The fights were kinetic and violent and reminded me of something from Avatar: The Last Airbender. At the bottom of the bowl, this is a passable adaptation. Not horrible, but not great either. As a Batman fan, I wanted to love it, but ended up just liking it, which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a chance. Fans of the Batman and Son story-arc from the comics might be more enthusiastic about it though.