‘Batman: Bad Blood’ [Review]: Watch The Batman Family Protect Gotham
Batman: Bad Blood is a direct-to-video animated film that is part of Warner Premiere’s, Warner Bros. Animation’s, and DC Comics’ DC Universe Animated Original Movies project, which has proven to be just as successful as it is a mouthful to say. It continues the story established in 2014’s Son of Batman and 2015’s Batman vs. Robin. Bruce Wayne aka Batman, after a mission with Batwoman in her first onscreen appearance, has gone missing. In the weeks following his disappearance, Dick Grayson aka Nightwing has taken up the mantle of his predecessor, recruiting Bruce’s son Damian aka Robin, Batwoman, and Luke Fox (son of longtime Batman ally, Lucius Fox) to help him clean the streets of Gotham while also searching for the missing crime-fighter. Meanwhile a mysterious new villain, the Heretic, is setting up pieces for a serious master plan, which might be the key to finding Batman.
The DC Universe Animated Original Movies project, (seriously guys, you couldn’t think of something just a little bit easier to say?), has been running full steam since 2007’s Superman: Doomsday. While none of the films have exactly been big on story or character, they have by and large boasted quality animation and impressive action set pieces. Many, if not all, borrowed extensively from DC’s catalogue of famous story arcs, and have done an exceptional job serving as appetizers while fans wait for their live action entrees to hit theaters. It’s actually impressive how quickly the project is able to churn these things out. Thankfully these recent Batman centered films have all been hits and Bad Blood is no exception.
throws us headfirst into the new plot and right at the start we get to see where it truly shines. As I said, the Original Movies project is big on action, and this film boasts some of the best fight sequences ever produced for a Western animated film. I’m serious, they’re really that good and definitely the best out of the three Batman movies they’ve released recently; probably the best of all the movies they’ve released. Beautiful and visceral, many of these sequences put some anime to shame. I tip my hat to Warner Bros. Animation for a job well done in that department.
As far as the story for Batman: Bad Blood goes, it’s there and serves to get us from one set piece to the next. I was impressed with how, despite its relatively short length, the movie never felt rushed. There was a surprising amount of meat to the narrative with most of the major players feeling fleshed out and three dimensional, especially the characters that carried over from the previous installments. While it’s technically a continuation of Batman vs. Robin, with the exception of a couple of throwaway lines that story isn’t really referenced. This might seem like a negative, but I think it serves the movie well as newcomers to the series won’t have to do any homework to understand what’s happening. Bad Blood is a borrower. A few key plot elements are lifted from live action superhero films; in particular The Dark Knight Rises and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. To go into too much detail as to what it takes from those films would be to spoil the story, but I will say that, despite how obvious these pilfered plot points are, the movie never feels like a ripoff. It has more than enough uniqueness to stand as its own thing.
The voice actors in Batman: Bad Blood are solid. The returning cast has clearly settled well into their roles. It’s an old hat at this point to bring up how anyone stepping into the shoes of Batman has the unenviable job of following after the phenomenal Kevin Conroy: the man is the voice of the Dark Knight. But he’s not continuing with the part anymore, and Jason O’Mara does a fine job of filling in those shoes. He captures the brooding, confident, hyper-competent, lonely yet misanthropic essence of the character almost perfectly. If there’s any complaint I have with his performance it’s that his Bruce Wayne sounds too much like his Batman. Seriously, how hasn’t anyone figured out who he is yet just by listening to him?
Sean Maher brings charm and youthful exuberance to Dick Grayson/Nightwing. He captures the duality of the character’s idolization yet resentment of the man who raised and trained him. To be honest though, the actor that really steals the film with every scene he’s in is Stuart Allan as Damian Wayne/Robin. I can’t say enough about how great this kid is in this role. He injects the perfect amount of dry wit, intelligence, childish petulance, and elitism to this complex character. He absolutely owns the part and could do it in his sleep. I can’t see how anyone won’t immediately fall in love with him once he gets going.The Batman: Bad Blood new cast members do a fine job here. Though she’s not as experienced as the rest, Yvonne Strahovski is no stranger to voice acting and carries herself well. Her Batwoman is good, providing much of the film’s one-liners. Her natural accent sometimes rears its head (Strahovski is Australian) but for the most part she keeps it consistent. I like how she captures how different the hero and her alter ego are from one another. Batwoman is dry, sarcastic and confident while, Kate is socially awkward, angst ridden and uncertain. Travis Willingham is a veteran voice actor, having lent his talent to everything from Fullmetal Alchemist to Regular Show. Typically he plays heroic characters, but without a doubt he can carry himself as a villain, especially the villainous Heretic. It’s a shame he isn’t really given much to do here. Avatar Roku himself, James Garrett, voices Alfred and he’s just as great as ever. Gaius Charles has even less voice acting experience than Strahovski, but he is good as Luke Fox/Batwing.
Batman: Bad Blood is solid entertainment. It’ll definitely pass the time while waiting for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad to hit theaters. Animation fans will love its fast paced, well executed action scenes. It’s beautifully animated, well acted and, while not being the most original story ever, still manages to pack in a good amount of emotional storytelling. The film will be released on February 2, 2016 and I would definitely recommend it for fans of DC animated movies and animation in general.