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[Review] ‘Batman: Bad Blood’ Is An Overstuffed Dud

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS

Let me start off by saying that I think it’s actually cool that most of the recent DC Animated movies take place within an on-going continuity.  There’s still the occasional one-off event that’s disconnected from it*, but most of these take place in the same New 52-inspired universe.  This makes Batman: Bad Blood the sixth film in the series.

If you’re wanting to catch up on the others before seeing this (or at least seek them out afterwards), here’s the line-up:

  1. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
  2. Justice League: War (2014)
  3. Son of Batman (2014)
  4. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)
  5. Batman vs. Robin (2015)
  6. Batman: Bad Blood (2016)
  7. Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016) (due out in April)

No for the fun part: I haven’t seen any of the five films that precede this one.  Nor have I read the specific comics that it is pulling from.  As a result, I can only judge this film based solely upon its own merits.  So how does it stack up?  Not well, although it isn’t a total loss.

On the plus side, the voice acting is on point and the animation, while not spectacular, works for the story being told.  Aesthetically, there is nothing wrong with the film.  My problems are solely with the story being told.  I admire a lot of what is going on here, but most of it feels undercooked.  It actually feels like two different movies cut down to the running time of one and then smashed together.

The first half of the film details the disappearance of Batman after the opening action sequence in which he takes on an assortment of C-list villains (Tusk, Killer Moth, Hellhound, Firefly, Electrocutioner, etc.) alongside Batwoman.  When a rogue element, in the form of the mysterious Heretic (and his sidekick, Onyx) shows up and makes a mess of things, Batman is seemingly killed in a factory explosion.  Cut to two weeks later and the Caped Crusader is still absent from Gotham City.

As a result, Alfred is forced to call in Dick Grayson, who has been operating as Nightwing off in the city of Bludhaven, to fill in for Bruce as Batman so that the criminals of Gotham don’t get any bright ideas.  Batwoman is still on the prowl in the city as well and, after receiving word of his father’s disappearance, Damian Wayne returns home to take up the mantle of Robin once more.  Batman is gone, but with three heroes in his place, Gotham appears to be in good hands.

There’s a great dynamic going on here between Alfred, Dick, Kate (aka Batwoman) and Damian.  All have had their lives drastically changed by Bruce Wayne and/or Batman and all are unsure of how to move forward if he never returns.  This is the most compelling material within the film, so when it it later cast aside in the second half for a rather tired villainous plot, my interest crashed and burned instantly as a result.

Had they spent the 72 minute running time on the loss of Bruce and how it affects not only his friends & compatriots, but Gotham as a whole, I’d have been completely on board.  I also would have happily watched a second part later this year that dealt with where he has disappeared too and the villainous plot behind it.  I could abide a stereotypical “villain wants to brainwash Batman and the leaders of the world to control the planet” plot if I had been given something to chew on for a long while ahead of that.

Sadly, when the film switches gears to said villainous plot at the halfway mark, all of the good will it had earned from me flew right out the window.  Interesting concepts and character scenes are simply traded into for a glut of mindless battles with C-grade villains who have no personality and the one villain with an interesting point of view is taken out of the game around the end of the second act.

After that, the only time my interest really roared to life was when Alfred straight up killed Calculator and Mad Hatter.  Even then, it was only because I wasn’t expecting it to happen.  I’m sure the comics on which this film is based might be an interesting read, but the execution in bringing them to life leaves a lot to be desired.  It just feels like too much story has been crammed into too short a running time.

The first half of this film had me curious to seek out the five that precede it.  After watching the second half, I have little desire to do so now.  Instead, I’ll probably target the three standalone non-continuity release that I haven’t seen (which are listed below) and call it a day.  Here’s hoping that the next entry in this series, Justice League vs. Teen Titans, has a more compelling and cohesive plot when it arrives in a couple of months from now.

* – Such as Batman: Assault on Arkham, Justice League: Gods & Monsters, and the upcoming adaptation of The Killing Joke

22 Comments
  • Clay N. Ferno

    How can you not have watched the others and cast this one in such a negative light?

    • Daniel Baldwin

      This film functions enough as a standalone that it wasn’t necessary. Also, what few themes and threads there are that were carried over from the previous films are ones I am already aware of.

      Just because I didn’t enjoy this film doesn’t mean that others won’t.

      • Clay N. Ferno

        I liked the film based on seeing the others. Perhaps you can check FLASHPOINT PARADOX, SON OF BATMAN, and BATMAN VS. ROBIN out if you have time. I think you may enjoy the others as well as this one with some backstory setup.

        • Daniel Baldwin

          I’ll definitely get around to them. If they do manage to alter my enjoyment of this one, I’ll certainly address it on the site.

          • Clay N. Ferno

            Very cool and thanks for a gracious reply.

  • Llewelyn Foley

    Maybe put a spoiler warning on your review if you plan on revealing things like Alfred killing Calculator and Hatter.

    • Daniel Baldwin

      Apologies. I have since edited it to include a warning.

      • Llewelyn Foley

        Thank you 🙂

  • Roberto Rojas Balarezo

    they should have put more emphasis in the team of dick and damian as batman and robin, that was one of the highlights of morrison´s run after the death of bruce wayne in final crisis, but as always batman is the selling behemoth of dc so everything should be focused on him, he shouldn´t have defeated nightwing that easily, but alfred kiiling calculator and the mad hatter sure was great to see

    • Daniel Baldwin

      You’re right on the financial end of things. When it comes to DC, the only thing that seems to sell anymore is Batman or Batman-related things. In a perfect world, this story might have been stretched across two (or even three) animated films. Had that happened, I probably would have found the story laid out in the second half of Bad Blood more compelling. I quite liked the early stuff with Dick & Damian and it was a shame to see that pushed aside so quickly, but sadly that’s what happens when you try to cram over a decade of material into a 72 minute movie.

  • Shawn Savage

    The big sites so desperately want to start covering games and comics, but they don’t seem to have any writers who have experience with either.

    • Daniel Baldwin

      Just because I didn’t enjoy the film doesn’t mean I don’t have any experience with these characters. Whether the specific comics this is based on are amazing or not (and I’ve heard they’re quite good) is of little consequence if the film itself doesn’t work for me. Just because I find an adaptation of something to be lackluster does not mean that I don’t like the characters or the story being told. On the contrary, I thought there were a lot of interesting elements at play here. I just didn’t think it was put together in a meaningful way in the film itself. Others might disagree and that’s fine. I don’t fault anyone for enjoying this movie.

      • Shawn Savage

        I mean, I guess. It’s kind of like watching a single episode of Lost sometime within the middle of its run, and offering a critique of the entire show.

        • Daniel Baldwin

          Lost is an on-going story with arcs that span across numerous episodes. That’s a pretty different thing. This just picks up some time after the last Batman-centric one and only lightly touches on past events. For the majority of its running time, it tells its own story. What was carried over from previous films (Damian & his backstory) were things that I already knew. I fully understood everything that was going on.

          • Shawn Savage

            That’s not really true. There are several Batman movies which are directly connected, and there is definitely story continuity. It’s based on the New 52 run of the Batman comics.

          • Shawn Savage

            And look, I’ll make it the last comment, because I’m not trying to start any big thing. I just think it’s kind of absurd to ask someone to review something, when in the opening paragraph of their review, admits that they pretty much have no working knowledge of the universe the media they’re reviewing is part of. Sure, you know who Batman is, everybody does. I know who Luke & Laura are, and some of the story around them, but that doesn’t make me qualified to start reviewing General Hospital. That’s it. Carry on, and have a nice day.

          • Daniel Baldwin

            Just because I haven’t seen the five previous DC Animated films that this follows does not mean that I “have no working knowledge of the universe”. You’re implying that I only have a general idea of who Batman is. I know who all of the characters are within the film and have enough of a familiarity with the specific material being about to know exactly what is going on. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have reviewed the film.

            I’m not coming at it from the viewpoint of someone who has watched every single animated film or read every single last issue of the comics upon which it is based, but then again, neither is everyone else who will see this film. That’s why I laid my cards out on the table at the start of the review. Even without hardcore fan knowledge backing up my experience of the film itself, I was never confused about what was going on. Connections to previous films or not, Bad Blood functions completely on its own as a singular tale. It’s just one that didn’t click with me for a number of reasons. If that bothers you, then I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do about that.

            And yes, I am well aware of the fact that these films take place within the same continuity and that threads are picked up from previous films. I brought both things up within the review itself, not only to provide a context for its place in the continuity, but also to inform any readers who might not have been aware of any connections it has to other films.

          • Shawn Savage

            It’s all good. My bottom line, is that it’s still the second sequel in a series of 3(so far) movies which are directly connected, and part of a connected storyline. Those Justice League movies don’t even fit into the discussion.

          • Daniel Baldwin

            As promised elsewhere in these comments, I’ll be seeking out the rest. If seeing them ends up altering my perception. I’ll certainly address it in writing.

  • Greg Ranzoni

    The only thing that interest me is how Kate Kane is portrayed.

    • Daniel Baldwin

      She’s a main character and presented as a pretty well-rounded one within. My issues with the film had less to do with character and more to do with the fact that it seems (at least to me) like it was trying to cram way too much story into a running time that was under 90 minutes.

  • Foxenstein Must Be Destroyed

    I was going to rent this but the guy from the last batman game is in it. it would be funny if there was mention of people getting ran over by the batmobile and somehow surviving.

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