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:
- Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
- Justice League: War (2014)
- Son of Batman (2014)
- Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)
- Batman vs. Robin (2015)
- Batman: Bad Blood (2016)
- 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
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