…so I saw Son of Batman. And… well… whew was that one wild ride. It’s the latest of DC’s animated movie line, telling the story of Damian Wayne, who is (for those of you not in the know) Batman’s son with Talia al Ghul. It’s gotten a lot of praise from the comic community, and I thought I’d weigh in. So let’s talk about this.
Just to be clear, I haven’t read the comic it’s based on, Batman and Son, so I’m not here to tell you how faithful it is to the source material. I’m here to tell you my impressions just from watching it, knowing the guidelines of the Batman mythology. There are spoilers ahead, of course, so if you actually care about being surprised by the movie or the comic it’s based on, you should stop right now.
Our movie starts at the League of Assassins headquarters in… the Himalayas or something. And already I have my first question: why in the hell is the League of Assassins based in east Asia? Isn’t the guy who founded the organization Arabic? This pops up in pretty much every adaptation of the group, but still… it bugs me.
Right! So anyway the League of Assassins has Ra’s al Ghul looking out at his ninjas training while Talia and Damian stand there and talk with him, along with some old guy who is Talia’s brother or something. I don’t know, because he gets shot before he can really be developed. Because the League of Assassins is under attack! By Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) and his mercenaries/personal ninjas! And because Slade Wilson’s not a dumbass, his people bring guns and helicopters to this sword fight! Apparently Wilson was a member of the League and was lined up to be the successor until Ra’s found Batman and decided that he would be a better choice. Not taking this rejection lightly, Wilson decides to take over by force.
And I should probably clarify: the entire League of Assassins is apparently without firearms. All the guns they use? They got them from disarming opponents. So yes; these assassins kind of suck. The best they have at ranged weapons is a thing that shoots arrows really fast; which I’ll admit is cool, but not quite as effective as a personal army with modern ranged weapons. This is worse than Cassandra Clare’s bullshit about firearms not working with angel sigils; at least she has an explanation. Here, we got nothing. It’s less like the Brotherhood of Assassins and more like the Ankh-Morpork Assassin’s Guild; the methods are based more on style than practicality.
Well Ra’s al Ghul fights off Deathstroke until the house gets blown up. Before Deathstroke can finish off the burnt and bruised body of Ra’s al Ghul, Damian (who I remind you is TEN YEARS OLD) steps in and fights off Deathstroke, taking out one of his eyes. Yes, you read that right: the reason that Deathstroke has his iconic appearance in this continuity is because he was disabled by a ten-year-old child1 .
Deathstroke flees despite the fact that he totally owned this place, and we see that Ra’s was apparently not able to get to a Lazarus Pit2 in time to heal himself . Presumably dead, Talia is now sort of in charge and decides to leave Damian with his father while she gets revenge on Deathstroke.
Batman, meanwhile, is in Gotham hunting down Killer Croc, who is apparently stealing a bunch of chemicals for someone else. They fight it out a bit, but because she’s a bit dramatic, Talia knocks out Killer Croc and takes him to meet Damian.
And this scene raised another question with me: Talia’s cleavage.
No, hear me out for a second. When we first meet Talia, she’s wearing what appears to be a Black Widow cosplay zipped down low enough so that the audience can ogle her breasts. She keeps it like this while fighting off Slade’s thugs too. But in this scene, in which she changes outfits into a cocktail party dress, she’s still got the same view of cleavage showing. There’s a later scene where she’s infiltrating a castle in a ninja outfit, and she takes it off to go back to her jumpsuit immediately after the scene begins. It’s as if the animators of the movie refused to not have a specific view of Talia’s cleavage in the movie. It’s… kind of weird, actually.
Right, so back to the movie, Talia’s all like, “Yeah, you remember that time I roofie’d you with a mind-controlling drug and made you have sex with me? BTW, this is Damian, he’s your son.” And leaves him with Batman and goes off to go have revenge.
Let me repeat: Talia admits to raping Batman, and the movie just keeps going.
Perhaps some people in the back didn’t hear me: BATMAN GOT RAPED, BUT NO WORRIES, WE HAVE SHENANIGANS WITH DAMIAN NOW.
I am… stunned. I’m not saying rape can’t happen in fiction (though I would rather avoid it), or that Batman can’t have this happen to him, but… if you have rape in any sort of fiction, it has to be covered very carefully, with thought regarding the subject. Here, it’s just… there. And no one talks about it. I’ve seen several reviews joking things like, “Batman; prepared for everything but doesn’t carry condoms! Hehe!” But this isn’t funny! This is… holy crap, what is wrong with this movie?!
Hold it together Juracan…
Okay, Damain comes into the Batcave, immediately assumes that everything belonging to Bruce is his birthright, and is astonished that he only has one servant. Who he proceeds to treat like crap for daring to be sarcastic and question his orders. Clearly, he does not understand the awesome that is Alfred Pennyworth.
In short, Damian? Shut the fuck up.
The next morning, we find Damian fighting off the hedge animals with a sword, which can immediately cut through tree trunks and branches. Which is about the time I noticed something about the blades in this movie: they’re actually lightsabers. They cut through anything except other blades: trees, flesh, metal, you name it, the swords can cut it with ease.
That charming scene of Damian vandalizing the place is actually ended with Bruce looking out the window and praising the kid’s skill.
Is it too late to do a Sue Spotlight on this kid?
So other things are happening too! Kirk Langstrom (who you might remember as Man-Bat, a human/bat hybrid monster), now a scientist with a family, was being forced to work on something for Ra’s al Ghul. But now that Slade Wilson’s in charge, he wants Langstrom to work faster, locking him up and kidnaping his family to his secret fortress in the mountains somewhere.
Damian, after being a little dickweed and sneaking into Bruce’s office at the family company (insisting that it will all be his someday), tracks down one of Deathstroke’s men in Gotham. His name is Ubu. Now Damian, trained as an assassin since childhood, can do many things to deal with this: he can tell Batman what’s going on, he can poison/drug Ubu and interrogate him when he can’t fight back, he can take this guy out from a distance, he can rope him, net him, kneecap him… of course, as an assassin, he does none of these and straight up fights him in single combat. And wins.
For the record, this is what Ubu looks like in the movie:
And yeah, ten-year-old Damian can match and block his strikes. Not just parry; BLOCK. Which means that he’s just as strong as this guy. In case you don’t believe me, you can watch the full fight here.
Yeah, no. I’m going to call shenanigans on that.
Nightwing stops Damian from killing Ubu, after having the snot beaten out of him, and makes some jokes about Batman not having protection while getting stitched up. Batman berates Damian for being a little chuck muffin, but ultimately doesn’t punish him and lets him be the new Robin.
At some point in all this nonsense, Talia and her allies (apparently consisting of about five ninjas) decide to take out Deathstroke. Now, unlike Damian, these are full-grown experienced assassins, so they can sneak in through a window, climb through the vents and take out rooms of people before getting caught. Instead of doing this though, they use explosives to break down the front door, and don’t bother looking for cameras. Not only this, but Talia also sheds her ninja disguise to show her face to the security cameras and Wilson’s mooks.
Naturally, they get captured and slaughtered, except for Talia, who is captured by Deathstroke and locked in a cell. So just to be clear: a ten-year-old can fight off Deathstroke and permanently disable him, but his more experienced mother? Nope!
Batman and Robin/Damian through some way or another find where Langstrom is, and sneak in because Batman’s not a complete moron. They find Langstrom and it turns out that he doesn’t want to do any of this, but since Deathstroke’s got his family, he’s forced to make an army of ninja man-bats for the new League of Assassins.
I repeat: AN ARMY OF NINJA MAN-BATS.
Guys, this is stupid. There’s crazy awesome, and there’s just crazy. I’ve been told that this is straight from the comic, but… come on! There are so many things wrong with this idea! What happens if someone uses a siren on them? Would radar throw them off? Also, we have weapons for aircraft; using them on large flying mammals wouldn’t be too hard to do. But worst of all, it’s just silly; I’m not saying Batman stories can’t have silliness , but when you set the tone with an international group of killers being slaughtered by mercenaries with machine guns, then throwing an army of ninja bat-people comes a bit out of left field.
“But it was in the comics!” Okay, fine, but there’s dozens of other options they could have went with in both the comic and the movie that would have sounded less stupid. Bane’s Venom. Or Prometheum. Or Joker gas. Or Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Or Mad Hatter’s mind control technology. All of these are things that an international society of killers would have some use for. But nope! Ninja man-bats it is!
Damian, being a jackass, of course alerts the guards by throwing guards out into the hallway through the door, and they end up fighting off Deathstroke’s men and ninja man-bats. While fighting said ninja man-bats, Batman does not at any point use any of those devices he uses that mess with/summon/controls bats. You know, the one he has in every other adaptation of the character ever. But if that doesn’t bother you, we’ll get to that later.
Langstrom promises to make an antidote for the man-bat-ness. They go and rescue Langstrom’s family from Deathstroke’s fortress without much of a hitch, because no one’s there. Damian is given a clue (and told not to tell Batman) that Deathstroke has his mother and is at an oil rig off the coast of Scotland. Damian goes without telling Batman, but because Batman’s not an idiot he has a tracker on his Robin outfit.
Damian goes on his own and infiltrates the place, because… everyone in this movie is an incompetent idiot except Alfred and Nightwing. He meets Deathstroke in a chamber/cave under it all, where there’s a Lazarus Pit. Turns out Deathstroke wants to be able to sell Lazarus Pit juice to the highest bidder and become rich!
…why is this subplot being revealed now? It has no room in the movie to do anything. It’s a really interesting idea, and nothing comes out of it. There’s no reason to bring it up, other than to have an excuse to have a Lazarus Pit nearby. So… plot convenience.
Damian pulls a gun on Deathstroke, who pulls a gun on Talia’s head, assuring him that without a head even the Lazarus Pit won’t save her. Damian drops the gun, but at some point Batman comes in and Talia gets shot somewhere that’s not the head. Deathstroke calls in the man-bats, but Batman, being Batman pulls out a device (the one he forgot earlier) that makes a noise that drives them insane and they pretty much just leave and do whatever. As they fly out of the oil rig, Nightwing and Langstrom shoot them full of the antidote, presumably to fall into the ocean to their deaths.
While Batman tends to Talia in the Lazarus Pit, Damian goes off to fight Slade Wilson (a fight that can be seen here ). Slade drives a knife and sword through both of Damian arms to pin him to a wall, but because Damian is running on mirakuru or something, it doesn’t slow him down and he sword fights Slade anyway, eventually beating him, once again, proving to be just as strong as the adult assassin despite being ten years old and having his forearms impaled.
After defeating Deathstroke, Damian decides not to kill him because he’s a better person now, but that doesn’t stop anyone from leaving him in the rig as it goes down! Nope, leave him in the self-destructing supervillain lair while you all get up top.
So Damian gets to stay on as Robin, Batman learns responsibility or something, and Talia flies off to rebuild the League of Assassins. THE END!
A lot of people have called this one of the strongest movies in the DC animated line that’s been going for the past few years. Me? Well…
As you may have noticed, I kept getting distracted from the actual plot at almost every turn in the movie. Sometimes it was an idea that didn’t go anywhere (like making money off of the Lazarus Pits) or things that just plain bothered me (there was mention of RAPE and the fact that Damian’s a little twit the entire time). I mean, it’s not entirely terrible; though the story’s really stupid, it’s got really good animation, the voice acting’s solid, and the action scenes are kind of cool to watch, even if they make no sense.
But everything is undercut by the fact that Damian is such a twat waffle. I don’t know if I’m supposed to want to slap him the entire movie, but I do; he keeps bragging about his skills and his inheritance, yet he lacks any sense of subtlety or finesse. Sort of like this movie… huh…
I mean, think about it—there’s loud action sequences and yelling, but the finer, more complex ideas are lost on it completely. How many serious-toned movies do you know have a scene that straight-up tells you one of the main characters was raped and goes nowhere with it?
I know that DC animated movies can do better than this; Batman: Under the Red Hood remains one of my favorite Batman films. But this… look up the action scenes if you’re interested, but otherwise you can skip it. It’s watchable if you don’t think about it much, but honestly it’s a really stupid movie.
1 Who apparently has super-powers. I mean, Wilson chucks him through a wooden pillar and Damian just gets up and shrugs it off. There’s assassins training, and then there’s this.
2 The Lazarus Pit is a plot device that allows Ra’s to heal/resurrect. It’s how he keeps getting brought back from near fatal situations.