Beginning last year, two of DC’s three annual animated movies are set in the same universe, which is heavily inspired by the New 52. The fourth installment, Batman vs. Robin, is a direct sequel to Son of Batman. This movie further develops the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian. That relationship is put to the ultimate test when they meet the Court of Owls, a group of villains who were created merely four years ago in Scott Snyder’s critically acclaimed New 52 run. A lot of potential here, so how well does the movie fare?
The writing feels stronger in Batman vs. Robin than its predecessor. I was personally invested in the characters, and I was impressed with the action sequences. The first encounter between Batman and members of the Court of Owls was especially thrilling. It was also nice to see Nightwing have a bigger role, and his action scenes are cool too. I thought this adaptation of the Court was a faithful ones, and fans of Scott Snyder’s run should be pleased. The animation was pretty good too, but if you’ve seen any of the other films in this series, then you’ll know exactly what animation style to expect. I liked the movie’s score by Frederik Wiemann too.
Ultimately, the core of Batman vs. Robin‘s story is the fight for Damian’s soul. We have his father, Bruce, teaching him that it is wrong for him to kill his enemies. “Justice, not vengeance.” On the other hand, we have Talon, who tries to persuade Damian to join the Court of Owls and give into his killer “instinct.” It’s an interesting clash of ideals, even if it is one frequently seen in comic book adaptations. And the subsequent conflict between Batman and Robin is a big part of the movie – after all, it isn’t called Batman vs. Robin for nothing.
The voice acting, as usual, is pretty solid. Jason O’Mara is arguably at his best here as Bruce Wayne/Batman, adding previously untapped emotion to the role. While many fans haven’t been thrilled with O’Mara’s Batman voice, I like it, and I find it to be improving with each film. Stuart Allen is decent as Damian Wayne, while Sean Maher makes for a pretty good Dick Grayson/Nightwing. Jeremy Sisto is excellent as Talon, whose background story was intriguing to see unfold. “Weird Al” Yankovic does a good job voicing Dollmaker, a truly twisted individual who only has a small role in the film. And Kevin Conroy makes a cameo as Thomas Wayne in flashbacks, and hearing the voice of the frequent Batman actor is always a delight.
As for flaws, there are a few. Many fans have considered to be Damian an annoying character, and it’s not hard to see why. He is frequently nagging and complaining about why Bruce doesn’t trust him. He is not a particularly likable character. While the son and father reconcile by the film’s end, Damian’s attitude does get old after a while. He is a polarizing character, and for good reason. However, I do like the idea of a father-son dynamic in a superhero movie, as it is one not frequently seen in animated or live action adaptations.
Another thing I thought was off… When Bruce Wayne (not Batman) asks the Court of Owls’ Grandmaster about the Caped Crusader, who was being “dealt with” right then, it was implied (to me at least) that the Court already knew Bruce’s secret identity. Later on in the movie, however, the Grandmaster acts surprised to learn that Bruce and Batman were one and the same. An explainable error, I’m sure, but one that did confuse me at the moment.
Those and other nitpicks aside, Batman vs. Robin is a surprisingly good and entertaining movie. A big improvement over Son of Batman, the sequel combined the ongoing Bruce and Damian Wayne dynamic with elements of the Court of Owls storylines to create an original tale. Filled with decent writing, intense action sequences and plot twists, this is one of DC’s better animated movies within the past couple years. There are also a few neat DC Comics references to keep an eye out for, but for those wondering, there is no after-credits scene. Those who are not fond of Damian likely won’t have their minds changed by Batman vs. Robin, but it is still a thrilling installment in this new DC animated universe.