Batman (Jason O'Mara) is shocked to learn that not only does he have a son (Stuart Allan), but that the boy's mother is Talia (Morena Baccarin), the daughter of the international overlord Ra's Al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito). Nevertheless, the Dark Knight and his willful boy -- as the new Robin -- become uneasy allies when Talia enlists a team of ninja man-bats on a criminal enterprise with international consequences.
Based on a story arc by writer Grant Morrison, 'Son of Batman' introduces viewers to a brand-new Robin, who also happens to be Bruce Wayne's son, thanks to a prior romantic involvement with Talia al Ghul, the daughter of supervillain Ra's al Ghul. It's an interesting idea for a Batman story, but – not having read the comics version – I went into this release worrying I'd hate the idea of Batman with yet another kid sidekick. Fortunately, Batman's new partner, while young and rebellious, works out better than I thought he would.
The movie opens at Ra's al Ghul's headquarters (which I believe is in Tibet, but I could be wrong) where he and his grandson, Damien (voice of Stuart Allan), are overlooking the training of members of Ghul's League of Assassins (basically hooded ninja-types). Damien's mother, Talia (voice of Morena Baccarin), is there too. Out of nowhere, the compound is attacked by helicopters and another group of assassins, led by Slade Wilson (voice of Thomas Gibson), a former student of al Ghul's. The League of Assassins, Talia, and even Damien himself are able to drive Slade's men into retreat, but not before Slade has killed Ra's al Ghul, who is unable to get to his 'Lazarus Pit' (which has healing powers) in time to save himself.
Talia decides that the best place for Damien at this point is in the care of his father, Batman (voice of Jason O'Mara), so she heads to Gotham City and first meets up with her former lover by helping him out in a battle against Killer Croc. Slade has also made his way to the city, where he now goes by the name of Deathstroke, and kidnaps a scientist's family in order to force the scientist to work on a chemical that will turn his henchmen into powerful Man-Bats.
Damien arrives in Bruce's/Batman's care wanting revenge for this grandfather's death, and the Dark Knight spends much of the movie trying to show his son that killing is not the correct path to justice. The former Robin, Dick Grayson (voice of Sean Maher) – who now fights crime as Nightwing – joins the action as well, and it isn't long before Batman decides to make Damien the new Robin and his permanent partner in his fight against crime. Their first mission: to stop Deathstroke and his army of Man-Bats.
I've seen probably half of the many DC animated superhero movies to date, and 'Son of Batman' ranks as one of the better ones, perhaps because they actually take the time for some character development here, something that is lacking in far too many of DC's releases. However, don't worry, there's plenty of action pieces as well, and it's some of the most violent action I've seen in one of these DC titles. There's a lot of blood spilled in 'Son of Batman', so if you're thinking about picking this one up for a youngster, do yourself a favor and view it yourself first to make sure what's shown here is something you're comfortable with them seeing. This movie definitely earns its PG-13 rating, with an eye being stabbed, a character having both arms impaled by blades, and a pretty high body count overall.
DC hasn't hit too many home runs yet with their direct-to-home-video animated titles (the two-part The Dark Knight Returns is probably the best of the lot so far), and they fail to get it all the way out of the park again here, but this is still pretty solid storytelling, and something most fans of Batman are probably going to enjoy and want to add to their collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Note: The description of the Blu-ray package that follows is based on a Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack that no longer contains either the DVD or the slipcover that came with the original combo pack release. This condensed version is apparently the only type currently for sale on Amazon. One's mileage may vary finding the DVD/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack through other e-tailers and/or brick and mortar stores. Also, upon initial release of this title in 2014, there were a few exclusive versions, including one from Best Buy that included a Deathstroke action figure and a steelbook version from Target. Again, one's mileage may very tracking down either one of those exclusives (as of this writing, neither version appeared on the companies' respective online stores).
'Son of Batman' soars onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc and an insert with a code for an UltraViolet copy of the movie. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with an advertisement for UltraViolet, followed by a trailer for Batman: Assault on Arkham. The main menu is another standard Warners one, with a still of the title's box cover image and menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is region-free.
Perhaps it is time to throw our hands up in the air and admit that every single DC animated movie is going to come with its share of banding issues. That's been the major problem on every release I've watched to date, and it continues to be a problem with 'Son of Batman', as banding is frequent and often all-too-obvious. There are also some macroblocking issues as well, as pixels pop up inside the emblem of Batman's uniform, as well as within other solid colors throughout the movie.
Less of an issue on this release are any jagged edges to the outlines of characters and objects, as lines look a little smoother here than I've seen on other DC titles. Colors are bright for the most part, although sometimes the animators have chosen to put an ugly 'glaze' over things, which I suppose was intended to give the movie a grittier look, but just manages to make things look more unappealing.
Other than the above issues, however, this is a decent enough transfer and certainly on par with what past DC animated Blu-rays have provided. It's certainly watchable, but it's a shame DC doesn't care enough about these direct-to-video releases to put a little more time and effort into their animation and give us something spectacular instead of just 'okay'.
The featured track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that proves to be solid, albeit short of spectacular. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and well-balanced with the musical soundtrack and ambient noises that take place around it. The track tries to give a feeling of immersiveness by using the rears frequently for things like rain and other background noises, but doesn't quite have enough 'oomph' to it. The same is true of any LFE effects used for explosions and the like. While obvious, there's not quite that low-end power that really shows off one's speaker set up. Directionality is used as well, but not as frequently as one might hope, once again taking away from that immersive feeling one hopes to get with lossless tracks such as this one.
Still, there's no obvious technical glitches with the audio, and certainly nothing in terms of dropouts, hissing, or not being able to deal with the high and/or low ranges. Most viewers/listeners will be satisfied with what they get here, even if it's far from reference quality.
In addition to the featured English lossless track, there are also Dolby 5.1 tracks available in Spanish (Latin), German, French, and Portuguese. Additionally, a Dolby 2.0 track is available in Spanish (Castilian). Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), French, German, and Portuguese.
Having not read the comic book stories/issues upon which 'Son of Batman' is based, it's hard to say how die-hard Batman fans will react to this release. For myself, I rather enjoyed the tale told here, even though I've always preferred Batman when he works alone. Compared to other DC animated releases that I've seen, this one ranks quite favorably. Recommended.