The mysterious disappearance of Batman, coupled with the emergence of powerful and malevolent new villains in Gotham City, force Nightwing (voice of Sean Maher) and Robin (Stuart Allan) to take crime-fighting into their own hands – while simultaneously searching for their missing leader. They’re not alone for long. New super heroes Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski) and Batwing (Gaius Charles) – each armed with her/his own sensibilities, physical abilities and crime-fighting tools – arrive in Gotham to assist in the cause. As this new “family” strives to find its own dynamic, chilling clues lead the group to suspect the Dark Knight may have gone over to the dark side. It’s up to the entire Bat team to uncover the truth before Gotham City falls prey to its greatest threat yet.
I didn't know a whole lot about the plot for 'Batman: Bad Blood' going into it, and was nicely surprised by some of the 'guest stars' that pop up during its story. While I'm sure there are other reviews out there that will spoil who the main 'baddie' in this release is, I had no idea the character would be popping up and don't intend to spoil it in this review.
I don't think it's a spoiler though to say this 'Batman' animated movie is about family – both the related kind and the kind you bring in under your wing. As the movie opens, a cowled superhero is taking on the latest batch of Gotham's slime, but it's not the caped crusader...it's Batwoman (voiced by Yvonne Strahovski), one of the more interesting characters to appear in the DC Animated Universe (a little more about what makes her special in a bit). Unlike Batman, Batwoman isn't opposed to using a gun, something the Dark Knight (once again voiced by Jason O'Mara) berates her about when he shows up to join her in the fight. But things take a turn for the worse and, after a large explosion, Batman is missing and presumed dead.
News of Batman's vanishing gets around the world pretty quickly, reaching the ears of young Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan), who has returned to the Himalayas to continue his training. Needless to say, he immediately comes back to Gotham where he sees Dick Grayson aka Nightwing (Sean Maher) has already picked up the Batman mantle and is fighting crime in one of Batman's old uniforms. Of course, fans already know from the prior DC titles that there's no love lost between Dick and Damian, so Bruce Wayne's son isn't particularly thrilled with the fact that Dick is now pretending to be Batman.
As if all these heroes weren't enough, we get one more crime fighter in the form of Batwing, who is actually Lucius Fox's (Ernie Hudson) son, Luke (Gaius Charles). I'm not familiar with Batwing's character from the comics, but he seems very much like a third – or in this case a fourth or fifth – wheel and very much like a cross between Nightwing and Justice League member Cyborg. It's not that his character wouldn't be interesting in another movie, but with so much happening here in such a short amount of time (like most DC animated titles, this one comes in just short of 75 minutes), there's not a whole lot of time to develop his character.
One character that does get some nice development here is Batwoman, whose real identity is Katherine Kane. She has the potential to be the most controversial character in the DC Animated Universe because she happens to be gay, and it's something the creators here – admirably I might point out – don't shy away from, not only having it come up in conversation, but actually having a scene where Kate flirts with another girl in a bar. Comic aficionados will be quick to point out that the character has been homosexual in the comics for a number of years (although I believe her stand-alone comic was cancelled), but it's nice to see DC not being afraid to be open about that fact in this release without using it to be either exploitive or to try and push an agenda.
Getting back to the plot, I don't think it's going to ruin the story for anyone if I relay the fact that Batman is not dead. It's the how and why of his vanishing – and who is behind it – that I didn't see coming and one that makes this title fit in nicely with the two Batman releases (Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin) that came before it. By the end of this one, Batman is certainly no longer the lone vigilante he once was...and the final shot of the movie gives us one last surprise about who we might see joining him the next time around. If you've liked the prior storylines of these Batman titles, you're going to enjoy this one I think, and I'm giving it a solid recommendation.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Batman: Bad Blood' arrives on home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The discs are housed inside and eco-friendly keepcase, with a code for an UltraViolet copy of the movie being the only insert. An embossed slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. Both the dual-layer DVD and the 50GB Blu-ray are front-loaded with trailers for 'Batman v. Superman' and LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League – Cosmic Clash. The DVD also includes a promo for 'Teen Titans Go!: Eat, Dance, Punch!'. The main menu is the standard Warner Bros.' design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
In addition to this version, Warners is also offering a limited (and numbered) edition, which contains a Nightwing figure attached to the front of the box. There are also a number of retailer exclusives. Best Buy is offering a version that contains both the figurine and the graphic novel 'Battle for the Cowl' by Tony S. Daniel, while Target has an exclusive steelbook. As is the case with most of these exclusives, your mileage may vary on finding them (Target for example, never seems to put their steelbooks up for pre-orders on their website, but usually can be found in-store on release day).
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'Batman: Bad Blood' is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio and uses the same style of animation fans have seen in prior Warner Bros./DC Comics original movie releases. As with prior DC Comics titles on Blu-ray, both banding and macroblocking are present here, but I must confess while the banding is often obvious, the pixelation issues that have plagued many prior releases are almost non-existent here or – at the very least – harder to make out. The result is one of the better-looking Warner Bros./DC Comics animated titles to date. I think we're going to have to accept that, as long as DC continues this animation style, such issues are going to be present in these releases, but I also think they're doing a better job of making these Blu-rays look the best that they can under the circumstances.
Also, as has been the case with prior animated movies from DC, at least as far as the Batman releases are concerned, DC continues to 'blur' some of the action sequences when characters are in motion. The intent, of course, is to give the animation a more 'realistic' look to it, but I've always felt it just makes the animation look worse. Whether viewers like it or not is, of course, left to personal taste.
I've always rated these DC releases compared to other DC releases, and by that standard, this is definitely an above-average effort. Fans should be mostly happy with what they get this time around.
The featured track is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that will really show off one's home theater set-up. Full of directionality, low-end (LFE) booms and explosions, and a nice sense of immersiveness, this is a really enjoyable and fun listen for audiophiles. DC has gone out of their way this time around to make sure that the aural experience is just as much fun as the visuals, and everything is nicely mixed, so – while the action scenes are loud and boisterous – the spoken word is clear and never drown out by what may be happening on-screen. I've watched a few DC animated titles that have come close to reference quality audio, and I'm going ahead and giving them the top rating here – this is a fun, active listen with no glitches or issues of note.
In addition to the lossless English track, Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), and German are also included. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), and German.
Although it probably tries to cram too many characters into one movie, 'Batman: Bad Blood' is a nice continuation of the several 'Batman' releases that have led up to this title. There's some nice characterization here, but the movie doesn't short change those looking for a lot of action sequences. This isn't my favorite 'Batman' animated release, but it's a decent one. Recommended.