Even though I generally like the work from writer Grant Morrison, I have to admit I wasn’t left very satisfied by the graphic novel Son of Batman, and that’s why I started watching the eponymous animated film with low expectations. However, to my surprise, Joe R. Lansdales’s screenplay tuned the narrative, softened the characters a bit (for example, Damian isn’t an insufferable brat in here) and made the family dynamic between Batman, Damian and Alfred realistic and likable, without losing the dysfunction. The plot is simplified a bit in the movie, but, let’s accept it: the point of the film is seeing Batman facing the difficult paternal role for the first time. And in that aspect, Son of Batman works perfectly. Batman assumes the responsibility of having a son who was trained from the cradle to inherit the criminal empire from his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul. That’s a complicated situation, because the kid has a killer instinct which goes against Batman’s strict code, and his impulsive decisions constantly put his mother Talia (not to mention Batman himself) in danger. Alfred participates in funny moments when he’s trying to grapple with the new resident of the Wayne Mansion; and Nightwing (alias Dick Grayson, the first Robin) fulfills the function of an older brother, tolerant but disposed to give the capricious child a good lesson when it must be done. And well, in order not to reveal every small detail, I will say that the film keeps an excellent balance between the action and the mentioned family dynamic, without losing the suspense and danger sensation brought by the unpredictable Damian. As for the voice work, Jason O’Mara and Stuart Allan make a perfect work as Batman and Damian, respectively, but the rest of the cast feels rigid and artificial. It’s strange the fact that a solid actor, such as Xander Berkeley (for example), sounds incredibly false, ca-re-fu-lly e-nun-cia-ting every syllable, like a rookie broadcaster. Nevertheless, O’Mara’s and Allan’s voice work, the solid screenplay and Ethan Spaulding’s agile direction made me enjoy this film very much despite that complaint. And I found the animation of a better quality than the one from other DC Comics movies; the choreography of the action scenes is clear and fluid, and the design of the characters keeps a good equilibrium between realism and stylization. So, Son of Batman ended up being a very pleasant surprise, taking into consideration the fact that I didn’t like the original comic very much; it doesn’t have the epic scale from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths or Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, but in this case, I think it was a good decision to keep everything on a more real level, because that puts the emphasis on the chemistry between the characters and the transformation of roles which implies Damian’s arrival. Speaking of which, Son of Batman isn’t part of “The New 52” continuity, like the previous film of the animated universe (Justice League: War) was. Apparently, Warner Animation is altering continuities, something which might confuse the casual spectators who were expecting more consistency between movie and movie. But, considering the fact that the main audience are comic readers, I suppose that that won’t be a major problem. And besides, it means that there’s still the chance of adapting some of the best Batman stories which don’t fit into the current continuity, such as The Long Halloween and Knightfall.
8 out of 10 stars