9/28/2016

Late to the Party: Son of Batman

I watched a movie for a change. Wow.

Monday was pretty broken in terms of productivity anyways due to my sleepless weekend and a lot of stuff that came up out of my control. For the record, I usually don't go out of my way to watch TV shows, movies, or even YouTube videos. I only do this when I'm eating food. So I tacked an extra 50 minutes onto dinner basically to finally watch Son of Batman.

Before you start reading this, know that I'm not a comic book fan. I don't have anything against the medium but I didn't really have access to it as a kid and it was never introduced in a way that was appealing to me so I just never got into comic books. Most of my knowledge is through heresy or story depictions in other forms of media. Batman is one of the few franchises that I'm most familiar with, but still know very little about. Probably not surprising as Batman is one of the most famous superheroes of all time and about 98% of Americans have seen The Dark Knight at least once. I have learned over the years though that someone's opinion of something they know very little about is just as valid as an expert opinion. When I write music, I show it to friends who I know lack the ability I have to write music or mix music, because they will be able to point out things that I didn't notice. The same goes for movies and whatnot. Son of Batman is the first in a series of straight-to-DVD films, so I think it should be expected that the viewer can pick up the pieces and enjoy the movie without knowing everything there is to know about Batman prior to watching. Let's talk Batman.

Movie release: 2014
Interest in movie: Batman is cool. Basically that. These straight-to-DVD movies based on superhero lore always scare me. Even when I was really young, I thought they were cheesy, and I liked the X-Men cartoon at the time so that's saying something. My previous experience with these was some Thor movie that I don't know the name of but I was at a friend's house and could barely contain my overbearing feeling of boredom. A friend of mine who knows a lot about Batman has recently been watching a lot of Batman related things like Under the Red Hood and Gotham, and he said Son of Batman was cool. I always found the concept of multiple Robins throughout time interesting so why not?

Son of Batman is the kind of Batman movie that doesn't actually feature Batman on the screen until 10 minutes of the movie pass by, and that's not a bad thing. The movie is called Son of Batman, so I guess I should have expected that Batman is not the main character. He is definitely an integral protagonist and is featured or at least mentioned in most of the scenes, but the main focus is really on Damian... erm... the son of Batman. Son of Batman is really good at making an enjoyable Batman film that caters to fans but at the same time you don't have to be a Batman professor to know what's happening and who all the characters are... for the most part. It also knows you aren't stupid though. It doesn't have a scene of "OH MY GOD!!! BRUCE WAYNE IS BATMAN????" because that would be stupid and overplayed. This is, again, a straight-to-DVD movie about Batman. So if you have any interest in seeing this movie, you probably already know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and even if you don't, it tells you, but it's not a big deal, because it shouldn't be, because within context it's common knowledge.

Batman not showing up until after the title card is actually a great idea and they pulled it off really well. Ra's Al Ghul (played by Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad and Community by the way) taught Batman how to fight in pretty much every Batman timeline. He runs a terrorist group called The League of Assassins, because that's creative and inconspicuous. He, at some point, has a daughter named Talia, who I don't know anything about but it's introduced pretty plainly in the beginning of the movie, so I guess that's fine. What's not fine is that the voice actor for Talia sounds like she's about to fall asleep. Especially following behind dialogue from Giancarlo Esposito. Even the childish voice of Damian is convincing and entertaining, in fact Stuart Allen did really good. But anyways, back to my point. I didn't think it did a great job of explaining who Ra's Al Ghul was and why he was significant to Batman, but maybe that doesn't matter either in hindsight. What does matter is that Ra's Al Ghul has been brought to life multiple times in something called a Lazarus Pit, which has some weird green goop in it that brings him back to life. He gets in a fight with Deathstroke and Deathstroke sends in a missile thing that leaves Ra's Al Ghul as a charred shadow of his former badass self. This is also a good time to mention that Son of Batman is also the kind of movie where everyone with a sword can deflect bullets with the sword and flipping around, even though A) no you can't and B) these guys are holding automatic weapons. See in Star Wars you can sell this, because it's lightsabers versus slow-moving droid gun, so your disbelief was already suspended enough by a certain point to where you are okay with this. This movie just throws you in with a guy that can kill a small group of trained assassins with fully-automatic weapons... with a sword... and flippydoos.

Deathstroke almost smashes Ra's Al Ghul's head in but Damian swoops in last second and jabs his eye out with the hilt of a sword. Deathstroke escapes and Ra's is found crawling back to the Lazarus Pit. Everyone comes in to see what the hell just happened, which is fair. Damian tries to convince everyone to help him throw Ra's into the Lazarus Pit again, but Talia says "no, you can't do that, because he's too far gone, and he won't come back to life, he will just be a gross floating corpse in a gross green goop pool." That might not have been the exact quote. I don't like this part, firstly of course because Talia again constantly sounds bored and even her face is the least emotive in the whole movie, and that's not even an exaggeration, the lackeys of Deathstroke shown for 2 seconds in a scene where they die look more alive than Talia. Also it's like when two kids are playing Power Rangers in their backyard and the one kid goes "nu-uh, you can't use the Beast Megazord because I have the ancient medallion that lets you not do that." Only no one in the movie questions it, so you as the viewer have to be the other kid that goes "says who? How is that fair and that doesn't even make any sense!" But the movie can't hear you. And once again, I'm sure in the comics this Lazarus Goop is greatly explained, but I already stated earlier that I don't care. If you're going to make a (at the time) standalone movie about already established superhero lore, then you should do it in a way to where the movie is still entertaining to a mass audience that may not be a collector of Batman comics. Talia then pulls Damian away and says "it's time to meet your father" and then the title pops up on the screen... because he's the Son of Batman!

I took so long to explain the opening sequence because it actually sets up a few things I don't like about this movie, but also a lot of things I really do like about this movie. I know I'm beating a dead horse now but yes, I should be expected to know some basic facts about Batman, but not all the things about every character's backstory in Batman to appreciate the film. The movie makes a point out to show you that Deathstroke is very powerful and determined, which makes him a great villain in the movie, but it lacks one thing that makes a truly memorable villain; motivation. Apparently Deathstroke was Ra's Al Ghul's original choice for apprentice, but then he met Batman and chose him instead. That's why Deathstroke does all this crazy stuff basically. The movie doesn't really explain that ever or if it did, it didn't do it very well (I was paying pretty close attention). This sets up the strength for both Deathstroke and Damian and shows how dangerous Deathstroke is and how reckless Damian can be. This is never questioned later and is also expanded on, which makes the movie feel like it has momentum. That's cool.

Another problem I have with Son of Batman is that in one of the scenes when Bruce Wayne is alone after they take in Damian, he is watching old footage of Ra's Al Ghul being resurrected with the Lazarus Pit on loop. He implies to Alfred that he thinks it is suspicious that a man who has avoided his own death so many times would just die out of nowhere. Interesting. Too bad they never mention it again. Unless they were just trying to imply that Deathstroke is a crazy powerful villain and they shouldn't underestimate him, but I think that was already set in stone from the first scene and the fact that by this point, Batman already knows about Deathstroke's existence. Kind of stupid.

Beyond this, the animation is incredibly fluid without being wonky and the writing is humorous. This is also not a super kid-friendly superhero film, there is a lot of blood. For some reason they aren't allowed to curse but there are some parts that made me cringe from the violence. This is a pretty violent movie. I won't spoil the final fight for you because the movie builds up to it like a great piece of orchestral music, but let's just say there are things that happen to Damian's body that are... messy.

Not that messy, you pervert.

I know this is a convoluted blob of text, so I'll summarize. Son of Batman is a very entertaining movie in both visuals and script, and you will be able to understand the vast majority of what's happening without having an extensive knowledge of the original DC comic universe. There are a few things that take a weird dip in quality that I found distracting, and by some weird coincidence these moments are all Talia related, but if you want an animated action movie with a heart and a little bit of an easy crime mystery thing, Batman delivers, as he usually does. Just probably shouldn't let your young children watch it unless they are cool with violence and blood. ... ... Which most of them are! Ohhh yeah!!!!


Thanks for reading, I've been posting way too many of these recently. I'm going to try to limit myself to one of these a week, but honestly I just really like typing. The subject matter I'm writing about and the way I'm presenting it is weirdly therapeutic so I hope you got something out of this as well. This is a part of a series of blogs I have called "Late to the Party" where I talk about TV shows or movies I have seen recently. If there is anything you would like to recommend, let me know in the comments section or something. If you want to see me talk about video games in a way that is way more in depth and entertaining than this is, looks for Randomrings Channel on YouTube! Thanks again.

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