Following the events of Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin is but the next animated project released in the DC animated universe. Serving as a sequel to the former, director Jay Olivia returns to tackle the next adaptation which is based on Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion. In Son of Batman, Bruce Wayne (Jason O’ Mara) learns he has fathered a child with Talia Al Ghul, daughter to one of Batman’s worst enemies Raj Al Ghul. Their son Damian (Stuart Allen) stays with Bruce who teaches him a thing or two about being a crime fighting vigilante.
Damian is a trained assassin all he knows is to shoot first and never worry about the repercussions. His highly advanced skill level gives him an arrogance that isn’t well received in Son of Batman – all he does is whine and complain about following Bruce’s strict code of conduct. Frankly he comes off as an ignorant little child. To be fair, he is a kid, after all. In Batman vs. Robin Damian’s character is more of the same but he’s a lot easier of a pill to swallow. J. M. DeMatteis gives Damian some development to at least form a basic connection to the character.
He’s still aggravating to listen to but its better, he’s getting there especially when he trains with Nightwing (Sean Maher). With a title like Batman vs. Robin one can expect round after round of the two battling it out but in actuality there is maybe one or two physical fights between father and son. Instead, the main conflict deals with the mysterious secret society of the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls in the comics is a secret society of the wealthiest of the wealthy that run Gotham from the shadows – scarcely seen but always alluded to and whispered about. They are a children’s story, a fable that Thomas Wayne (Kevin Conroy) tells Bruce before bedtime.
Gotham has some enigmatic bedtime stories.
“Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time. Gazing in the shadows, behind cement and lime. They see you at the hearth, they see you in your bed. Take care, beware, or they will send a Talon for your head.”
Even with a misleading title, Batman vs. Robin does justice to its title characters as well as the formidable villains that strike when no one is looking, that leaves no trace behind but a single feather. Most of Batman vs. Robin follows Damian with his identity crisis – most of his young life he’s taught to kill without a second thought to it, sort of like an instinct or muscle memory. When he stays with Bruce, Damian is being taught self-control which goes against everything the League of Assassins stands for.
Bruce and Damian’s relationship is crucial to the story’s success just like with Son of Batman. It’s a strange yet fascinating relationship to watch blossom because of how very different they are as humans. Even with the focus being on the Court of Owls, their father and son relationship fits in well within the overall plot and in the end Bruce and Damian actually make progress which is absolutely necessary. Damian talks a big game and when Talon (Jemery Sisto) recruits him to the court he gets a full taste of being himself but it’s the conscience that Bruce instills in Damian that pushes Damian in the right direction.
These comic book adaptations have been consistent to how they adapt the story from page to screen. Shorter in length than an average animated film, there is a lot of ground to cover in the time frame set out. A quicker run time usually has meant a quicker pace, but the quickness of the pacing doesn’t take away anything the film is set out to accomplish. The story and plot lines all are given enough time to be fully explained and concluded.
“I could’ve killed him. But I didn’t. Because you were in my head. You, Talon, Ra’s, you’re all in my head! But where am I? How can I be the son you need me to be … when I don’t even know who I am?”
With this animated universe the action is at the forefront along with the story. Being animated the action is able to be more bloody and violent but still remain easily injectable for a younger audience. There are still some heavy themes and a trail of bodies throughout but the journey that Bruce and Damian take together is well worth it. Besides Bruce and Damian’s interactions, give us more between Dick and Damian there’s a lot of possibilities there to be explored. Also, I’ll gladly take more stories on the Court of Owls – the lore and mythology is fascinating and so much more can be told about this secret society.
The main voice talent returns from Son of Batman, the respective actors and actresses find a nice rhythm to their characters that comes through with the relationships. Seeing Bruce interact with his parents gives even more backstory to life before Thomas and Martha’s vicious murder.
Batman vs. Robin is a great addition to the DC animated universe. The story of the Court of Owls is one of the most intriguing stories and villains conceived giving some depth to Gotham’s backstory. At its center Batman vs. Robin expands on this unique father/son dynamic that further develops both lead characters. 4 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen Batman vs. Robin and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Batman vs. Robin is written by J. M. DeMatteis, directed by Jay Oliva is Rated PG-13 and has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Batman vs. Robin was released on April 3, 2015 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 20 minutes. Batman vs. Robin can be streamed on HBO Max.