You guys all know that I need a break from the horror genre once in a while. I’m sure you feel the same way, from time to time. I’ve done it before and I will continue to do so, if not just to give my brain a little break from so much carnage. What better way to do this than with a little comic book animation! Jay Oliva’s Batman vs Robin is just what I needed to break up the monotony of blood, gore, nudity, and every other trope we’ve come to expect from our favorite genre.
Batman vs Robin follows the continuing struggles between The Dark Knight and his son, Damian. The two just can’t seem to see eye to eye and things have gotten much worse with a new threat rearing its ugly head in Gotham. A secret society of the city’s wealthiest citizens, known as The Court of Owls, has made themselves known, trying to recruit playboy Bruce Wayne, while also trying to rid the city of the Batman. Talon, the deadly assassin of The Court has gotten into the head of young Robin, turning him against Batman, and trying to continue the tradition of The Court for yet another generation.
Closely based on ‘The Court of Owls’ story arc from DC Comic’s The New 52, Batman vs Robin acts as a direct sequel to last year’s Son of Batman. Most of the main points of the books remain intact with only a few alterations (a minor change can be seen even in Dick Grayson’s Nightwing costume, opting for the more familiar black and blue, as opposed to The New 52’s black and red version). Director Jay Oliva, along with writer J.M. DeMatteis, managed to do a great job of demonstrating loyalty to the print version of the arc, while also developing a stronger emphasis on the continued relationship struggles between Bruce and Damian Wayne. This perfectly explains the name change to Batman vs Robin, as opposed to simply titling the release, The Court of Owls. They took great care in further character development and still stayed true to the source material.
While I am still not the biggest fan of animated films in general, I definitely wasn’t going to pass up anything having to do with Batman. I’ve always been a huge Bat fan and with the launch of The New 52 in 2011, my love was renewed tenfold. I enjoyed 2014’s Son of Batman quite a bit, so I knew this would be a great continuation and another worthy entry in the DC Universe’s animated film line. Stuart Allan and Jason O’Mara return as the voices of Damian and Batman, respectively, along with a few others like David McCallum as Alfred, making for a much smoother transition and a stronger sequel.
I know I started this review by stating this was a giant break from everything we know and love of horror, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few darker elements to this one, guys. B vs R certainly exhibits a darker tone than you may initially expect; there are scenes more bloody than most Batman live action flicks and the inclusion of another Bat villain, The Dollmaker, certainly ups the ante a bit more, as well. For those who are not familiar with Anton Schott aka The Dollmaker, the long and short of it is that he likes to abduct children and virtually turn them into dolls. The opening scenes of Batman vs Robin show young Damian entering a warehouse where Schott has managed to keep his captives. The children that have been experimented on have now been turned into snarling creatures with buzzsaw hands. Schott himself is depicted as a backwoods-esque giant of a man who wears a creepy doll mask and unleashes his ‘doll’s’ onto unsuspecting enemies, in this case Robin. If that is not horror enough, The Court’s assassin, Talon, kills The Dollmaker by ripping out his heart in one fell swoop. I think these events, along with a myriad of other darker toned themes, will please horror fans enough, while still maintaining that break I was referring to earlier.
It is an exciting time for comic books fans — The Netflix original series, Daredevil, is receiving a great reaction from critics, Gotham has resumed new episodes on Fox after another break in the season, the Convergence storyline is rolling full steam ahead, and The Secret Wars is also in its early stages. This is only stuff regarding the ‘Big Two!’ There is also some pretty noteworthy events happening in some of the more indie comics. In my opinion, there was no better time to release this animated flick. There is plenty of hype going around and I think this one will be very successful with fans, both new and old.
Batman vs Robin is available now from Warner Brothers Home Video on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. There is also an amazing Limited Edition Gift Set available that comes with a beautifully sculpted Batman figurine. The bonus features include featurettes on the background and creation of The Court of Owls and what they mean to the Batman mythos and the history [and future] of Gotham City.
I give this film 4 ripped out hearts out of 5.