DC’s latest animated feature is here and does not disappoint. Batman VS Robin delivers another classic Batman tale showing the loving bond of father and son mixed in with ninja zombies, still-beating hearts being ripped out of chests, monstrous children, and psychoactive drugs. The movie picks right up where Son of Batman left off, with Bruce Wayne, now in custody of his and Talia al Ghul’s lovechild, Damien, and trying to mentor the rebellious, lethally-trained youth to be a protector of justice rather than an agent of vengeance, while at the same time trying to develop a normal relationship as parent and child.
The movie opens with Damien, having stolen the Batmobile as Robin, investigating the disappearance of several children, which leads him to the hideout of the Dollmaker. Upon Batman’s arrival, the Dollmaker flees and is pursued by Damien while Batman is left to deal with the villain’s demented “dolls”, all fitted with lethal appendages. After catching up to the Dollmaker and throttling him for what he did to the children while threatening to tear his heart out, Damien struggles with himself to prevent himself from murdering the man, but after willing himself to stop, the mysterious Talon appears and makes good on Damien’s promise, executing Dollmaker and leaving Damien to be found with the corpse and a single owl feather by Batman. At first, Batman suspects Damien has fallen back into his violent ways and leaves him in Nightwing’s care while he investigates further. During his investigation, Bruce recalls his father telling him stories of the Court of Owls as a boy and is soon attacked by three of their reanimated Talon assassins. After a brutal fight, the assassins dissolve into a puddle before they can execute Batman who, having suffered too many injuries, is later picked up by Nightwing. Meanwhile, Damien foils a mugging, having escaped Wayne Manor while under Nightwing’s supervision, and is approached again by Talon, who takes him to his hideout, declares his mission to eradicate crime once and for all with “no limits, no lines, no rules”, and offers Damien a place as his protégé. Robin asks for time to think the offer over, but decides it best to accept and run away after he returns home to an angry Bruce and overhears his father’s uncertainty about raising him. While on his way to a date, Bruce is run off the road and kidnapped by the Court of Owls who offer him a place with them, to which he tactfully declines. Robin, while on patrol with Talon, still refuses to adopt his new mentor’s methods because of his respect for Batman. Talon tells Robin his own backstory, and soon Batman appears, in pursuit of the assassin. Robin fights Batman to help Talon escape and in order to protect his son in the midst of fighting him, Batman gets injured and urges Robin to choose to be a killer and take his father’s life or cease in following Talon, but Robin still spares his life and returns to Talon anyway. Shortly after, Robin is brought before the Court and must reveal his identity to the members to be accepted as Talon’s successor, but the Grand Master recognizes Damien and realizes Bruce Wayne is Batman. Talon is ordered to kill Damien, but seeing himself in the boy, he instead murders all of the members of the Court of Owls. Taking Damien captive and now knowing Batman’s identity, Talon proceeds to release the Court’s army of reanimated assassin’s on Wayne Manor. In the grand showdown, Batman, Alfred and Nightwing go all out to defend the home and Damien’s hand is forced in the final confrontation with Talon.
The movie is filled with action and carries a lot of depth. There are themes of self-identity and the blurring lines of justice and vengeance with Damien and Talon, the “blood son versus adopted son” conflict revived between Dick and Damien, and there is Bruce’s struggle with juggling his two personae while not only training a new protégé, but also being a father. Seeing Batman take multiple beatings kind of irked me, but seeing him fight for the soul of his son as well as the protection of Gotham was moving. Also, seeing Batman in his Bat-Mech suit and smacking down ninja zombies was awesome. I’m not a reader of the comics, so I have no idea where events develop from here, but I look forward to Damien Wayne’s return—hopefully in a time skip so he can return as a man—and I’m hoping “Batfleck” dons the Bat-Mech suit on the silver screen next year. Fingers crossed.