Thursday, March 12, 2015

Son of Batman review


    It is a testament to the skill of Grant Morrison that he managed to make a ridiculous premise interesting. Batman's unknown son, Damien (as in The Omen), is revealed to have been raised by the League of Assassins for the past ten years. Batman and, later, Dick Grayson chooses to take him under his wing in order to teach him the ways of morality.

    This is despite the fact he is near-feral in terms of his developed morality due to the fact he was molded into a weapon from birth. It's cheap melodrama at its best, designed to confront Batman with two facets of his personality that are predominate: Batman as the father and Batman as the champion of "thou shall not kill."

    And it's wonderful.

    This movie isn't that story.

Batman and son in a beautiful image.
    Son of Batman was a movie I thus approached with a certain amount of dread. The cover promises a rousing adventure of wish fulfillment for children. A chance for younger audiences to live vicariously in the same way the Robin character, theoretically, exists for. Wouldn't it be awesome to be the Son of Batman? I, for one, love my father but would absolutely love Bruce Wayne as my other father on weekends. This isn't the story of Damien's arc in the comics, though, and I was curious how much would be lost in the translation.

    The answer? A lot.

    Not all of it.

    But the story goes in odd directions.

    The premise is Damien Wayne is the heir to Ra's Al Ghul and has been raised as the future ruler of the world/head of the League of Assassins. Unfortunately, for Damien, Ra's Al Ghul is killed by Deathstroke the Terminator. In this continuity, Deathstroke has joined the League of Assassins and was being groomed to lead it before Damien's birth. Ra's is unable to be revived this time, which would be awesome for the DCU's citizenry to be honest, but Talia and Damien are sad. Sending Damien to his father, Bruce investigates Ra's death and a plan by Deathstroke involving Man-Bat while Damien plans to avenge his grandfather.

There is some SEVERELY off-kilter stuff in Talia and Bruce's relationship.
    All in all, it's a fairly straight-forward revenge story as well as dynastic struggle. You could have Damien the Prince of a Kingdom sent to live with his father the King of another land and have the plot set anywhere from Norway to China throughout history. Deathstroke is nothing like his comic book counterpart, which is a shame since he's probably one of the few people who would make a good leader for the League of Shadows.

    There's also a severe moral dissonance to this movie. In the comic book storyline, there's a moment where Damien kills a Gotham City criminal and presents his head to Batman's Family. It's a terrible and shocking moment. There, I thought it was going too far. Here? We see Damien killing multiple people at the start of the movie despite being only ten-years-old. It undermines Nightwing "saving" Damien from killing later on.

    There's also the fact Talia raped Batman to conceive Damien.

    No, I'm not kidding.

    She says, I am entirely serious, she drugged him in order to get him into bed.

    Batman takes this in stride and says it wasn't all bad.

    ...

    What the hell, movie?

I think it says everything about what's wrong with comics that Talia's skin-tight leather outfit isn't sexy enough, naturally, but needs to be halfway unzipped the entire movie.
    In addition to this gross sentiment, which derails any sympathy I had for Talia al Ghul, the movie is pretty clear we're meant to see Bruce and her having a romance. It's a nasty, unnecessary, and confusing bit which shouldn't be in the film. Its representative of the film's schizophrenic tone where it goes from being kiddie and fun to darkly grim at the drop of a hat. You have ten-year-old Damien watching cartoons and sword-fighting hedges to him trying to kill Ubu after catching him with a pair of hookers about to get busy.

    Man, what?

    Overall, Son of Batman isn't a bad movie but it seems like the story was emptied of all its originality and power to become more kiddified. Yet, the story keeps elements which render it inappropriate for children. No one does a poor job acting but the problems are story based and distract from what could have been a solid all-ages experience or a more somber cerebral tale of family bonds.

7/10

3 comments:

  1. Reminds me of Starman where Mist II rapes Jack Knight. Of course that series didn't play that off as anything but horrible and portrays Mist II as a complete sociopath.

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    1. No kidding. Here, you'd think Batman would be doing everything he could to get Damien away from his mother. You can't mix the Timmverse Talia/Batman romance with the Grant Morrison "Evil Talia" story.

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  2. I agree with your thoughts. This movie and the sequel Batman vs Robin are a bit underwhelming.

    I liked Batman: Assault on Arkham much better. Have you seen that one.

    B2B.

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