The Batman is missing and believed dead. It’s up to his proteges to fill his shoes or risk Gotham falling into chaos.
MARVEL vs DC
As MARVEL Studios continues to fire on all cylinders with their live action cinematic universe, Warner Bros and DC struggle to catch up. The reverse is happening on the animated side of things, however.
Most modern fan memories will likely single out Bruce Timm and his initial work on Batman:The Animated Series, but I’d argue DC’s success goes further back to the original Max Fleischer Superman serials which, as a non-reader of superhero comics in my childhood, was my introduction and discovery of the genre. The work still holds up as one of the best animated shows.
In MARVEL’s defense, they did have their Spider-man series in the 60s, but it wasn’t until X-MEN in the 90s that they finally managed to nail the tone and execution on a more consistent basis. They lost their way in the 2000s though with more Spidey and X-Men series that unfortunately skewed towards the mediocre. They’ve nearly completely failed in the animated home video space, however.
It’s WB-DC who seem to have and continue to lead the way with consistently good productions. So, it’s no surprise then that Batman: Bad Blood brings the goods.
Shoes To Fill
The premise of Bad Blood is an interesting one. It’s not a real spoiler for me to say that it centers around the Batman’s bat proteges Batwoman, Nightwing, and Robin, as they must fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes as the masked vigilante when he’s apparently killed in a spit with a new enemy.
It’s a chance to tell a more personal story about Bruce Wayne/Batman through the eyes of those closest to him. It’s an excellent idea on the part of the storytellers as we get a chance to truly delve into the lives of those he left behind, but through them we get to know so much more than we thought we would from a film that probably has 10 minutes of actual Batman in it. Even the lesser realized characters of Lucius Fox and the butler Alfred get some much appreciated screentime. Alfred in particular gets to show that he’s not just good for shuttling tea-time and visitor announcements. He’s pretty badass.
It’s not just about the hero’s stories in this, however, as we get an unexpected main villain with an unusual connection to the Batman family. It’s a chance to put Batman and his cohorts in some genuine danger whilst also furthering the goal of telling the tale of this emotionally dysfunctional group.
The action is mostly great with a mixture of 2D animation and 3D elements melded together for more dynamic effect. The villains are numerous and diverse, with unique powers that keep our vigilantes hands full. There’s some great bone crunching close-quarters combat, vehicle chases, aerial combat, and general badass use of hi-tech weaponry. Something rarely on offer in Marvel animated fare. At the end of the day, it’s about pleasing the fanboy and fangirl visually and viscerally, as much as it is about the plotting.
As with any feature of this budget, there are compromises and missteps. Some of the voice acting choices are a little off, for example. The ever recognizable lisping vocals of actress Yvonne Strahovski (CHUCK, Killer Elite) are a tad too distracting to be right for Batwoman. I wish they’d cast a voice that was a little less overpowering. There are exceptions (Harley Quinn), but for most characters the voice should inhabit the role not be the focus, not jock for the attention. Unfortunately and not that she could help it, but the character’s performance isn’t quite where it needs to be to work for the character. You notice this in more intimate, quieter scenes like the diner and bar talks she has with her dad, for example. Batwoman is an interesting character, but her voice was just a touch overwhelming.
Another minor complaint is with the last third of the film where we learn what happened to Bruce Wayne’s body. It feels like we didn’t quite wring enough story out of that moment and could have pushed for a little more interesting character study. I chock it up to the constrained time tables often experienced with these types of productions, but it’s a valid nitpick I’d argue.
Overall though, I believe this latest animated effort stands up there with other DC animated features. The characters, story, action, and overall quality of production is worthy of your time. If only MARVEL could find a way to bring this level of consistency and quality to their animated projects. Until then, DC for the win.
Batman: Bad Blood is available now on Bluray, DVD, and Digital.