For fun, search “Top Ten DC Animated Films“ and Son of Batman won’t be anywhere on those lists. Based on a story written by Grant Morrison, Son of Batman marks the small screen debut of Damian Wayne (voiced by Stuart Allen). In honor of DC FanDome week, let’s take a quick look at one of the most divisive characters in all of DC Comics…
This is Damian Wayne, the Son of Batman.
First and foremost, Son of Batman is not a film for kids. The violence is over-the-top and, at times, gratuitous. It also features mild language and multiple scenes of suggestive content involving sex and drug references. It is important to know this was Ethan Spaulding’s DC animated feature directorial debut.
The story begins with a young Damian Wayne talking with his Grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. Damian has trained his entire life alongside The Demon’s Head with the intent to eventually one day lead the League of Assassins. An attempt at a hostile takeover from Deathstroke during the film’s initial 10 minutes quickly sets up Son of Batman as one of the most violent in the franchise.
In mere moments, Ra’s Al Ghul is dead. The bonus is we learn how Deathstroke loses an eye after a quick encounter with Damian Wayne. With Ra’s Al Ghul’s death, Talia brings Damian to Gotham City to meet his father, Bruce Wayne.
If there is a knock on this film, it has to be the duration of the film. Standing at a brisk 74 minutes, the pacing of Son of Batman is so frantic that many of the emotional moments in the film take a hit. Many aspects of this film could have been further fleshed out with a longer timespan.
More specifically, Damian views his grandfather as a hero while Bruce firmly cements him as a mad man. Due to this, Son of Batman would have clearly benefited from a planned sequel or given multiple parts. It’s a huge missed opportunity.
In #SonOfBatman, a deep dive into the struggle between the parental responsibilities of Bruce Wayne and duties of putting on the cowl as #Batman should have been the central focus of the film. #DCFanDomeTweet
That would have allowed the more emotional moments of the film to truly shine but also firmly establish Damian as a mainstay in the DCAU.
The cast in this film is very good. The standout here has to be Jason O’Mara. O’Mara is terrific during his second stint as Batman. O’Mara’s brooding and deep tone is ideal for our favorite caped crusader.
He’s clearly not as strong as Kevin Conroy but he’s very good here. The next tier below O’Mara has to be Alfred Pennyworth, voiced by David McCallum. Alfred is amazing with some of the most memorable lines in the film.
But let’s talk about why we’re here today: Damian Wayne. Personally, I love him as the Son of Batman and think he’s one of the strongest characters in DC comics. Sure he’s arrogant and annoying at times, but that’s all part of his charm. It doesn’t take long for Batman to identify the similarities between Damian’s lust for vengeance to the death of his parents.
Talia Al Ghul, voiced by Morena Baccarin, is as fierce and independent as ever. Talia gets her moment to shine during an intense action scene during the beginning. We see Talia take down multiple assassins as Damian watches proudly in the background. Talia and Batman share the majority of the film’s more tender moments in the film.
One issue that needs to be noted has to be the casting of Ra’s Ah Ghul, voiced by the great Giancarlo Esposito. His character only lasts the first ten minutes of the film with his death served as the backbone of the film’s plot. The potential for that character was through the roof and calling it a disappointment would be an understatement.
THE ‘WTF’ MOMENT
The biggest question mark in the film begins and ends with Deathstroke and Damian Wayne’s skillset. In Son of Batman, Deathstroke’s abilities are nerfed to a point where he struggles to defeat a ten-year-old.
Damian is ridiculously overpowered in Son of Batman.
In the comics, Deathstroke is more skilled than Damian. In many respects, Deathstroke is both mentally and physically stronger than Batman. If you’re able to put those things to the side and forget the source material, the final fight between Deathstroke and Damian features some incredible choreography and set pieces.
In terms of highest grossing DCAU films, Son of Batman did fairly well. Regardless of its divisiveness, Son of Batman grossed nearly $7 million in sales. For comparison sake, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2 made only $4.2 million. Only 10 films (out of 37 DCAU films) grossed more money than Son of Batman.
So why the backlash from critics?
Son of Batman is a fun film that fell victim to some truly poor timing. Its release followed parts one and two of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in 2012 and 2013, two of the most critically acclaimed animated Batman films. While Son of Batman was a highly entertaining flick, the bar had been significantly raised and DC fans clearly wanted more.
Instead, DC was clearly more focused on creating an over-the-top Batman film that would firmly establish Damian Wayne into the DCAU. Those changes didn’t just include the increase in violence, however. The animation was altered to an anime-style medium that was a significant shift in style.
If you can get past the stark contrast between the film and source material, then Son of Batman is well worth your time. Damian Wayne, at least in my opinion, is a character with untapped potential on both the small and big screen.
Sure he’s overconfident and possesses a superiority complex. But if one looks beyond the whining and complaining, you’ll see a character that was raised by an insane mother and Grandfather within an even crazier environment (League of Assassins).
Give Damian some time to develop and I’m fairly certain you’ll share a deeper appreciation for the character. Son of Batman is not a great film, but it’s one that is absolutely worth a second chance. If you’re looking for an emotional rush with very few faults, then go watch Mask of the Phantasm. If you’re looking for pure entertainment, then look no further than Son of Batman and buckle up.