More-or-less following on from the iffy SON OF BATMAN, BAD BLOOD is straight in with a well-staged brawl between Batman, Batwoman, and multiple C-Grade villains from the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery. In less sure hands, this would be a messy start to a story, but it actually ends up being a very solid animated Batman movie.
Batman (Jason O’Mara) has vanished. Last seen engulfed by an explosion, his allies start to fear the worst and former protégé Dick Grayson (Sean Maher) takes up the cowl in Bruce Wayne’s stead. Meanwhile, copycat vigilante Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski) and Wayne’s rebellious lovechild Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) are back in Gotham, and enemies are massing…
“Dressing like a bat doesn’t make you a hero, it just makes you a target!”. The film primarily follows Batman’s extended “family” and their efforts to keep his legend alive. There’s a pretty amusing recurring gag involving how bad a Batman impression Dick Grayson does when he is reluctantly promoted from Nightwing to Batman. He might think he looks like him, and the animators don’t make much of a distinction in the batsuits other than differences in the characters’ movement speed and agility, but as soon as Dick opens his mouth, everyone knows he’s not the Batman they expected. Another moment of black levity has Damian show how much he has learned and how far he has come on a moral level, only to crew it all up completely by accident the next moment.
Visually, the film is up there with the best of the Caped Crusader’s cinematic adventures. A striking nightmare sequence sees Bruce being figuratively and literally drowned by the guilt of failing his loved ones. The primary antagonist of the film observes that “It’s as if he’s defined by his pain”, and that pretty much sums up Batman as a character. The action is consistently imaginative throughout the film, is often quite violent and always kinetic.
The sexuality of Kate Kane/Batwoman comes up pleasantly casually in conversation. Hopefully the day will come where we won’t have to comment on any kind of entertainment media prominently featuring non-heterosexual protagonists, but the world being as it is it’s still worth highlighting when LGBT characters are well-represented. Batwoman’s fully-rounded portrayal and nuanced vocal performance from Strahovski certainly goes a long way to make up for the character’s simplistic, sexist and borderline misogynistic appearance in the early Batman animated movie MYSTERY OF THE BATWOMAN two decades ago.
Bad Blood is admittedly a film of odd contrasts. It has pathos and a tight script with good one-liners and real feeling behind it but it also has a scene featuring Nightwing and Batwoman fighting “nunjas” (they’re exactly what they sound like). The final set piece and our heroes’ solution is nicked unashamedly from THE AVENGERS, but it’s nice to see DC/Warner Brothers – in the animation department at least – seem to want to have as much fun as Marvel. By the time the end credits roll, we are left in a pretty interesting place for future animated adventures if this storyline is continued.
Bad Blood sadly does share some of the weaknesses of the previous Damian Wayne films – Wayne Jr is still a pretty insufferable character and the dark forces manipulating him are pretty two-dimensional, but overall it’s well worth dedicating just over an hour of your time to. At least this Batman doesn’t kill people, and there’s a key character moment that reemphasises that point. Take note Mr Miller, Burton, Snyder and everyone else that has mishandled the Bat – a 70 minute animated movie is a better Batman than yours! SSP