It’s another year so it’s another round of DC animated movies, however, this year is slightly different, unlike the previous 2 years, DC has 2 live action movies out this year at the same time, which will be part of their DC cinematic universe and they will be coming out around similar times to those various releases. For example, this film will be receiving its official release in the UK stores and through digital shops on 21 March 2016, only a few days before the release of Batman V Superman. I’m able to review it because I happened to import a copy from Poland, not out of any sort of spite towards the company or because I was impatient, DC simply wasn’t giving the information and I honestly didn’t believe the date that was being given on Amazon was correct because they weren’t providing any artwork and I didn’t see any official logos or anything to suggest this was officially coming from Warner Bros. So since iTunes weren’t honouring my digital release, despite the fact that it was promised that this film was going to be released early digitally before its physical release, which turned out to only apply to customers living in the USA, I went with a European import. Batman Bad Blood did receive its release across various nations of Europe and I decided to take advantage of it to make sure I could get a review out, assuming that because it was available on I Tunes UK so it would eventually receive a UK release and my review wouldn’t be complete waste of time. It has, sadly meant, however, that I couldn’t review either of the films I wanted to review this week, Grimsby or Gods of Egypt (which since intiallialy writing this review has been delayed with no known release date for the UK in sight at this time), though I will make sure that by the time this review is out I will have already placed my brief thoughts on both of those films on my Twitter account. So, before anyone says I don’t review enough comedies for this site in regards to Grimsby I am planning to review Whisky Tango Foxtrot in April in the slot that was potentially going to be getting this review had I not received my copy in time. Now we actually talking about the film, this film is set to be the 3rd part of a trilogy and an extra part of DC’s new animated universe where 2 films a year in the DC animated line up actually take place within the same continuity, this one following on from Son of Batman and the previously reviewed Batman Vs Robin and to a lesser extent Justice League War and the previously reviewed Justice League Throne of Atlantis. Now if you want my thoughts on both of those check out my reviews of the last DC animated films and my opinion that these films are beginning to go into decline whereas we usually would get 2-3 excellent movies a years, we are now getting 1 excellent movie. The previous 2 years examples being Batman: Assault on Arkham and the previously reviewed Justice League: Gods and Monsters. The trailers weren’t looking too bad plus they were suggesting that this one was going to introduce Batwing and Batwoman whose new 52 series I read the entirety of and really liked them both, mostly, I kind of stopped being really bothered by Batwing as soon as they changed to main characters half way through the series, but with this film coming out it meant that we were finally going to get a film with the extended Bat Family and that could lead to potential animated versions of each of the crossover of Batman events that had happened in the new 52. But with all that being said, did this film live up to its hype and has it improved on a lot of the points I have made about the previous films.
I should point out at this point, and this is a full warning, while I won’t be spoiling the plot of this film I will be spoiling the endings of Justice League Throne of Atlantis and Batman Vs Robin and for comic fans I will be spoiling parts of Final Crisis and possibly some of the various characters in the new 52 series. You Have Been Warned!!
The plot of Batman Bad Blood is that Bruce Wayne aka Batman (played by Jason O’Mara) is caught one night in an explosion caused by a raid from new villain The Heretic (played by Travis Willingham) leaving only one witness, Katherine Kane aka Batwoman (played by Yvonne Strahovski) and he is presumed dead. After news of his death is reported the Bat Family come from far and wide to protect Gotham. Damian Wayne aka Robin (played by Stuart Allan) returns from his contemplation temple in the Himalayas which he had left to join after the events of Batman Vs Robin and Nightwing (played by Sean Maher) returns from Bludhaven to take up the mantle as the new Batman, but is Bruce Wayne really dead and what is the Heretic planning with his cabal of villains. Now as usual these movies are short, this one coming in at 1 hour 5 minutes, so I can’t talk too much about plot details for fear of spoilers, but I will try my best. This, once again is directed by Jay Oliva and written by comic writer J.M DeMatteis and it shares a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses that their previous efforts had entailed, but surprisingly I think this one might be the better one of the trilogy, but these are my immediate thoughts on the film so I am not sure after a cooling off period that these opinions are going to be set in stone. This is the first time that one of these films in the current DC Animated Universe that has not been based on an established comic story line, instead trying to be an amalgam of the various new 52 series that arose post Flashpoint, most notably some of Batwing’s series a lot of Batwoman series, but most notably Batman Incorporated and to some extent we get a bit of pre Flashpoint influence with Grant Morrison’s run of Batman and Robin where Batman was Dick Grayson and Robin was Damian Wayne after Bruce Wayne’s supposed death during the DC event Final Crisis and there is a definite influence of Grant Morrison’s writing on the film as a whole. It’s just a shame, however, that the film never quite fully delivers the perfect adaptation that you would like. It’s a weird scenario, watching this film is like how Richard Hammond described Hovercrafts, it’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, disaster! There is a lot of merit to the film, people who aren’t really fans of Damian Wayne will be happy to know that he doesn’t get as much focus in this film as he did in Batman Vs Robin and Son of Batman, however, he is not entirely absent.
The film decides to focus on the four member of the Bat family most notably Robin, Damian Wayne, Nightwing who for most of the film is actually taking up the mantle of Batman, Katherine Kane, aka Batwoman and Batwing, who for the purposes of this film is Luke Fox, (played by Caius Charles).
Luke Fox unfortunately gets the least amount of the focus in the film, he is really bought in just to add an extra member of the Bat family for the climax, there is a bit of a plot around his relationship with his father Lucius Fox (played by Ernie Hudson) but he just isn’t given enough time for his plot to play out. I didn’t really enjoy the new 52 series when he took over from David Zavimbe and that was simply because his setting and character was just a lot more interesting than Luke Fox. They try to give him a new origin where he is an Afghanistan war veteran but it just doesn’t feel like he fully pulled it off, granted, he is not terrible, but he is hardly a character I want to follow that much. Hopefully we will get more use out of him as the films go on.
The other new character who gets their debut in animation is Batwoman. Now Batwoman is a really cool character and she is a character in her own right, she is definitely not a clone of Batgirl or just Batman with breasts! She has her own identity. I would highly recommend picking up her new 52 series as well as the mini series that she was in prior to the events of Flashpoint, however, I would side with a bit of caution as the stories get very dark. I am kind of excited to see her in the films and for the most part they get her right. I also like the fact that they did not shy away from the fact that she is one of the few openly gay Superheroes, however, they really go that far with it, for example they don’t show her in bed with another woman or even show her kissing another woman, though they do show her going on dates with Renee Montoya (played by Vanessa Marshall) who fans of the crossover event 52 will remember being her love interest in that storyline (as well as taking over the superhero identity of The Question) and for the most part this is done well. Her fight scenes look really good and she comes across as a very strong independent woman who doesn’t necessarily need the Bat family but could be enriched by aligning herself with them. But, oh dear, what happened with giving this character a gun, seriously, I have not idea what DeMatteis was thinking writing this is in, I have read the entirety of 52, her mini series and her new 52 series and never once does she use a gun!! I suppose this was developed to give her a contrast to Batman and the reason why Batman doesn’t fully trust her, but this is completely against the characters roots, what happened here!
Damian may get less of a focus but he has a good character arc throughout most of the film and it does have a nice pay off with its conclusion, it does feel like we are treading water with the comic story line which it is similar to, but I think this gets Damian much closer to his comic identity and establishes him more as the character we know.
The final one to talk about really is Nightwing, aka Dick Grayson who really does merge into the Batman role pretty damn well. I actually like a lot of the scenes with him as Batman because they reminded me a lot of the series that were written for him by Grant Morrison and I really liked the chemistry between him and Damian early on. Plus, his early scenes gave us a hint to the upcoming Justice League Vs Teen Titan’s movie, with him making a phone call to Starfire. It should also be noted that he does make some appearances in his Nightwing costume, which I won’t give away because of course this film only lasts 1 hr 5 minutes, so if I talk too much about it I am going to give away plot details. Trust me, if you think no one else can be Batman other than Bruce Wayne, this film may change your mind and if it does change your mind I would highly recommend going out and buying all of Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison and of course, stick with it for the 4th volume where he left the book to write Superman again. While each of these Bat family members do get a lot of focus, it’s also where the film has a real problem. There’s so much to get out there that the short space of time means were never get to know them all fully. Any one of these characters could have had a movie to themselves and could have been really good. It does feel a bit like DC Animated has tried to rush out the characters as fast as possible so that other story lines that have been done recently involving the Bat family can be done. For example, the Death of the Family or the recent Endgame. I would like one of those comics to be adapted because we haven’t seen the Joker in animated form for a while.
The biggest problem, however, is with the villains. The villains are damm good for the most part and they actually have a very interesting plan, which I won’t give away. The Heretic, like Batwoman, has been given a slight change, although it’s not to the same extent to the amount of change given to Batwoman’s origin in this. Anyone who has read the recent Batman Incorporated series will know exactly who The Heretic is and what his identity is so his reveal won’t be a shock, nor will the quote on quote plot twist in the middle be but people who haven’t read it might be in for a genuine surprise and the plot twist does change up the dynamic of the film, but it does come at the expense of The Heretic. The Heretic was built up big time in the advertising campaign for this film, but he is completely useless by the middle portion and is taken over by a new main villain. His cabal of other villains are made up of mostly b and c list Batman villains, most of which you will only recognise because you have played the Batman Arkham games, most notably Electrocutioner, Firefly and Killer Moth. The only one that I think people will recognise on sight is the Mad Hatter who is probably the best thing about this film as his character is got down really well, even though he is given a scene later on where he gets to turn into Odd Job for some weird reason! But all of this is un-done by the fact that The Heretic, the main villain of the film is completely un-done and I was really looking forward to getting a kick out of seeing what they would do with him. They even set up a decent character arc potential for him, but the second it’s done, he is no longer significant, again I am not going to give anything away because I really want people to check out this movie, but this is a massive let down. I don’t really care that much about some of the redesigned costumes for these characters. Most people keep their costumes the same as they appear in the comics, but The Heretic got the biggest change with his design in the comic resembling an Arabic Soldier, it’s been changed to much more of a Batman Bane hybrid for the film. This is probably a wise decision in the wake of instances like the Paris attacks, which is incredibly sensitive right now, though I do know this film was in production way before that so I know that did not play a part in that decision.
The film’s plot does move in an easy pace and I would say I could easily see reading this as an event in the Batman comics, but it doesn’t quite find a focus and stick with it, which is its major problem. I also felt that there were way too many character deaths in this film, which really weakens the potential for future films when you have less charaters to work with. If you are going to buy this film, beware, this is not really a kids film. Granted it doesn’t reach the same levels of depravity as say Deadpool, but it’s still quite mature at times, getting a PG13 rating in the states. It’s one of those films that I am not entirely comfortable recommending. I think Batman fans might have a problem with this one and I don’t think it’s going to satisfy everyone, which is definitely an opinion I got from reading the reviews on Amazon online. I also think, because of the short running time, there isn’t enough time for character development. Personally though, I think I enjoyed this one slightly more than the last two Batman movies released in the DC Animated Universe, simply because I think it told a better story and had better character development than both of those, but it doesn’t quite run away with the films I would have hoped.
If there is one thing that the film did great, the fight scenes are brilliant. These are some of the best fight scenes that DC animators have produced in a while, and while all these films are of a high standard, this one definitely keeps it up.
As for the actors, well, Jason O’Mara once again is a decent choice to play Batman and could potentially be an excellent Batman, but once again, because the focus in this film is not really on Batman per se, he doesn’t gain enough time to show his ability in this role. I would say, however, don’t write him off on that basis, but seriously DC give this man a role where he is largely the focus. Sean Maher finally gets the role he deserves where he can actually have signifcance on the plot and delivers an excellent Nightwing and a really good Batman. Stuart Allan, once again, is perfectly cast as Damian Wayne and I am looking forward to the fact that he is set to reprise the character at least one more time in the up coming Justice League Vs Teen Titans, seriously if you are reading a comic that has Damian Wayne in it, you are probably going to hear Stuart Allan’s voice in your head. Ernie Hudson is probably the biggest star in this and he does actually make a really good Lucius Fox to such an extent that I think he would be a good choice to play the character in the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe. There is some other decent casting as well. Bruce Thomas is still pretty good as Commissioner Gordon, but he is only given a couple of lines, so he is basically a cameo in this film. Travis Willingham, the current voice of Knuckles The Echidna in Sonic The Hedgehog does a really good job as The Heretic, it’s a shame the script has no idea what to do with his, so as a result he is barely in the film. Yvonne Strahovski is excellent as Batwoman, seriously, make a solo Batwoman movie and give this woman the lead, she is excellent. Gaius Charles does a decent job as Luke Fox, aka Batwing, but again the script has no idea what to do with him. The other weird aspect of this film, is the fact that I think there must have been a budget issue because despite the fact that we have actors like Vanessa Marshall as Renee Montoya and Geoff Pierson as Colonel Jacob Kane who both do pretty well in their respective roles, a couple of actors had to play multiple roles. For example, Robert Atkin Downes plays not only The Mad Hatter, but also Electrocutioner, Jason Spisak had to play The Calculator, Kuttler and Killer Moth as well as providing additional voice as a news reporter, and weirdly Steve Blum is in there as both Firefly and Black Mask. Now as Black Mast he is very well cast in that role even though we are basically hearing Steve Blum in the role, which anyone who watches a lot of Anime will know what he sounds like and he doesn’t really do anything different to his voice, in fact he kind of sounds like he is recycling his current voice as Wolverine in the various Marvel animated series, but it’s made even worse by the fact that these films are meant to have a shared Universe and Steve Blum is already playing Lex Luthor, which is what I was alluding to in my Justice League Throne of Atlantis review and the thing is, he’s not doing that different a voice to the one he was when he was briefly Lex Luthor. If the plans from that post credit seem to go through it’s going to seem really weird, I was half expecting Black Mask to take off the mask and reveal he was Lex Luthor all along! The only other actors to talk about are James Garrett who still does a very good job playing Alfred Pennyworth, although I don’t think he’s as good as many of the other voice actors, such as the actor who plays him in the Arkham series and of course John DiMaggio gets in there as both Blockbuster and Tusk, who feels really wasted because he barely gets any lines. Overall it’s a decent cast, but everyone is use to different degrees, hence the different degree in performances.
As for the animation, well it’s the same as usual, I can’t really comment much more different that before. It’s the same animation that was used in Justice League Throne of Atlantis and Batman vs Robin, which I have already reviewed and is once again based on Jim Lee’s art style to give a sense of continuity between film, which on that hand is pretty good. It does give a sense of continuity, but one of the things I really enjoyed about these films was noticing the different animation styles that would go into each film based on what artist worked on that specific comic. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia acting up, but I definitely thought there was something to help each one of these films seem like a separate entity. I also think that I should point out that many of the character designs have been slightly shifted. For example, Batwing gets a rather different sort of suit than he had in the comics and I have already mentioned about The Heretic. Most stay intact, however, the closest to the comic counterpart being Batwoman that looks like it was note for note. The animation is still pretty impressive and makes the fight scenes look fluid and alive and I really don’t have any complaints about it overall. None of the characters look weird or out of place and on a technical level the film looks great, it will look especially good on Blu Ray where they will allow that animation to pop out. While we are on the subject of the fight scenes, once again I have to mention that they are excellent and brutal. Seriously this is what the live action films in the DC Cinematic Universe are going to have to replicate if they want to stand up against the Marvel Cinematic Universe which is already producing excellent fight scenes.
Batman Bad Blood may have a stupid title but it is actually quite a good film, for the most part, it does however, make a few drastically bad moves which stifle me from fully enjoying this movie. The animation is still really good, the fight scenes are good, I like the fact that the film finds a pretty good focus and sticks with it even though it means we can’t get a huge amount of character development throughout the entire film and it builds to a pretty good climax. The villains eventually get good and their plan works out, but it does feel like it’s at the expense of some of the main villain, The Heretic. It does seem surprising that a film called Batman Bad Blood doesn’t really have that much focus on Batman. I think it’s worth a watch especially if you in some way enjoyed Son of Batman and Batman Vs Robin. The cast also deserve a note of praise because they are all very well cast and I am looking forward to them reprising their roles in future films.
It comes out on Blu Ray in the UK on 21st March and will also be available to purchase digitally on iTunes then. I would say it’s worth a watch if you enjoy the DC Animated Movies. It’s good, but it’s not perfect. I think It stands firmly in the middle, but I would say I preferred it to both the recent Justice League movies and I think to Son of Batman and Batman Vs Robin.
The next film DC animated will be producing is Justice League Vs Titans and the DVD I own had a preview of that film which I think will be available on the UK release and it looks really good. That will be getting a review on the site in the future.
“So what were your thoughts on Batman Bad Blood, the 3rd in the trilogy. Did you agree with me or did you have a different opinion?”
Please leave a comment, I welcome all opinions. Hopefully I will get your comments when it is released in the UK.
What do you think is the best DC Animated film at this point in time? My personal favourite would be Batman Under the Red Hood, but I am welcome to be challenged by that.
My next review will be at the cinema and on 11 March I will be reviewing the latest Cohen Brother’s movie ‘Hail Ceaser’
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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