Batman: Bad Blood had been on my radar since the NYCC trailer came out last year. But it’s only after I watched The Killing Joke a few weeks ago that I actually had some interest in DC Animated Universe and feel compelled enough to watch this movie. Especially because it got my favorite spoiled prince in its roster.
After a run in with The Heretic (Travis Willingham) and his band of criminals ended up in an explosion, Batman (Jason O’Mara) disappeared. And though Alfred (James Garett) could cover for Bruce Wayne, Gotham still needs Batman.
So it’s about time Dick Grayson (Sean Maher) and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) comes home. After all, it is a family matters…
Unlike my conflicted feelings for The Killing Joke, I can say with conviction that I do like Bad Blood. Even if it’s admittedly hard for me not to, considering it had Damian Wayne and Dick Grayson. Both of whom are my favorite DC Comics’ characters… that I will not be able to see in the silver or television screen for years to come. And Bad Blood not only put the two of them together, but gave them decent amount of banter and begrudging teamwork. It’s impossible to not get me hooked. After all, the character dynamics are where Bad Blood excels. Despite having considerable amount of characters, each of them are given sufficient background story. Well, not for Dick and Damian since most knows who they are anyway, but Kate was spotlighted very well and Luke also got his moments. Even The Heretic had one! Before Talia took over, that is.
The downside, however, was that all of those background story are family-related cliches. Sure, family is a main theme which runs deep throughout Bad Blood. But that doesn’t excuse J.M. DeMatteis for the lazy writing and uninspired origin story. I give him props for keeping Kate’s in accordance to the comic book origins, but that only makes Luke’s worse. Hers is already a story where one’s family is being maimed as an entry free to be part of Batman’s world. So it’s shortsighted to give Luke a similar catharsis for turning point, especially when it loudly echoes Batman and Nightwing’s. It’s such a shame to waste this tweaked version of his Batwing origin story (thanks to Dana for the confirmation) on a run-of-the-mill family peril. It does add to the drama and makes it personal, but I’m sure there are other (better) routes they could’ve go with. Though that doesn’t make Gaius Charles any less charming as Luke Fox. Still charming, only undermined but typical characterization and backstory.
On the other hand, Yvonne Strahovski’s Katherine Kane got more than decent screen time and character exploration. With her hardened persona and ruthless methods, the Batwoman really stole my attention. And Yvonne delivers both Katey’s tough and tender moments, effectively sparked my curiosity and got me planning to read up further on her. That touch with Renee Montoya was also nice, a moment to shows that Kate, underneath that solid exterior, still is a human. Bad Blood is not short of badass woman, however, as it got none other than Talia Al Ghul. Though she weirdly looks like MCU’s Black Widow here, there’s no doubt she’s the same vicious soul bent for world domination and control. Voiced by Morena Baccarin (yes, that Vanessa), Talia is as cold, remorseless, and manipulative as ever. And yet she’s still appealing and you could see, really, why Bruce fell for her all those years ago and how she raised Damian to be that lethal.
But, as expected, the main reason why I like this movie is Stuart Allan’s Damian Wayne. Really, his Damian is the right mix of bratty, sarcastic, and adorable. You can see him being the spoiled prince that he is, not willing to back down to anyone and respecting no one (aside probably Alfred). Yet he still is a kid who admires his father and think the world of him. Which probably explains his tendency to stand up for Batman and why he stopped in that scene.
What I love most though, is his character dynamic with Sean Maher’s Dick Grayson. Their interaction reminds me a lot of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, although with more begrudging teamwork and less brotherly bond. Which is such a shame, since Damian and Dick works best when they’ve actually bonded and treat each other as long-lost brother. Then again, I suppose the treatment is appropriate given the timeline. Anyway, Sean Maher’s Grayson is more emotional and bitter than the one I remembered. Still appealing nonetheless, and made better Batman than Jason O’Mara’s. Seriously, this Bruce/Batman was missing for most of the time, yet still managed to be a pompous asshole. I really dislike this incarnation, though I’m not sure whether it’s because DeMatteis’ writing or O’Mara’s voice acting.
However, no matter how good the characters are, it couldn’t hide just how shallow and dull the story is. Maybe it’s because I already know about The Heretic and his ties, so the revelation of his true identity didn’t surprise me. The whole world domination plan, the “twist”, it was all too cliche for my liking. And, to be honest, the story felt like just an excuse to have those hella good action scenes that Jay Oliva blessed Bad Blood with. They’re tight, gripping, and heck load of fun. If it was a live-action, I would probably be screaming my head off. But even in it’s current animation sequences, it got me cackling with glee. Because they were that good.
From the very start, we were treated with various shots that makes the most use of the assorted villains. Aerial fight, hand to hand, gunfight, advanced techs… little to nothing got to waste. And Nightwing’s fighting scenes was especially pleasing because of his flexibility (winkwinknudgenudge). Damian’s was also nice because it makes full use of his tiny sizes, while Batwoman’s was surprisingly ruthless. Those final fights really delivers, so the lack of story depth didn’t bother me all that much. Still a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see Damian versus Talia, but I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I do get badass Alfred Pennyworth for compensation, after all.
Batman: Bad Blood was basically a warm tale about families and their importance, about having each others’ backs and fighting together when the time calls for it. It’s simple and predictable, true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. It kept me entertained with those thrilling fights and grin-inducing character dynamics, and it thankfully left no loose ends. Also, for the nth time in this post, it got Damian Wayne kicking ass and being the adorable spoiled prince that he is. What more can I ask for?
Director: Jay Olivia. Writer: J.M. DeMatteis. Released on: 20 January 2016. Casts: Jason O’Mara, Yvonne Strahovski, Stuart Allan, Sean Maher, Morena Baccarin, Gaius Charles.