Hey gang, Valkor here. One of my favorite series in the new DC 52 lineup, without a doubt thus far, goes to "The Court of Owls" in the Batman books. It was an intense, thrilling and suspenseful ride right up until the very end that I have no problems reading again and again. My thoughts outside of the comics was that this series would make for the perfect set up for the live-action films, but the gang over at DC/WB had different intentions adapting the series into it's DCU animated line up, with a whole new spin and continuing with the ongoing struggles of the Bruce and Damian Wayne father/son relationship; check it out it’s Batman vs. Robin. Spoilers ahead, so be prepared.
Batman vs. Robin kicks off with Bats (Jason O’Mara) and Damian/Robin (Stuart Allan) on a mission to save kidnapped children from the hands of the Doll Maker (Weird Al Yankovic - say whaaaaat). In the heat of battle, the dynamic duo are separated leaving Robin to face off against Doll Maker by his lonesome, which isn't a problem for someone trained by the League of Assassins. But at the point of Doll Maker's capture, Damian has a choice to either end this fiend’s life or let justice decide his fate. He lets Doll Maker live but a mysterious figure dressed as an owl finishes the job – with gruesome results. Batman initially thinks Robin did it, but then is convinced otherwise. Should I mention that Damian is still a bratty, little snot? Yea, he is.
The mysterious owl figure goes by the name Talon (Jeremy Sisto) and his interest in Damian is to have him by his side as he’s about to join the Court of Owls; the Court of Owls is super secret organization made up of some of Gotham’s wealthiest, who have been deciding Gotham’s fate for centuries. Now they’re ready to make their appearance once again and taking out anyone who gets in their way – mainly Batman, who has been investigating group ever since he was a child, post his parent’s murder. Back then he had come to realize that the court didn’t exist, but in this present day, recent evidence shows the group exists. While Batman looks into the Courts goings on, Talon is grooming Damian to be his partner and it is up to the newest Boy Wonder to make the ultimate decision – either stand by his father’s side or the side that wishes him dead.
Batman vs. Robin is very loosely based on the Court of Owls series, with moments lifted directly from the books. But ultimately it takes on a life all its own as we follow the path of Damian, dealing with his powder keg relationship with his own father alongside this new father figure (or something of a big brother) that wants him to be something more. The film also gives us a pretty sweet rematch between Damian and Nightwing (Sean Maher) and a cameo voice from the true Bat himself, Kevin Conroy as Thomas Wayne.
The Good: I had mixed reactions when I saw the initial trailer for Batman vs. Robin; on the hand, I was super excited to see an animated adaptation of Court of Owls. But on the other hand, I felt disappointed at having the focus placed on Damian. And yet the final product proved to be just as much fun and exciting as the previous DCU animated films, upping the maturity levels and dealing with heavy subject matters not normally found in such films (Doll Maker states he lost his “innocents” as a child - yikes). I was indeed impressed. The story isn’t a direct adaptation of the book, but it sticks pretty close to the source yet making something new for the fans not privy to the books and sticking with the animated film continuity. The action is brutal and I mean brutal as punches produce much blood, bodies are impaled and even Doll Maker gets his heart ripped out of him; yup DC/WB pushed the envelope in the film’s level of violence and it's totally worth it. It definitely adds to the intensity and makes the film that much more entertaining. Stuart Allan as Damian gets plenty more to do than the other voice actors and his portrayal of the snot-nosed little brat is plenty spot on. I love the Damian character but at the same time I wanna whoop his ass for being such a brat… but given his skills, I’d be floored in seconds. Ahem. Props go to Jason O’Mara as well, whom I’ve grown to accept and enjoy as Bats/Bruce Wayne, though for the next film he’ll need to add a bit more grit to his Batman… or less grit for his Bruce Wayne. As it stands the two characters sound the same and there should be some differences. In the end, if you enjoyed the “Son of Batman”, then you’ll definitely want to continue the saga with Batman vs. Robin.
I’m still a bit disappointed by the fact that the Court of Owls wasn’t fully adapted, replaced with the continuing and precarious father/son story. What really upset me is that the ending battle didn’t include the entire Batfamily as well as other characters in the DCU, who came in to assist when Batman went missing and the Talons went wild. It would have been awesome to see Red Hood, Tim Drake’s Robin, Batgirl or any of the other characters involved show up to take on the Court's army. It was such a big deal in the books and yet it all got brushed under the table in the film. Definitely a missed opportunity. There were a few other missed moments that should have been carried over, but we’re not gonna go much further than that.
Doll Maker – creepy as fuck!
Batman vs. Robin is available now and if you’ve never read the series yet a fan of the DC animated films, then you’ll most definitely get a kick out of this new film; and even if you’re a fan of the books, there’s still something new for you to enjoy. The film features a decent story with loads of intensive action and highly entertaining. Out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving Batman vs. Robin 3.5 stars.