Monday, April 13, 2015

In ‘Batman vs. Robin’, Batman Faces One of His Biggest Challenges Yet – Being a Father

Batman vs. Robin is set months after the events of 2014’s Son of Batman.  Damien Wayne – now permanently staying with his father, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman, and serving as his Robin – is struggling with the paradigm change.  Raised and trained by his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul to kill without hesitation but is now being taught by Batman to avoid it – “Justice, not vengeance,” as Batman constantly reminds him – Damien has a difficult time keeping his grim, murderous instincts in check when dealing with criminals, but overcomes the temptation because of a sincere desire to honor his father. 

However, with both Bruce and Damien suffering from flawed and damaged personalities, friction between them is inevitable.  Bruce, concerned for Damien’s safety as well as the chance of him succumbing to the darkness inside him, wants to keep him in a tight leash.  On the other hand, Damien is deeply frustrated of his father’s lack of trust.

Batman and Robin’s strained, “powder-keg” relationship is inevitably set to explode.  All it takes is a spark.  And that spark came in the form of the Court of Owls – a sinister, secret society of Gotham’s rich and elite, who has manipulated the city from the shadows for generations to advance their agendas and preserve their power.  A part of their plans involves recruiting the rich Bruce Wayne into their ranks, but, ironically, also involves destroying his alter-ego, Batman, who they consider a great threat to their operations (I have no idea, though, why they didn’t do it sooner in Batman’s career).  The Court of Owls plans to attack Batman by exploiting the rift between him and Robin, and create conflict between the two (hence, the “Batman vs. Robin” title).  They intend to do this by sending their lead henchman, Talon, to win over Robin and manipulate him into joining their side. 

Batman vs. Robin’s plot made it possible for a compelling father-and-son drama unfold in its storytelling. And I believe the movie has successfully fleshed out what I think is the most powerfully unique thing about the whole “Damien Wayne as Robin”: the father-and-son drama it brings to the “Batman and Robin” dynamic – Batman struggling to be a father, Robin struggling to be a son.  Sure, Bruce Wayne also served as a father figure to Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake.  But it’s different with Damien because he’s his biological son.  The connection between them is much significant – as well as any chemistry and conflict that can develop – due to being their own flesh-and-blood with each other.  Batman’s struggles as a father put additional depth to the unique “humanized” charm that makes him stand out in the DC superhero pantheon.  And Damien being tormented in his search for identity, acceptance, and redemption makes him distinctive above all the Robins that came before him.  Above its enjoyable action and beautiful animation, this aspect, for me, is what makes Batman vs. Robin a great film. 

Miscellaneous musings:
  • Observation: Batman animated films > Justice League animated films.  So far, I haven’t disliked a Batman animated movie yet.     
  • I would love to see Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Robin” – wherein Dick Grayson was Batman with Damien Wayne as his Robin – adapted into an animated film.  But since that happened pre-New 52 and DC is seemingly adapting New 52 concepts exclusively for their current direct-to-video animated features, I don’t see this a likely thing happening.  Bummer.
  • I like Damien Wayne as a character.  The fantastic development of the character made him my choice as favorite Robin.  Yes, he’s an arrogant brat, but he’s a lovable arrogant brat.  However, I noticed that some annoyance was being provoked by the quality of the voicing of Damien in this movie.  The experience was like hearing Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope in Wreck-It Ralph.  
  • The cameo of future Damien Wayne Batman from Batman #666 was much appreciated.
  • Next on DC Universe Animated Original Movies: a dark, Elseworld-style story titled Justice League: Gods and Monsters, wherein Superman is the son of Zod (not Jor-el), Wonder Woman is a New God, and Batman is a vampire.  I recently saw the teaser trailer.  And it looks pretty godawful.  And the worst thing is that this is produced by Bruce Timm, the man who created the beloved “Timmverse” – the greatest animated adaptation of the DC universe.  I wish he opted for a more lighthearted project.

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