Batman vs. Robin

| April 12, 2015

The latest entry in the DC Animated Universe, Batman vs. Robin (2015), marks the fourth installment in DC’s series of interconnected, straight-to-video animated narratives (after the pair of Justice League pictures—War and Throne of Atlantis—and Son of Batman). It also, to my mind, stands as perhaps the most impressively realized animated feature to come out of either Marvel or DC since Marvel Animation and DC Entertainment took up the format in 2006/2007. If that sounds like some mighty high praise, I assure you it is, because I love me up some Marvel/DC animated features of old!

To first address the elephant in the room, Warner Bros. reportedly has this new “no jokes” approach to their DC movies that most everyone I know (including myself) finds absolutely absurd. After all, it would be tantamount to Warner telling their audiences that they’ll no longer be having any fun at the movies… and last I checked superhero movies were fun. Of course, their approach is more about stressing grittiness than it is actually removing jokes, and sure enough Batman vs. Robin has that gritty feel that we were led to believe DC would be henceforth pursuing almost exclusively. Yet, it’s simultaneously insanely fun too, showing that that their “more grit” model can work when the grit is applied in moderation. Sure, there’s still the occasional chuckle-worthy quip strewn throughout Batman vs. Robin, but it’s not really those stray jokes that make the movie fun. It’s the zombie ninjas, mech armor, shotgun-toting butler, and “Weird Al”-voiced psychopath that make Batman vs. Robin a surprisingly good (if dark, gory and violent) time. And this is to say nothing of the Nightwing/Robin battle supplementing the titular Batman/Robin conflict!

More importantly, Batman vs. Robin’s one of the few animated features from either studio that doesn’t feel rushed or truncated in any way. Loosely based on the “Court of Owls” storyline from DC’s New 52, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis wisely takes vast liberties in the presentation of the Court of Owls narrative here, omitting some characters’ stories entirely to make the most of the 80 minutes allotted. In the past, more than a couple DC Animated features have attempted to tell bigger stories than is feasibly possible in 75-80 minutes. Take Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), for example. While a solid little movie, its story lacks the depth of the Darwyn Cooke comics from which it was adapted, while retaining essentially all the complexity. As a result, the narrative feels tragically short-changed.

By contrast, since Batman vs. Robin serves as a sequel to 2014’s Son of Batman (with which Batman vs. Robin shares much the same cast of voice actors), the characters have already been well-established by the time our story begins. That allows us to get right into the action with only a minimal amount of exposition. Let Batman and Robin face off against the Dollmaker (voiced by Al Yankovic), establish the legend of the cult-like Court of Owls who supposedly control Gotham from the shadows, and we’re off! It’s all Batman family in-fighting, mind games, and zombie ninjas from there on out.

Batman vs. Robin is a lot of fun, but it’s also worth noting that the PG-13 rating the movie received should be seen by parents as a strong PG-13. The violence is actually far more graphic and intense than I’d anticipated, and I was therefore quite glad I didn’t watch it with my son. So just bear in mind that if you’re keen on picking this up for your kids, you might want to screen it first if your kids are particular young or sensitive to violence.

Batman vs. Robin arrives April 14, 2015 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-Ray Deluxe Edition, Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD. The Blu-ray Deluxe Edition includes the Blu-Ray Combo Pack along with a Batman figurine, which is more statuette than action figure, mind you. Special features on the Blu-ray release include a feature-length audio commentary; two featurettes; the Merrie Melodies short, “Super-Rabbit”; one episode each from the DC animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman: The Animated Series; and a sneak peek at the upcoming Bruce Timm animated feature, Justice League: Gods and Monsters.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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