Apr 15, 2016

[Movies] Batman vs Robin (2015)

It's a little tricky keeping track of the various movie releases in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line-up since they are still direct-to-video releases and not theatrical or TV releases. Thus they don't necessarily get a lot of press leading up to the release. And that's a bit of a shame given a lot of them are actually quite interesting and certainly worth watching.

I had somehow missed Batman vs Robin amid the flurry of DC animated movies out there. I had picked up on the other titles but I had somehow glossed over the continuing stories written to feature Batman and incorporate additional stories from the on-going comics.

And while I'm at times a little confused about some of the directions these stories go and some of the characters they manage to rope in, one cannot complain about the quality of the animation itself. I'll go into this in a bit more detail in the review itself but there are some really great fight scenes throughout the movie that make it more than worth it.

Synopsis: Batman vs Robin is a DC Universe Animated Original Movie directed by Jay Olivia. The screenplay was written by J. M. De Matteis and is loosely based on the Court of Owls story from the Batman comics.

Some time has passed since the events in Son of Batman and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allen) continues to fight at Batman's side as Robin. Although specifically in terms of the movie, it starts with Robin taking the Batmobile without Batman's permission as he has a lead in locating Anton Schott ("Weird Al" Yankovic), man involved in the disappearance of several children. He's unable to handle it on his own however, but of course Batman (Jason O'Mara) arrives just in time to help. The initial sequence ends with Robin managing to catch up with Schott given he had tried to escape and manages to hold back from killing him as he reminds himself "justice not vengeance". However an mysterious assassin in an owl mask (Jeremy Sisto) goes on to kill Schott before Robin can react. As more run-ins with even more owl assassins start to happen, it seems there's more going on in the city.

It was a tad confusing to watch this story since I had read the Court of Owls comics and there were a good number of changes made to match the somewhat alternate timeline established by the more recent movies. You just need to learn to jive with the differences if you follow the comics, but it's all in good taste I feel and the end result is a pretty decent story.

Going into that story, the writing team clearly enjoys having fun with Damian's dialog. I'm not complaining - the little guy was unexpected comic relief by being so mean and aggravating instead of resorting to strictly comedic one-liners. But yes, they certainly had fun with this Robin's propensity to be a potty mouth, and for the most part it seemed to work.

I'm a little on the fence with the way they tackled this unique Talon character and his efforts to lure Robin into becoming a member of the court. It was a logical enough angle, I'll admit, but one that didn't quite feel as developed as it could have been. It just felt a little contrived more often than not, especially given how generally dedicated Robin was to becoming Batman as part of his supposed legacy as Bruce Wayne's son.

Now I do need to take a moment to gush over the fight choreography in this feature. As much as this was all animated, the movements felt incredibly realistic and very methodical in their choreography. Instead of just cutting from snippet to snippet of the likes of Batman executing key punches and kits, the director went with longer shots of a sort that went to greater lengths to animate the full exchanges between our heroes and their enemies as they tested their skills against one another. The fights almost felt like carefully orchestrated demonstrations of skill and not just wild fights as opponents would go from form to form in order to counter the other. It makes for a great movie experience and I really enjoyed such moments.

Batman vs Robin is a somewhat misleading title, but it's appropriate enough given the nature of comic book stories. The story is enough to get you in the door but you're sure to stay for the fight animation and just how beautiful it all comes together on the screen. Thus the movie gets a great 4 creepy undead talon warriors out of a possible 5.

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