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Damian Wayne lives again in animated feature 'Son of Batman'

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Son of Batman (Warner Home Video)

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The most fun part about DC Animated features tends to be the voice acting. This is where fans complain over casting director Andrea Romano's choices. Many times, there is a performance that really jumps out and that happens in Son of Batman with the rare extended look at Deathstroke, who is revealed to be the one-time successor to Ra's al Ghul as the leader of the League of Assassins. Voiced wonderfully sinister by Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds), Deathstroke invades the League's stronghold with designs on eliminating Ra's, in another sterling but ill-fated role for Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring from Breaking Bad), and taking the reigns himself. He succeeds in, at least, half of this endeavor.

Following the attack, Ra's daughter (Talia) and grandson (Damian) leave for Gotham City in search of the Batman, who happens to be Damian's father. After rescuing her beloved Bat from the clutches of Killer Croc, Talia attempts to put the moves on the Dark Knight. The exchange itself is a bit confusing as Batman takes a lot on faith here. He acknowledges that he and Talia were once intimate, though she drugged him at the time. He actually takes Talia's word at face value, strange, since Batman generally trusts no one, and an al Ghul almost least of all. Maybe there was a DNA test that we just weren't privy to.

Talia lets Batman take their son to keep him safe. As Damian settles in at the cave, Batman wonders how Ra's could have died while watching a video of him being revived in the Lazarus pit. Why does Batman have this video and how could he possibly have such a tight close-up on his face? Jason O'Mara, in his second go at the Caped Crusader, still isn't entirely convincing, though hardly the worst Batman the DCAU has given us (that would be Ben McKenzie in Batman: Year One). His vocal tone is best matched when the character is exasperated rather than authoritative.

David McCallum captures Alfred's droll sarcasm perfectly. The rapport between he and Stuart Allan's Damian is highly amusing. Damian definitely acts the S.O.B. in both meanings of the acronym but his moxie is impossible to like. He has a lofty opinion of himself and his abilities and always tries to back it up. The main problem with the story is Talia as a character. She is shown against type. She is an al Ghul and, as such, is to be domineering, contentious, and devious. She's not supposed to be reasonable or accommodating. She comes off as little more than Donna Reed with a katana. Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland) has an exotic beauty which doesn't translate in her voice here. She comes off as plain rather than a woman with great power.

Really impressive are many of the set pieces such as the establishing shot of Arkham Asylum. It displayed an incredible sense of depth, even in only two dimensions. Also lovely are the Batcave and the League's castle featured at the tale end of the second act. The score by Frederik Wiedmann is also properly bombastic. The action is the hallmark of the picture as it has gotten a lot closer to resembling a Spawn episode than anything created from the world of Bruce Timm and company. Never before has a Batman project had such riveting fight scenes sans Batman. Director Ethan Spaulding and his animators have bonded a poetry to brutality to create the offensive onslaught, a Cirque du Soleil with Batarangs and swordplay that Damian, the son of Batman, embodies.

While there is no real post-credits sequence, there are a bunch of stills of the Nightwing-Damian scuffle implied but unseen in the movie itself. Could this be a hint that the DCAU is planning the death of Bruce Wayne soon, settingup the Dick Grayson-Damian iteration of Batman & Robin?

Son of Batman comes to home video on May 6.

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