Batman: Bad Blood (2016) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence throughout and some suggestive content
Running Time: 80 min.
Cast (voices): Stuart Allan, Sean Maher, Jason O'Mara, Yvonne Strahovsky, Gaius Charles, Morena Baccarin, James Garrett, Ernie Hudson, Travis Willingham
Director: Jay Oliva
Screenplay: J.M. DeMatteis
Review published January 20, 2016
Batman goes missing and it's up to Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, to put on the Batman cape-and-cowl costume so Gotham City won't be overrun by criminals looking to take advantage of his absence. Joining forces with fellow heroes Robin, Batwoman, and Batwing, Grayson seeks to get to the bottom of the mystery of Bruce Wayne's whereabouts before he ends up gone for good.
Bad Blood partially gets its title from the fact that it showcases heroes who are attached to the Batman "family" in some way, with Nightwing as the former Robin, Damian Wayne as the current one, and Batwoman as the equivalent of Batman but without the moral stance to not use guns or kill the bad guys. It's Kate Kane/Batwoman's first appearance in the current animated continuity, which adds the belated introduction of a lesbian hero, as well as the newcomer named Batwing (aka Lucius 'Luke' Fox), so fans of their comic book counterparts will have something fun to follow. There's also one more member of the Batman family who makes a fun cameo appearance at the end that suggests we'll get a continuation of this current storyline for at least one more movie.
Some will see it as a continuation of events started in Son of Batman, which introduces Damian Wayne into the DC Animated Universe, as well as Talia al Ghul, Damian's mother who once procreated with Bruce Wayne. Once again, the League of Assassins are the bad guys in this animated entry inspired by the "Leviathan" story arc written by Grant Morrison for the "Batman" and "Batman Incorporated" comic books. It's the second straight animated Batman effort for director Jay Oliva and screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis, who collaborated on the second film in this arc, Batman vs. Robin, and it produces about the similar results in terms of combining enough action, humor, and comic book dialogue to appease the fans, even if it will likely only merit watching for those who like the Batman cartoons thus far. Even then, some fans may be disappointed that the real Batman isn't front and center -- which is the point, of course, but some tune in specifically for the big guy and couldn't care less for his supporting players.
Too many characters to follow, too many c-list villains, not enough screen time for any of them, and not nearly enough of the one character everyone is already on board to see: Bruce Wayne/Batman. While it's fun to see Alfred Pennyworth get a scene where he gets to lay down some whoop-ass, and the climax involves a Batman vs. Batman II confrontation, these are just a couple of minutes of entertainment amid a film that seems in too big of a hurry to get all of the characters it wants out there for upcoming movies, to the point where we're given short shrift on caring about any of them without the foreknowledge of their print counterparts. All this, plus the main plot of Talia al Ghul controlling the minds of heads of government to put her own people in place seems to not only be sketchy in its rationale, but also is the kind of 'world domination' plot more befitting for the entire Justice League to tackle, rather than Batman's bench players.
Batman: Bad Blood is a middling entry in the series, probably on par with Son of Batman in quality, which means it is really only of value for die-hards who have to see every "Batman" property out there, especially those who like the current universe of animated features.
©2016 Vince Leo