Batman: Bad Blood
Fortunately not a rendition of the Taylor Swift song as sang by Bruce Wayne, Batman: Bad Blood managed to be released without my even noticing it was coming out, having come out to relatively little fanfare (at least compared to Justice League vs Teen Titans) in early February. Given that we only got three DC Animated flicks last year, and they were all oddly clustered into the first half of the year, I'm wondering whether these two films and the due-to-come-out-soon The Killing Joke might be the only animated stuff DC gives us in 2016.
Loosely based on the Batman Incorporated and Battle for the Cowl comics, as well as the Leviathan storyline, Batman: Bad Blood sees Batman presumed dead after an attack by the Heretic, a mysterious man with Batfamily-esque skills who Bruce seems to recognise. With no other choice available to him, Dick Grayson takes up Batman's mantle, with Damian as his Robin. Batwoman (or Kate Kane), a vigilante who was often at odds with Batman, joins Dick in the search for his killer, and before long they're joined by Luke Fox, Lucius Fox's son, using the high-tech Batwing suit. It swiftly becomes clear that there is a deeper conspiracy behind the Heretic, though, one centered around none other than Talia al Ghul.
|All these villains now know Bruce's secret identity.|
So, it warrants mentioning how even by the standards of a DC Animated film, this is a fairly all star cast. The usual voices are back - Jason O'Mara as Bruce, Stuart Allan as Damian, Sean Maher as Dick - but they're joined by Yvonne Strahovski, of Chuck and Mass Effect fame, playing Kate; Gaius Charles as Luke; and Morena Baccarin, of Firefly, Stargate, and Gotham, as Talia al Ghul. Somewhat hilariously, this is Baccarin's fifth role as a DC universe character - she played Black Canary on Justice League Unlimited, Cheetah in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Leslie Thompkins in Gotham, and Gideon in both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
The whole voice cast does especially well, but extra credit has to go to Sean Maher, who manages to not only voice Dick, but also do a pretty good impression of Jason O'Mara, since the story requires that Dick impersonate Bruce a few times.
The animation is very strong - smooth, fluid, colourful, essentially what I always expect from these films. The way they animate Dick Grayson always looks very strange to me, and Kate's totally chalk white skin stands out as looking especially weird (as, for that matter, it does in comics), but those are my only real problems with it.
In terms of storyline, the pacing is often - very odd, as is the relative focus given to each member of the ensemble cast. We only meet Luke once before he gets his dramatic moment in the form of his father being stabbed, and while Kate gets a lot of scenes fleshing out her personality and her family life (enough that you could make a decent argument for her being the main character of this film), Luke never really gets anything short of a quick scene where Lucius urges him to join Waynetech. I would, if I'm being honest, struggle to tell you what Luke's personality is, and he often seems incidental to the entire production - compare and contrast with Kate, who gets more out-of-the-suit personal life scenes than pretty much every other character put together.
(Luke does get his own rival in the film, but it's Firefly, and thus doesn't really count, because Firefly is barely a member of Batman's rogues gallery at the best of times.)
Oddly, even though Kate gets a lot of focus, she never really gets any character development. She goes from wanting nothing to do with Batman to wanting to be a part of his team, sure, but we're never given any reason for why she changes her mind like that.
Dick's character development is pretty similar, with him deriding Batman for most of the film before suddenly doing a one-eighty and declaring that Batman is the best man he's ever known. We're given no reason why he would change his mind like this, and no indication that he in any way thought that prior to the moment he loudly declares it. It's strange, to say the least.
|You can tell it's Dick, because the costume has more colour on it.|
Meanwhile, Damian's side of the plot sees the Heretic kidnap him, intending to basically download Damian's memories and personality into himself - but the kidnapping lasts all of about six minutes, and ends with Talia rather anticlimactically shooting the Heretic, thus killing off the guy who seemed to be our main villain in an oddly undramatic fashion, and putting a very definite end to Damian's subplot when it had really only just started.
The actual main plot itself is fine, involving Talia wanting to brainwash world leaders, although for some reason this requires an evil floating convention centre and I have no idea why.
All in all, a slightly strange film, but a fun one to watch. I do recommend checking it out, but then I recommend that with most of DC's animated stuff, so that should come as a surprise to nobody.