Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I saw the Caped Crusaders--at Odds...

In general, I've never been keen on the superhero-vs-superhero concept. This includes Marvel's epic Civil War saga, which is ever-so-popular at this point, and even when such conflict is at best only touched upon (as will probably be the case in Zach Snyder's upcoming "Batman v Superman"), I'm left feeling dissatisfied, if not betrayed. Why have good fight good? There is such a vast assortment of villains available in the DC/Marvel spectrum, with potential ones yet to be born, that it seems unnecessary to play upon the novelty good-vs-good. 

Above all, I find the sidekick rebellion most unsettling. (All right, I'll admit I'm okay with the Captain America/Bucky Barnes opposition as it evolved into the Winter Soldier saga, and even the whole Red Hood deal of a few years back I can swallow, but those scenarios are of a whole different relegation and not dealing directly with gee-whiz, youngsters-in-training.) Anyway, I really get my feathers ruffled when the likes of Kato and Tonto turn against the Green Hornet and Lone Ranger...and the same damn thing certainly applies to Batman and Robin.

With that being said, the latest DC animated feature, "Batman vs Robin" revolves around such an unpleasant circumstance. At least it's not youthful Dick Grayson turning smart-ass against his mentor, but that it's Wayne's son, Damian, doesn't make it a whole lot better. 

Now, granted, Wayne's offspring came across as a mean, little punk in "Son of Batman", but in that instance, he at least appeared to get on track by story's end. Alas, by the time "Batman vs Robin" gets underway, we find him under the spell of the contemptuous Court of Owls and possibly set to kill his dad, no less. 

Actually it's one member in particular who lures the new Boy Wonder into such an disrespectful position. His name is Talon: a Batman wannabe with a strong, Bane streak. However, I can't help but think that one as astute as Damian would immediately see through the villain's tactics. Perhaps he allows himself to be manipulated because, on subconscious level, he doesn't respect his dad, let alone the cause for which Batman stands: particularly, the avoidance of killing the bad guys (unless, of course, such is absolutely necessary). 

In any event, the Owls stem from a long-time underground syndicate with a tradition of brainwashing kids to become the assassins of evil: a Gotham-grown counterpart to the League/Society of Shadows. Image-wise, the fiends conceal their identities behind owl masks, which makes them fit comfortably into the Batman landscape, and to better their odds, Talon isn't the Council's only armored henchman. There's a whole damn, mystical battalion of 'em.

As scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and directed by Jay Oliva, the conflict (spoiler alert!) does work itself out by the time the credits roll. However, as engaging as events are (and I'd be a lair if I said they didn't hold my attention over the long haul), they can't erase the underlying unpleasantness of their premise. That element of betrayal remains a nagging, ceaseless thorn in what's otherwise a rousing piece of entertainment. 

On the positive side, "Batman vs Robin" offers top-notch animation, on a par with "Son of...". (Such should make watching the films back-to-back smooth and seamless.) Dick Grayson/Nightwing figures significantly in the story, too, which is perhaps an even greater plus. The plot also offers superb twists and turns, but I won't reveal them here. You'll just have to experience them for yourself.

Still, traditionalist fuddy-dud that I am, I want my Caped Crusaders on the same side, regardless of the selected Robin. This film pushes the divide a tad too hard for me at times, so much so that I'm not so sure I'll watch the movie often. Nevertheless, as a Batman/Robin fan, I've given it a place in my collection, and for those compelled to cover all bases, it will always be available to buy and rent: for better or worse, a new, official chapter in Batman's enduring legend. Make use of it, and decide for yourself where in the grand scheme it stands.

1 comment:

  1. Revisited the film. Sure, the conflict's premise is disquieting, but you know, it at least has a moral conviction about it: something to say about good and bad and the decision to choose one side over the other. That's pure, vintage Batman. I must respect that and therefore, the film's philosophical bent. Yeah, this is one I'll continue to think I'll be glad to re-watch down the line.