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Batman: Bad Blood (2016)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/2/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/8/2016
Many movie franchises and television series have been built around a main character. And while there are supporting characters and while we may like those supporting characters, we typically tune in to see the main character. However, every once in a while, the powers that be will decide to allow those supporting characters to capture the spotlight for themselves, while the main character is either in the background or absent all-together. This is a risky proposition, as supporting characters are there to support, not carry the load themselves. Batman: Bad Blood, a new direct-to-video animated production, takes this approach, as Batman steps aside so that other heroes can man (and woman) the fight.
As Batman: Bad Blood opens, Batman (voiced by Jason O'Mara) is spying on an exchange between a group of criminals, when Batwoman (voiced by Yvonne Strahovski) sudden interrupts and a huge fight breaks out. Batman finds himself being attacked by a brute in a bat-like mask who is known as The Heretic (voiced by Travis Willingham). As the battle reaches its peak, a bomb is revealed. Batman throws Batwoman to safety just as an explosion levels the building. Weeks later, there is still no sign of Batman. Dick Grayson (voiced by Sean Maher), the former Robin who now fights crime as Nightwing, decides that Gotham City needs Batman, so he dons the Batsuit to attempt to stop a string of crimes which have been occurring around town. Meanwhile, the latest Robin, Damian Wayne (voiced by Stuart Allan), learns that Batman, who is his father, is missing, so he leaves the Tibetan monastery where he's been training and returns to Gotham City. Dick, in the guise of Batman, Batwoman, and Damian join forces to find Batman. They will soon be joined by a new Bat-hero as the search reveals a connection from Damian's past.
Batman: Bad Blood followsBatman Vs. Robin in a series of new movies which feature Bruce Wayne and Damian going through their very antagonistic family situation. Based on some research, I see that these movies are inspired by, but not based directly on, stories from the Batman comics. It appears that the basic blueprint for the story in Batman: Bad Blood came from a relatively recent comic book storyline, but some details (including one huge one) were changed and several new characters were added -- the comics appear to focus solely on Batman, Damian, and Nightwing. As I've noted in countless reviews in the past, I'm a huge proponent for the makers of comic book adaptations to look to the source materials for inspiration.
The DC Universe animated films have shown a consistent level of quality and while Batman: Bad Blood is a solid effort, it's also one of the weaker of their recent entries. Why? Two words: not enough Batman. I noted in my review for Batman Vs. Robin that one of that movies low points was that Batman was in a constant state of getting beaten up and therefore couldn't really do anything. Well, apparently someone at DC liked that idea, as Batman is almost completely removed from the picture here. This allows the new characters, Batwoman and Batwing (voiced by Gaius Charles), to come forward. Is there anything wrong with bringing in new faces? Not at all, but when it compromises the main character, this can be a problem. (Not to mention the fact that I assumed that Batwing was a newly created character until I did some further research. He feels like an attempt to bring a Transformers-like character into the franchise.)
The other main problem with Batman: Bad Blood is that the story is all over the place and the movie is simply too crowded. In our new age of The Avengers, apparently one must have a group of heroes (or villains) in order to be en vogue. We get five heroes here (plus Alfred (voiced by James Garrett) for support) and at least a half-dozen villains. The result is a movie which has a lot of people doing a lot of things inside of a very narrow plot. However, it must be said that the limited storyline does include quite a number of twists. (Well, they were twists to me at least, as I'm not familiar with the stories from the comic books.) The bottom line is that we get an action-packed opening, several scenes of dialogue, and then an action-packed finale. The middle section isn't all that interesting and the lack of Batman only makes things worse. Kudos to the movie, which is ostensibly aimed at younger viewers, for staying true to Batwoman's storyline from the comics, but I hope that future entries into this Batman series will bring us what we (I) want: Batman actually doing something.
Batman: Bad Blood does something shocking to that Abraham Lincoln-looking guy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The overall style of Batman: Bad Blood is very akin to anime, so we get that "haze" which can often accompany the medium, which I think diminishes the level of detail. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get a nice amount of surround sound and stereo effects here, most notably during the action sequences. We are treated to nicely detailed individual sounds at times during these scenes. The subwoofer really rocks with explosions.
The Batman: Bad Blood Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. "Putting the Fight in Gotham" (26 minutes) is sort of an odd extra, as it contains interviews with many artists (both in comics and film) who have worked on the Batman character discussing Batman's fighting styles. Citing examples from the comic books and from the various animated incarnations of Batman, they talk about how Batman approaches hand-to-hand combat. "Expanding the Batman Family" (14 minutes) examines how, beginning with Robin in the 1940s, Batman has amassed a group of side-kicks and allies who work with him in fighting crime. The piece shows us panels from the comics and clips from various sources, as we hear comments from DC advocates. "From the DC Comics Vault" offers two episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long