1. What’s it about?
Batman vs. Robin is the latest addition to the DC Universe Originals line of direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated movies.
The film picks up with Damien Wayne (son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul) already established in the mantle of Robin. It’s still early days, though, so Damien and Bruce are more or less continually at odds with each other. Trust issues abound, and Damien is effectively being held prisoner in Wayne Manor behind a security system designed to keep him in.
As the duo is tracking down The Dollmaker one night, a mysterious figure intervenes and suddenly makes the routine patrol go very, very wrong. That figure turns out to be Talon, the assassin advance guard of Gotham’s mythic secret society, the Court of Owls.
Bruce enlists Dick Grayson / Nightwing to help train and set the new Robin straight, but things don’t exactly go according to plan.
The Court of Owls has taken an interest in Robin, and they’re using Talon to drive a wedge between Batman and Robin. It helps that the man behind the Talon mask has a childhood history that allows him to bond with Damien.
As the same time that Talon and the Court have taken an interest in Robin, they’ve also taken an interest in Bruce Wayne. Quite coincidentally, I’m sure, but you can see where this is going, right?
Damien, being the impulsive, headstrong, grandson of Ra’s al Ghul that he is, bonds with Talon over their similar childhood traumas and joins him. The inevitable eventually occurs, and there’s an epic rooftop throwdown between Batman and Robin. Thus the title.
(In other words, we get to see Batman beat up a kid. His kid, no less.)
Oh, did I mention the zombies? There are zombies. In his quest to destroy Batman, Talon unleashes a legion of (surprisingly nimble) undead warriors along the way. As you do.
2. Is the rating appropriate?
An important point to make here is that not all of the DC Universe animated movies are entirely kid-friendly. Batman vs. Robin is rated PG-13, and it definitely earns that rating.
Obviously, whether it’s appropriate for your child is up to you, but I should note that there’s a considerable amount of on-screen violence and blood, including several somewhat brutal deaths (including one in the opening minutes of the movie), so I wouldn’t recommend it for the youngest Bat-fans out there.
3. Do I need to have seen or read anything else to enjoy it?
Not really. Even though it could be seen as a sequel to 2014’s Son of Batman, the story isn’t really a direct continuation of that or any of the previous original animated movies, even though several actors reprise their roles from earlier films. The villains in the film–Talon and the Court of Owls–also made their first appearance in the Batman comics relatively recently with the launch of the “New 52” in 2012. This film, however, is not a retelling of that storyline, and any backstory the viewer needs to understand is handily introduced through dialogue and plot exposition.
4. Anything else I should know?
There are a couple cool cameos to keep an ear open for. Kevin Conroy pops up as Thomas Wayne in flashbacks, and Weird Al Yankovic appears briefly as The Dollmaker.
The film was also written by veteran comic writer J.M. DeMatteis, who is beloved by DC and Marvel fans alike for his various takes on the Justice League (including the legendary “bwa-ha-ha” era of Justice League International) and the pivotal Spider-Man tale, Kraven’s Last Hunt.
If you’re a fan of Nightwing, you might be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. For obvious reasons, he’s meant to be a mentor to Damien, but he literally gets his butt handed to him in every fight he’s in. Damien, Talon, and Talon’s zombie army all take turns kicking his ass, and he comes across as nearly worthless in every fight. I mean, cripes, even Alfred is more effective in a fight here. (Literally! He packs a mean shotgun.)
5. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
It’s a DVD. Hit pause, and you’ll be fine.
6. How about the special features?
There are a variety of special features on the disc, including a couple featurettes, a commentary track, a few trailers, and a few random episodes of older DC animated series.
The biggest draw, however, is probably the sneak peak at the next animated feature: Justice League: Gods & Monsters. Set in an alternate DC reality where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are not the characters you know and are actually borderline villains, the story really has its roots in the Elseworlds tales DC used to put out.
Most intriguingly, though, is the involvement of Bruce Timm, who returns to the DC Universe animated movies as producer and clearly was very involved in character design and world-building. If you’re a fan of Bruce Timm and the “Timmverse” style (i.e., Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League), then there certainly appears to be a lot to look forward to with Gods & Monsters.