Batman: Bad Blood Review
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For a tortured vigilante waging a lonely battle against all of the crime in Gotham City, Batman has amassed a ridiculous number of partners and allies over the years. There have been at least four different Robins in the comics, along with various iterations of Batgirl, Batwoman, and other Bat-hyphenated superheroes. Following after Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin, the latest DC animated film, Batman: Bad Blood, explores the hero’s growing, and more than slightly dysfunctional, family.

During an encounter with a recently arrived Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski), Batman (Jason O’Mara) is ambushed by a gang of supervillains led by the mysterious Heretic (Travis Willingham) and goes missing. Nightwing (Sean Maher)—the original Robin, who’s now grown up and operating independently—returns to Gotham to investigate the disappearance and assume Batman’s identity in order to prevent the city’s higher than normal criminal population from running wild. Along the way, he’s joined by Batwoman, the newest Robin (Stuart Allan), and Batwing (Gaius Charles), the son of Batman’s resident tech expert.

Batman: Bad Blood borrows a number of elements from writer Grant Morrison’s series, Batman Incorporated, both in the choice of villains and the theme of Batman as a symbolic identity that multiple individuals can leverage against the darker side of humanity. But while Morrison had several years and multiple comic book series to lay out his intricate story, this film clocks in at a scant 72 minutes, making it difficult to fit in a full plot along with satisfying arcs for the each of the four principal characters.

Nightwing probably gets the most development, and it’s to the film’s credit that it ushers Batman off-screen early in order to give his protégé the spotlight. Maher’s a pretty good fit for the more light-hearted hero, and his banter with Allan’s cocky but brutal Robin is a reminder of why that partnership worked so well during its brief run in the comics a few years ago. Batwoman and Batwing do get their own moments, but both could have used a little more room to develop fully before having to turn back to the main plot.

Even if moving too fast does a disservice to the overall story, the action helps to make up for it. The animators really shine in the fight sequences, blending fluid imagery with strong choreography. It has to be tough sometimes for these direct-to-video animated films to work in the shadow of their billion-dollar live-action counterparts, but these guys are clearly putting in the effort to give the audience its money’s worth.

The DC animated universe has relied pretty heavily on Batman over the last few years, and if they’re going to keep doing that, they’re going to have to expand the concept. Batman: Bad Blood proves that some of these up-and-comers are ready to carry the story forward. Like any father, even one as nontraditional as Bruce Wayne and his assembled clan of crime fighters, that’s something to be proud of.

Blu-ray Review:
Batman: Bad Blood doesn’t overwhelm with extras, but it does offer a pair of pretty decent featurettes—one focused on the film’s well-executed action sequences and another that fills in the backstory for those who may be encountering some of these characters for the first time. To help round it out, there’s also a pair of Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes and a short preview for DC’s next animated film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans.

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