This review contains spoilers.
Batman: Bad Blood is a 2016 film directed by Jay Olivia and starring Jason O’Mara and Yvonne Strahovski. After the disappearance of Batman, played by O’Mara, Dick Grayson, played by Sean Maher, has to assume the mantle of the Bat to keep Gotham criminals scared while he searchers for his former partner.
I love that this is very much a film about the Bat-family. Olivia stated in an interview on DC All Access that the original title was Bat-Family which I think should have stuck. The film continues the story of Damian Wayne as Robin who is again played by Stuart Allan while introducing Strahovski as Batwoman/Katherine Kane and Gaius Charles as Batwing/Luke Fox. Dick, Katherine and Luke are cool characters that have interesting parallels. They are all afraid of a legacy that they try to avoid. The main theme of the film is forging one’s own path. These three characters are trying to define themselves apart from their family while not cutting that family out. It is a struggle we all deal with when we are the ages of these characters.
Additionally, Batwoman and Batwing are just fun characters. Their designs are fantastic and it is great to see them in animation. They also have different motivations and morals than the other members of the Bat-Family. Luke is not nearly as dark while Katherine is quite a bit more dark. I love that is Batwoman at the start of the story. There is backstory that is given later in the film but she is in the suit from the very first scene; that is fantastic. Strahovski and Charles are both excellent as their respective characters which helps bring both to life. Ernie Hudson is a lot of fun as Lucius Fox as well.
The animation is a vast improvement over Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin. I believe that this is helped by two things. The first is that there is a wide array of villains and heroes all with unique abilities and styles. It makes the action and the animation more varied which helps the movie be more fun. Additionally, the entire climax takes place during the day on a watchtower in the sky. The animation, especially the backgrounds, during this portion of the film are beautiful. And, again, it varies the animation away from poorly lit rooms and the night sky.
The trend with these recent animated Batman films in this continuity is to combine a Grant Morrison story with a story from the New 52 and I do not understand why. By doing this, Olivia and the writers don’t have the time to properly explore either story so they end up being disappointments. In this film, they are combining Morrison’s story where Dick Grayson was Batman after Bruce Wayne died with the New 52 Batman and Robin story with the Heretic in which Damian dies. Neither one of these stories is as interesting as they should be. I was really excited about this film because the relationship between Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin was a lot of fun. The inversion of Batman being the lighter one with Robin being dark was great. In the film, there just is not any time to explore their relationship. Dick hardly spends any time in the suit. It is fun while it lasts and Dick is interesting but he is not given nearly enough screen time despite being the protagonist of the film. And Damian is given no character beyond what he learned in the last two movies.
The Heretic and Talia al Ghul are practically glanced over. Their relationship and their plan was tragic and engaging in the comic but there’s nothing to it here. Talia is just a crazy over-simplified Bond villain and Heretic is her henchmen. There is a moment where they almost do something interesting but it’s taken away instantly.
And with these two stories that could fill an entire movie on their own, they feel the need to throw in Batwoman and Batwing. Presumably, they did this so they could rush and do Death of the Family next year but there is just too much happening in this movie. While I do like Batwing, he is not developed nearly as much as I would like him to be; his origin and motivation is skimmed over just to get him in the suit.
Batman is the least interesting character in this series which is a shame since his name is in the title of all three films. A part of that comes from O’Mara’s performance who just sounds bored. He never displays a single emotion in any of these films. Bruce comes across as just a piece of wood. Maher’s bad impersonation of Batman is a better Batman voice than what O’Mara has been doing.
This movie should have been called Bat-Family. While some may find that cheesy, it is a million times better than Batman: Bad Blood. The obvious reason is that Taylor Swift just had a massive hit called Bad Blood and all anyone can think of when they hear the title is the song by Swift. I do not think that Batman should be associated with Taylor Swift; they don’t seem that similar to me. Additionally, if you think this is an awful song as I do, pleasant thoughts are not in your head. And then there is the hilarious How It Should Have Ended Parody called Bat Blood which certainly does not help. I know it’s just a title but it has bugged me for months and I have no idea why it is called what it is.
Overall, I obviously have a lot of problems. The story is too compacted and nothing in the plot lives up to its potential. However, it is handled more effectively here than in the previous two films. I was actually engaged and invested in what was going on because they managed to get me to like some of these characters. They didn’t succeed at that with these versions of Bruce and Damian but I do like Dick, Kate and Luke and that pulls me him. The action and animation are a vast improvement and the cast is really good for the most part. I definitely recommend renting the film because it is worth a watch. If you are going to buy the blu-ray, definitely get the Best Buy exclusive which comes with a mini-comic version of Battle for the Cowl and a cool Nightwing figure.