Another year, another straight-to-video animated Batman film. With so many in recent years, from the dreadful Batman and Son to the more original Assault on Arkham, Batman: Bad Blood manages to fall right in the middle, and may be indicative of these movies as a whole with its mediocrity.
In contrast to the previous Batman vs. Robin based on the Court of Owls story arc, Bad Blood is an original tale taking influence from a variety of recent events in Batman comics. The movie follows the action surrounding the apparent death of Batman at the hands of a new mysterious foe calling himself the Heretic. In his absence, Gotham calls on the aid of any remaining Bat-family members such as Nightwing and Batwoman to fill the void and discover the mystery behind the disappearance of Bruce Wayne.
After the recent Justice League: God and Monsters which saw the return of the stylized Bruce Timm animation of old, Bad Blood reverts to the traditional animation style that these DC animated movies have all adopted post-The Flashpoint Paradox, which is quickly growing stale. This now familiar style is beginning to feel soulless and assembly-line manufactured, perhaps as DC continues to pump these movies out, with the next in the series already planned for release in March. Alternatively, it could be a side effect of the attempt to streamline these films into a specific New 52 continuity, allowing for an animated cinematic universe to join the ranks of their television and planned film series. Whatever the case, it has allowed these movies to feel hollow in their presentation.
This lack of personality is only exemplified with what I feel is a disappointing voice cast that DC has apparently settled on. It’s no doubt subjective, but I’ve always felt Jason O’Mara’s Batman was an uninspired choice, bringing neither the darkness nor the intimidating confidence that characterizes Batman’s voice. I’m not saying Kevin Conroy should always play the character, other actors like Bruce Greenwood and Roger Craig Smith have proved themselves worthy successors (or my personal favourite Jeremy Sisto), but I can’t help feeling disappointed with almost all of his lines. The rest of the cast is similarly featureless, with the exception of Kate Kane and her father who manage to bring a bit of life to the otherwise unexceptional characters.
These criticisms could easily be hand-waved away if Bad Blood presented a fun and exciting narrative of everyone’s bat-themed superheroes, but as the end credits rolled I couldn’t help but ask myself why this movie had to exist. The story isn’t as offensively bad as Batman and Son, but that at least had the excuse of an adaptation of a popular tale. Batman: Bad Blood however, offers nothing new or engaging that couldn’t be found in a simple serialized television episode in the same vein.
There is nothing of substance, intense drama, startling revelations, or any engrossing narrative hooks to Bad Blood. It is simply a side-story in the mythos showcasing a new bond between the Bat-family. This type of story didn’t need an entire film dedicated to its telling. Is DC so fixated with Batman that they feel the need to release any content featuring the character, regardless of significance? There’s to be no follow-up Wonder Woman story, or another Flash-centric movie, or any of the countless other superheroes in the DC lineup, because we have to instead see every event in Gotham? Coming from a fan of Batman, Bad Blood crosses a line into needlessness.
Maybe Batman: Bad Blood is symptomatic of the plan for these animated films as a whole. I can understand and look forward to retellings of some big new events like Justice League: War, adaptations of classic stories like the upcoming The Killing Joke, and even the zany new ideas like Assault on Arkham and Gods and Monsters, but it’s movies like this that scrape the bottom of the creative barrel that dampen my expectations on DC animated as a whole.
We won’t get more highlights like Under the Red Hood if Batman is continuously mined for any content without downtime and thought put into it. I implore DC to set these stand-alone Batman films on the backburner following The Killing Joke and return when you have something truly interesting to give us. Because the way these movies are being churned out, I’m quickly losing faith in any of them promising anything beyond a dissatisfied “meh”.