Â “It’s the script, not the kid”.
Let me regale you with a personal story. When I was writing this up, I was sure I knew the big problem was. Â “It’s Damian. My god is this kid annoying.” Sure, I had other points I needed to make, but the fact was my main problem was Damian, the titular son of the Dark Knight.
Then I kept thinking about it. Saw all the various flaws the film had until they all started piling up like a twenty car accident on the I-45. I kept thinking about it and realized that it wasn’t just Damian. Just saying that would be the easy target; “It’s the kid”, and go onto a long diatribe for against the kid. I came to understand that it would be unfair to burden the badness of a single movie on one character because he acts like a petulant little brat. This was a script problem, for both Damian and the rest of the cast as a whole.
Before we wade our feet into a quagmire of crap, let’s focus on the good. Almost all the voice actors are game for the material they’re given, save for Morena Baccarin’s wandering accent as Talia and Stuart Allen struggling with some of the lines* The action is all pretty damn good, if a little over the top (i.e. supposedly non-superhuman people blocking bullets with swords, Damian surviving getting kicked into a stone pillar, Batman tossing a bunch of Man-Bats like they’re nothing, ect). Hell, the over the top bits like the Gorilla-Bat attacking Batman really prevent the film from being completely onerous. And special mention should go to David McCallum (NCIS’s Ducky) as Alfred, giving the man the exact amount of dry wit and authority for the character.
*Author’s note: Let’s get one thing straight: no blame for Damian Wayne’s character is being thrown at (nor should it be thrown at) Stuart Allen. He did the best he could with what he had and what he had was a bratty character and a really weak script. The kid’s obviously got potential (the fact that Warner Bros. hired this kid over just getting a voice actor who specializes in kids is proof of that). So let’s not make this into a Jake Lloyd situation where a kid gets his bullied and blamed for what boils down to bad writing.
And now for the crap! First off, can I just say the inciting incident of the whole story ( Deathstroke’s invasion and attempted coup of the League of Assassins) makes no damn sense? Slade does scream “I was your right hand!” at Ra’s in their duel and we do get some exposition from Talia when she meets up with Bats to reveal their son, but otherwise we get very little for a motivation. Hell, we aren’t even shown why his banished from the League! Also, why is Slade even associated with the League when in any other media he’s his own guy with his own plans. The only explanation I can see is that they needed a bay guy for Batman and Damian( our eventual Robin) to fight and Deathstroke was the only name villain they could think up that fit the whole ninja angle (even though Deathstroke has never been a major part of Batman’s rogues gallery).
Also, why did anyone feel the need to adapt the “Talia drugs and essentially date rapes Batman” plot point? There was no need to, guys. Just say Bruce and Talia got hot ‘n heavy one night and nine months later: Bam! Son of Batman! You didn’t need to go down Creepy Ave. And you definitely didn’t need to have Bats say it “wasn’t all bad”.
Those two points above are just small section of the iceberg that is the script for the film. Everyone seems to have taken a level in asshole or dumbass in the script. Worst recipient is Dick Grayson, Nightwing in the film, who goes from probably the most well adjusted of the Bat Family (save for maybe Barbara Gordon) to an arrogant jerk for no other reason than to bicker with Damian like he was his big brother and not a grown ass man. Damian comes off generally less like a capable kid who could hold his own in a fight to near Gary Stu level of characters traits. He’s not only a world-class ninja, but also a master swordsman, computer hacker skilled enough to hack the Batcomputer and a master sleuth. That’s just too much, especially for a character just you introduced. And Bruce, let me give you some advice: when you see a child with extreme skill with a sword and murderous intent, you should see that as a sign to give him emotional support and some damn therapy, not as a potential crime-fighter you idiot!
The biggest example of characters becoming over the top assholes can be found with the Dark Knight himself. As he’s interrogating Killer Croc to figure out what the hell he was doing stealing mutagens or something, Croc’s basically falling apart due to some form of super-steroid/mutagen he was taking to e stronger. Batman, upon seeing this, deduces that the best way to get info out of Croc is to rip off the tail Croc’s grown to get info.Â Yeah, I know that Croc does not have a tail and it probably would fall off given time, but the fact remains BATMAN RIPPED OFF SOMEONE’S LIMB TO GET INFORMATION!!! Even if you want to give Bats some leeway with how he gets info out of people, that’s torture! And he doesn’t even blink about it! Even the grim n’ gritty Christopher Nolan Batman had to take a step back and wonder “My god, what have I done?” after crippling Sal Maroni by dropping him of fa two story roof. I mean Jesus, there are lines that Batman will not cross, and he just strolls across one without so much as an acknowledgement of what happened. Not even Jim Gordon acknowledges it, and he was in the room! I’m pretty sure Gordon wouldn’t approve of that crap happening on his watch.
That last bit, Croc’s torture, is what ultimately kills the movie for me. With that, the whole rest of the picture came into a focus as an excuse for action scenes instead of telling a decent story. I can’t call this “NOT a Batman film” but I can call it a bad Batman film. Let’s hope for better in the futu…
Wait, they made a sequel? Son of a bitch.