If you’ve been doing any sort of scorekeeping at home in regards to how many characters from Marvel Comics have gotten feature film adaptations vs. how many characters from DC comics have gotten the same over the past decade or so, then probably you’ve come to the conclusion that Warner Bros. has been dropping the ball with their stable of superhero properties. While Marvel has been systematically creating an interconnected cinematic universe that is now expanding out to include a whole host of new television series, Warners has desperately struggled when it comes to making movies for any of their characters other than Superman or Batman (let’s all just agree to forget Green Lantern).
And even their efforts on those fronts seem to be strife-laden recently, seeing as it was announced last week that Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man of Steel—the much hyped but still unnamed Superman/Batman movie that’s supposed to finally begin to set up an interconnected DC film universe—has been pushed back 10 months from its original start date [via Variety] so that everyone in charge can actually make a plan regarding what they want to do rather than just jumping in blindly and making a movie with a handful of superheroes in it in the hopes that it will somehow result in a highly lucrative Justice League followup. It basically seems like the people at Warner Bros. don’t have any idea what they’re doing in regards to superhero movies at all.
That is, it seems that way as long as you ignore all of the animated movies they’ve been putting out on video lately. If you factor those in, then suddenly the creative gap between the Marvel and DC camps begins to lessen. Over the past few years DC has been taking tons of the great storylines that are coming out of their comics division, adapting them into movie scripts, and then putting them out as straight to video animated features that usually end up being a lot of fun. And with the trailer for their newest effort, Son of Batman, it looks like they’re ready to offer us up yet another satisfying superhero treat.
Though I haven’t seen all of the animated DC movies that have come out over the past few years, I have seen a good handful of them, and I’d have to say that the ones that were the most enjoyable were Justice League: New Frontier, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and the two-part Batman: Year One. The thing that all of these movies have in common is that they take well-regarded storylines that appeared in the comics and were the works of high-profile creative teams, and they do the best they can to adapt not only the plots of the stories, but also their tones and the visual style of their artwork.
Son of Batman is promising, then, in that it takes the same approach. What we have here is an adaptation of the ‘Batman & Son’ story arc by writer Grant Morrison and artist Andy Kubert that appeared in DC’s main “Batman” title back in 2006. As you can tell from the trailer, the main gist of the story is that Batman gets taken aback when he learns that he has a bastard son who he shares with the daughter of one of his greatest enemies, and is then taken aback further when he also learns that said son is not a righteous seeker of justice like dear old dad, but instead a bitter little murderer who has vengeance on his mind far more often than he does justice.
The story here seems to be altered a bit from the one that originally appeared in the comics, because it involves the deadly assassin Deathstroke rather than another of Batman’s adversaries, the freakish Man-Bat, but, you know, seeing as Deathstroke is one of the coolest villains in the DC stable, we can probably go ahead and call that one an upgrade.
Why Warner Bros. is having such a hard time trying to figure out how to come up with live action DC movies when their animation division keeps looking to the comics and poaching exciting storylines is something of a mystery. Take any of these animated movies that have come out over the last few years, cast some name actors in the roles, give them the budgets of today’s summer blockbusters, film them as live action, and one has to think that Warners would have produced a string of huge summer hits. How is it impossible to make even one live action Justice League movie when they’ve been able to make about a half-dozen animated ones since 2007?
All whining aside, at least these animated movies keep coming out so that the comic book fans among us who aren’t strict Marvel loyalists don’t become completely deprived of superhero action. While these straight to video cartoons aren’t nearly as satisfying as theatrically released blockbusters would be, most of them have been pretty enjoyable, and if Son of Batman can get anywhere near the quality of things like New Frontier or Under the Red Hood, then it will be next to impossible to complain that it never got turned into a live action movie starring Will and Jaden Smith. That “be careful what you wish for” cliché exists for a reason, after all.