In the last few years the straight to video Batman market has been flush with new entries. Almost everyone features a different look at the caped crusader with different personalities, time periods, costume styles, et cetera. This influx of films has been fairly hit or miss. Artistic liberties are one thing, but there has been a tendency to reinvent Batman in ways that don’t always jive with the comics or the fans’ interpretation of how the character should act.
It is here, teetering on this precipice, that we find ‘Batman vs. Robin’. All things considered this is a good film. It has depth and plot beyond just Batman beating up villains, and it utilizes characters relatively new to the universe (Damien Wayne, Talon, the Court of Owls) so there is no risk of tired thematic clichés.
However, the version of Batman in the film feels a bit off. He spends most of the film getting thrashed by all who come up against him. The screenwriters really bring home the notion that this is just a guy in a costume. Batman getting beaten in itself isn’t a big deal. It happens all the time, but usually it is going somewhere. Here it just keeps happening throughout all the way until the final fight where he again gets fairly owned.
One strong positive for this film is that it was clearly made with more mature audiences in mind. Blood and violence are front and center. This movie does not hold back or sugarcoat what is going on. People die. A lot of them. Sometimes in gruesome ways.
The plot, while interesting, leaves the viewer feeling slighted. The entire thing revolves around the Court of Owls and their secret control over Gotham City. There is a lot of build-up and some interesting insinuations that never go anywhere (the most interesting of which, that it was the Court that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents is only sloppily and implicitly dealt with). By the end of the film a lot of the more interesting plot points or huh? moments are just swept under the rug with a few lines of explanation.
‘Batman vs Robin’ is a decent Batman film. It leaves the viewer wanting more, but mainly because it does a good job building things up without giving a real satisfying conclusion. Films like this one show the weaknesses of the straight to video approach. Too much time is spent giving backstory and developing the plot. By the time the movie gets to the resolution there’s only enough time for ten to fifteen minutes of action, if that. Also, it sends mixed signals if the entire film is spent taking about how tough Batman is yet he loses in almost every fight shown.
Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD & Digital HD April 14.