The fact that Batman: Bad Blood draws its title from a Taylor Swift song rather than a comic should key everyone into the quality here.
Batman: Bad Blood is directed by Jay Oliva and is the latest direct-to-video DC Animation film to hit shelves. It follows newcomer Batwoman (voiced by Yvonne Strahovski) and the rest of the Bat-family (Sean Maher’s Nightwing and Stuart Allan’s Robin) after Batman (Jason O’Mara) mysteriously disappears.
Unlike most other DC Animated films, Bad Blood is not based on a comic and tells an original story. This unfortunately follows on from the previous animated films (Son of Batman and Batman vs Robin) where the quality of storytelling and ideas aren’t on par with possible comic adaptions could achieve. DC Animation has created some absolutely incredible movies, such as Under the Red Hood and Superman: All-Star but the difference is, all of those were based on original comic books rather than new stories. While Bad Blood may draw some ideas from its comic roots, this is still absolutely an original story and the film suffers for that. While the focus on the Bat-family rather than the titular Caped Crusader is a smart move, many of the other ideas are either not explored well, or far too simple and cliché. Its not that I’m against original ideas, its just that DC animation’s track record clearly indicates their original films are rarely on par with their adaptions, and their decision to not stick to their batarangs for Bad Blood was a poor decision based on that precedent.
Now that my little rant is over, Bad Blood’s plot itself does have a hefty few additional problems on top of everything previously mentioned. While the idea to focus on the Bat-family over Batman himself is a solid idea and does lend to fleshing out supporting characters much better, it also muddies the tone of the film. Often at times Oliva is going for a very epic feel and scope and for a Batman film, it doesn’t fit. It feels more like a Justice League story than a Batman story and while that certainly has its place, it doesn’t work in this context.
The pacing is also really janky as well. For the first two acts of the film it zips along at a good pace, but at a point it feels like we’re reaching the climax of the movie. And then it keeps going. And going. For another half an hour, until you finally realise that the climax wasn’t actually the climax and the lovely build up they had going was all for naught. On a positive side though, once they get to the real finale, its really solid. There’s high stakes, great action and a solid ending. Its just a shame the movie had to befuddle the audience on the way.
The best part of Blood is by far the characters. Batwoman, Nightway and Robin are all perfectly realised for the comics and each voice performer brings them to life. The new Batwoman draws from the New 52 relaunch and stands out thanks to her militant design and training, managing to be badass, interesting, and melancholy all at the same time. Nightwing is equally as well realised, managing to capture Dick Grayson’s quippy nature and acrobatic style, while fleshing out his relationship with Batman himself (who’s also great, side note). Damian Wayne’s Robin hasn’t changed much from the last two animated films, and still remains the vain, grumpy, sarcastic Robin he’s supposed to be. The biggest disappointment in the film is the new original villain known as Heretic. Original villains for Batman have a lot to live up to, but while his origin is interesting, his character goes nowhere and fizzles in the final act.
Another area Bad Blood succeeds is how it looks. Yes its animation standard isn’t Pixar or Dreamworks level, but it doesn’t need to be. Its still crisp, rich and stylish. All of the character designs are interesting and faithful, and multiple scenes feature imagery and colour that really pop. The action is equally as slick, keep up the fast, brutal fight sequences of prior animated movies. All the characters move quickly a gracefully, creating action deserving of the Batman name.
So yes, there is still definitely enough here to satisfy fans, but just barely. The strong characterisation and impressive action only just manages to balance the film’s story and tonal problems. Sure any proper Batfan is gonna watch it anyway, but is it going to be held on the same level as Red Hood or Flashpoint Paradox? Hell no.
General Audiences: Meh
True Believers (DC/Batman): Recommended