Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence and language.
Voices of Jack Dylan Glazer, Jack Griffo, Troy Baker, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Darin De Paul, Tom Kenny, Zeno Robinson, Nolan North, Myrna Velasco.

Taking the role of the superhero sidekick to the next level, Battle of the Super Sons delves into the family lives of Batman and Superman to present an entertaining, though somewhat derivative, adventure.

The story focuses mostly on Jonathan Kent, the pre-teen son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane who is being raised by his parents in Smallville. When he starts developing powers such as heat vision and super strength, Jonathan’s father reveals his true identity as the son of Superman, and takes him to meet Batman to test the extent of his Kryptonian abilities.

In the Batcave, Jonathan meets Damian Wayne, the current Robin who is the son of Batman and Talia, daughter of the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul.

Soon enough, Batman and Superman are called away to deal with a Justice League crisis involving Starro, the mind-controlling starfish alien who has made its way to Earth and begins possessing the population.

With Batman, Superman and other members of the Justice League infected, Jonathan and Damien must team up to free them from Starro’s control.

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The concept of Batman and Superman having children who team up is hardly a new one, first presented in the comics in alternate reality stories in the 1960s and 1970s. Those tales weren’t much of a stretch from a creative standpoint, with the sons named Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. and basically serving as mini-me versions of their fathers.

It wasn’t until the past decade or so that Batman and Superman gained true sons in the main DC continuity, paving the way for a revival of the Super Sons concept using Damien and Jonathan. And really, the idea of pairing a variation of Superboy with Robin is just a fun team-up.

Battle of the Super Sons is purportedly the first of the DC Universe animated movies to fully use CGI for its animation, and the results are pretty good. The style is evocative of traditional 2D animation with some anime influences for the action. Colors are bright and vivid, and the story lends itself to bold action sequences.

While the story works to translate the Super Sons concept from page to screen, it does feel a lot like a mash-up of popular trends in comic adaptations and some wish fulfillment on the part of the writers. Starro, who was actually the original foe of the Justice League back in the 1960s before being sidelined as somewhat goofy, has become a bit of a trendy villain of late thanks to being featured in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. But the mind-control element does let the writers have some fun with letting Damien and Jonathan fight some members of the Justice League, including their own fathers.

Meanwhile, the notion of Superman and Lois having kids and moving to Smallville is the premise of the TV series “Superman and Lois.”

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The whole history of the Super Sons concept, how it shines light on some of our favorite characters, and the effort it took to make a movie out of it is covered in the 15-minute featurette “Rival Sons: Jonathan and Damian.”

The Blu-ray also includes bonus episodes from “Batman: The Animated Series” in the form of “The Demon’s Quest” two-parter, a story arc in which Ra’s al Ghul kidnaps Robin (the original, Dick Grayson) in an effort to get Batman to take his place. These episodes were probably chosen because they deal with the Batman/Talia relationship and thus connect to Damien’s history.

 

 

Injustice

4K ULTRA HD REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence.
Voices of Justin Hartley, Anson Mount, Laura Bailey, Zach Callison, Brian T. Delaney, Brandon Micheal Hall, Edwin Hodge, Oliver Hudson, Gillian Jacobs, Yuri Lowenthal, Derek Phillips, Kevin Pollak, Anika Noni Rose, Reid Scott, Faran Tahir, Fred Tatasciore, Janet Varney. 

While comic book superheroes have been likened to a modern form of mythology, stories about the characters tend to be constrained by a desire for them to inhabit a reality that for the most part mirrors our own.

This needs stems mostly from the nature of a recurring medium that allows the storytelling to remain topical to the times. Rather than exploring how the heroes could use their powers to impact problems on a global scale, most stories tend toward the heroes fighting evil counterparts of themselves, the supervillains, whose defeat allows humanity to continue along its own course while giving the heroes something to do.

Occasionally, though, the writers of these stories do explore how such characters could change the world if they were real, usually in the form of one-off adventures outside of ongoing continuity.

Marvel famously did this on a regular basis with the “What If…?” comics that were adapted into the Disney+ animated series. DC Comics did something similar with its “Elseworlds” branding, which had been preceded decades earlier by the “imaginary story” that put its characters in situations that didn’t have to return to the status quo for the next month.

Along those lines, Injustice asks what if the superpowered heroes of DC Comics decided to impose their own sense of justice upon the world.

The animated movie is based on the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us and its comic book tie-ins, the plot serving essentially as an excuse for a versus game that allowed various DC heroes to fight each other “Mortal Kombat” style.

The hero at the center of the story of Injustice is Superman, who learns Lois is pregnant with his child. Before he can celebrate, however, the Joker unleashes a scheme that involves tricking Superman into killing Lois and setting of a nuclear bomb that destroys Metropolis.

Consumed by the grief of losing his true love, Superman (voiced by Justin Hartley) and declares his intentions to impose order on the world so that such acts of evil can never happen again. Giving into his anger, Superman begins a killing spree against the Justice League’s enemies, anointing himself the world’s judge, jury and executioner and setting him down the path of tyranny. His change in philosophy fractures this Justice League, with some joining him on his new mission, while others, led by Batman (Anson Mount) vow to stop him.

The ensuing conflict is brutal, as the film earns its ‘R’ rating with bloody fight sequences that yield a high body count of heroes that normally couldn’t be killed off so casually.

Fans of the Injustice games and comics have voiced misgivings over the way the movie omitted many storylines and changed others while cramming as much as it could into a 78-minute running time. Those who are able to engage the film on its own merits, however, might find it to be an engaging superhero allegory that speaks to the heated political times in which we live.

The story plays into an underlying debate over security vs. freedom that has some obvious real-world parallels. At various points in the story, Superman decides to implement covert surveillance on all of humanity, while demanding an extreme version of gun control.

While the film isn’t afraid to go dark, it’s not without its lighter side and the occasional moment of levity. One highlight is the pairing of Harley Quinn (Gillian Jacobs) with Green Arrow (Reid Scott) in an oddly effecting partnership.

The Blu-ray includes one featurette, the half-hour “Adventures in Storytelling: Injustice — Crisis and Conflict,” a roundtable discussion of some of the films’ creators talking about the source material and the different themes explored by the story.

Also included is the two-part “Injustice for All” two-part episode of the “Justice League” animated series that originally aired in 2002.