Batman: Bad Blood

I decided to take an evening off writing and watch an animated movie. I have been particularly fond of the DC animated films in the past, and so thought I would give a recent one (you can stream it for three bucks, cheaper than a cup of Starbucks coffee).

Well, I am about halfway through an animated feature called BATMAN FIRST BLOOD. So this is half a review, not a full review.

The premise is that Bats is missing, and it is up to Nightwing, an annoying kid named Damian Wayne (Bruce’s son by Thalia Al-Ghul), Lucien Fox’s son Iron Batman, and an annoying sexual pervert dressed as Batgirl, but who uses a gun to find and save him.

She is named Batwoman (the second or third of that name, if my count is right) and she has the same origin story as the Huntress or, for that matter, the Punisher.

If the film makers had kept the sexual pervert stuff in the background, or even the annoying brat quality of how annoying she was, or made the rest of the film good, I would be more understanding.

They did not, it was not, and I am not.

Nothing is kept in the background. Instead we have  scene of her father asking her over coffee in a kindly & fatherly fashion is she had found the right girl yet, because all widowers want their remaining daughter to expend her life in sterile sexual abnormality rather than, you know, give him grandkids; and then a scene of her hitting on a girl in bar, and the girl looking pleased; and when Dick Grayson says it took him a while for figure out how to talk to girls, she says it took her a while, too.

Get it? Because she is a homosexual, and, so, as a girl, she had to learn how to chat up girls. To have sex with them. Because homosexual girls have sex with girls. See? It is meant to be funny. Or something.

So the sexual pervert thing is made fairly obvious and in-your-face.

It is not portrayed in any realistic way. No doubts or hesitations by any character is shown about it, but all and sundry act as if it were perfectly normal, and neither an abomination nor a mental disorder. 

And it is not part of the plot. It is introduced gratuitously, for no reason, just to eat up running time while the audience is wondering whether Batman is dead.

I have not run across this character before in the comics, but I had heard rumors of an openly lesbian character, and what a progressive breakthrough that was in the Long March through all the institutions of the West!

But I would have thought the writers would have also made up something else about the character, to give her some depth or personality or purpose or something. A gimmick.

No, she is just a token sexual deviant, that is all there is too her, and all you need to know about it.

Let me walk that statement back: The fact that she uses a firearm makes her different from the other members of the Batman pantheon. And so, of course, she stops doing that in the second act.

And I kept thinking that this was what we had instead of Barbara Gordon, the daughter of the Police Commissioner, who is cute; or Cassandra Cain daughter of Lady Shiva, who is mute; or Stephanie Brown, daughter of the Cluemaster, a cut-rat Riddler, who was also once the Spoiler (not to mention once being Robin) and Robin’s girlfriend. Notice how all these character have a personality, or at least a gimmick, or something interesting. Not so Katherine Kane.

(Ironically, some anonymous editor on Wikipedia reports that the character of Batwoman was originally introduced in the 1950’s as a love interest for Batman, in order to combat an accusation spread by Dr. Wertham’s book SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT that Bats was a homosexual, and that comics were meant to corrupt the morals of the youth. So when the character was revived decades later, the comics decided to prov Dr. Wertham right.)

Damian Wayne continues his shtick of being the annoying brat we saw in SON OF BATMAN, which is not that annoying, if and when he is the only annoying, selfish, stuck-up character in the film, because you expect his Dad eventually to take a leather strap to him and straighten him out.

And since the set up of the story is that Batman is caught, tortured, and mind-bent by the bad guys because and only because Batwoman did not stop meddling with his crime scene and did not leave when asked, so that he had to sacrifice himself to save her, the fact that she is an annoying and self centered brat is also obvious and in-your-face.

And an incompetent. In the opening scene, right after Batman tells her to retreat otherwise she will get in the way, she is getting the stuffing kicked out of her by the bad bad guy and not laying a glove on him. She is flung off a high bridge to certain death when Batman has to intercede and save her Spiderman-lassoing-Gwen’s-ankle style. In so doing he must turn his back to the fight, and take a fistful of throwing stars in the arm, and then get blown up.

This is just bad writing. If she had been able to hold her own, or if Batman had greeted her with “glad you are here, I can use the assist” her getting curbstomped and needing rescue would have been a tense scene.

Or if she had realized that she was outmatched, and beat a retreat when ordered to, and been overtaken and overwhelmed, that would have been tense.

But a character who mouths off to the Batman, is told she is getting in the way, then says she needs no help, and then does need help and does get in the way …. well, at that point, before the opening credits even roll, I am already rooting for the Society of Assassins.

Stephanie Brown if thrown off a bridge would have used her gas-powered grapnel gun to shoot a batarang to a convenient protruding ledge or flagpole and saved herself. Cassandra Cain would not have been curbstomped. Barbara Gordon would not have mouthed off to Batman.

So Batwoman is annoying from the opening scene, as is the new Robin, Damian Wayne. Having two such characters is a bad chemical balance, particularly since the normal character arc of the annoying character learning to be a team player is not going to happen for either the brat or the pervert.

Iron Batman is actually named Batwing. He is a character I had not heard of before, so he may be original to this film. He also has a strange monotony of characterization and motive. He was in the military, and will not come work with Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises because he is, ah, independent and disobedient, or just one more selfish and annoying person in a film about annoying people. He is trying to avenge his dead (or horribly wounded) father, but how he happens to know how to operate the Bat Iron Man suit is left unexplained. His motive is the same as the Punisher’s, or Inigo Montoya.

Normally I would not notice what race a character is, but since Batwing is a cipher no more fleshed out than Bat-Lesbian, I wonder if he had been added just as tokenism also, something to fill out a PC bingo card.

Dick Grayson is asked what it is like being raised by Batman, and he answers that Bruce Wayne is just a mask holding back nothing but pain, and therefore Dick had an empty life, and wants now nothing more than to get away from Batman’s world, which he despises.

So, Dick is an ungrateful, selfish annoying jerk, and Bruce is an emotionally scarred, annoying, selfish jerk. That is five for five. Only Lucius Fox is a nice guy, and he gets stabbed.

Next, we discover the League of Assassins is holding Bats in a nunnery, guarded by the Little Sisters of the Poor. After a wisecrack or two about how nuns makes the perfect cover for an international crime organization, we get to see two big, strong men beating up nuns, or perhaps kunoichi dressed as nuns.

When invited to blow in the front doors of the Church, Fox smirks “God ain’t going to like this…” and Batwoman replies, “She has not been here for a long time….”

Get it? She? Calling God a ‘she’ is a sign of hipness, or smirkiness, or godlessness. Or something. It is meant to be funny.

What it actually is, is a blasphemy, because the writer has contempt for at least half his audience.

(The irony is that in the Marvel Universe, no one really knows which supercosmic being is running the cosmos, but in the DC universe, it is absolutely unambiguous that the Christian God, Jehovah, is in charge: cf. the Specter, or John Constantine, or Jason Blood, or Swamp Thing.)

The writer makes the same habit I have noticed only in recent comics of never giving anyone’s name or explaining their powers. Batman villains such as the Mad Hatter, Electrocutioner and Firefly are on stage but never introduced, or only called by a civilian name, along with half a dozen other minor super-crooks even I, lifelong fanboy that I am, did not recognize.

I suppose the writer simply expects me to know that “Tetch” is the Mad Hatter, who is an expert at electronic mind control (well, in that case, I did know) — but the lack of introductions make the whole affair seem meant for a small circle of this-year’s-fans only, to which I was not invited.

The animation quality is good. The voice acting superb as usual. But the thing is a piece of smarmy, smug, self indulgent wad of PC trash that forgets how to tell a proper story.

With a Batman film all you have to do is dust off one of Bruce Timm’s old ideas, get one of sixty years and more of comics for inspiration, and just make the characters seem cool and impressive. It cannot be that hard, since DC has had a string of excellent animated features since the days of, well, since the days of Bruce Timm. You have a built-in audience with nearly endless fan loyalty. How can anyone mess this up?

Answer: political correctness distorts and corrupts all normal human values, so that any institution, company, state, corporation or gathering which allows any political correctness to enter their decision making process, cannot stop devoted more and ever more effort and time to political correctness, until it chokes off the original purpose whatever it was, and leaves the institution unable to perform its original function. Schools the become infected can no longer teach the young, factories can no longer produce goods, courts of law no longer render judgments to uphold the public peace, et cetera.

This is true of all institutions, hence true of movie companies as well.

Maybe the second half is better than the first, but I have better things to do with my time.

BATMAN: BAD MOVIE

Where the hell is Bruce Timm? What happened to him? Who is in charge of DC animation branch these days?

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