BLU-RAY REVIEW: Batman – Death in the Family (2020)
Everyone who’s into comic books surely knows about the classic story told within the pages of Batman comics back in 1988, which saw readers vote to kill off Batman’s newest ward, Jason Todd a.k.a the second Robin. The story of Jason’s demise and resurrection, which saw him take on a new mantle in the form of the gunslinging vigilante known as Red Hood, was adapted into an animated film in 2010 with the title Batman: Under The Red Hood which quickly became a fan favourite as one of the top-rated movies within the DC Animated Universe.
Now though, they have once again adapted the story into DC’s first interactive animated movie experiences, where they hand over control to the audience and allow you to decide the fate of the characters. However, whilst this may sound interesting, be warned that there are seven alternate endings to this feature, and each choice menu has a time limit, so choose fast, but choose wisely. As in life, each choice has a consequence.
Batman has taken on a new ward that has taken up the mantle of Robin, Dick Grayson’s former alter ego. However, Jason Todd is a lot more impulsive than his predecessor, having rushed into danger almost without thinking, and causing investigations to almost go cold due to his actions, such as injuring a criminal who could have given them information, but the injury Jason gave him was so severe that the criminal went into shock and was unable to communicate.
Later discovering that two of Batman’s rogues have plotted something sinister, Batman chases after Ra’s Al Ghul whilst Robin goes looking for the Joker, alone. This doesn’t end well for Robin, as he is captured and beaten with a crowbar until he is on the verge of death.
In the original story, Robin dies and is later resurrected through the Lazarus pit, returning to Gotham under a new guise, as The Red Hood. A vigilante similar to Batman but without his morals and restraint.
In the 2010 film Under The Red Hood, Bruce Greenwood voiced Batman/Bruce Wayne, who was joined by Jensen Ackles as Jason Todd, and John DiMaggio as The Joker. However, in this new interactive feature, one of those voices has been replaced. Jason Todd is now voiced by Vincent Martella who many of you will recognize as the voice of Phineas in the hit television show Phineas & Ferb. Compared to Jensen Ackles’ voice in the same role, Vincent Martella certainly brings a fresh younger take on the character, whilst Jensen’s felt very adult despite Jason Todd’s appearance when he takes the mask off. I’d say that for me personally, Jensen’s voice was better suited for the look of Red Hood whilst Vincent Martella’s voice is better suited for the Jason Todd look, which means it would be great to see them combine the two and have Vincent portray the younger form of Jason Todd whilst Jensen voices the adult form of the character.
Whilst the choices I made in the feature before writing this review did not allow me to witness the other cast of characters in this experience just yet, such as Clark Kent, Two-Face, and Tim Drake to name a few, with names like Nolan North and Gary Cole in the IMDb cast list, you know it’s going to be good.
For my first viewing of this film, I decided to divert from the usual story that I already knew, to see what I could get from the new content. The biggest choices usually give you a God complex for the fact that they often allow you to decide who dies and who lives. Part of me wanted to let the timer run out to see which was the automatic decision, but the better part of me took control and made my decisions so that I had the full sense of “this is the result of my choices as a fan”, much like how I assume many of the fans felt back in 1988 when the writers of the comic actually had fans vote to decide Jason Todd’s fate.
Under The Red Hood is one of my personal favourite DC movies, and I was glad to see that this new interactive experience re-use some of the clips from that film, but better still, was the idea that certain choices would result in new segments and give us an excellent series of ‘What If’ moments. Regarding the re-used clips segments though, the developers of this interactive experience have done well to ensure that they don’t just repeat the previous film, they use the clips in a sort of compilation, with narration over the top to explain what’s going on throughout the timeline of said compilation.
I personally love the idea of choice, and the whole interactive experience could certainly prove to be popular among comic book fans because there is always someone who complains about the progression or finale of a film, but with this type of experience, they have control over the fate of their beloved characters. As mentioned previously, there are seven alternate endings to Death in The Family so surely one of those, which will have been the result of your choices, will satisfy the majority of viewers. Not to mention that these choices also build that sense of being involved with the story itself, of changing the fate of these characters that we know and love.
Depending on your choices, the experience feels somewhat short. I’m sure it all depends on the various combinations of choices made and considering the blu-ray case does not include the usual run-time information, then this certainly seems to be the case. The choices I made resulted in an experience that lasted around 30 minutes, whilst I have seen other viewers claim that their experience lasted as little as 15 minutes. I think these are decent run times for this type of experience since you don’t want to be spending over an hour pressing buttons and waiting for the next one to appear. All in all, DC is able to find a good balance between animation and decision-making to bring fans an all-round unique product.
Batman: Death in the Family is available now on Blu-Ray and VOD.