Brandon Vietti (director)
26 October 2020 (released)
18 October 2020
Based on one of the classic Batman stories from 1988, Death in the Family is also WB Animation’s first dip into interactive storytelling letting the viewer take control by giving them a range of options and thus taking the story in several different directions.
The basic outline is that Batman (Bruce Greenwood) and Robin - Jason Todd incarnation voiced by Vincent Martella – are on a mission that takes in deals between The Joker (John DiMaggio) (All three reprising their roles from the connected Under the Red Hood movie.) and Rhys al Ghul. With Robin going out on his own against Joker. There are mistakes and miscalculations on all sides that lead to regret and self-analysis that have consequences.
The story is told mostly through character narrations and memories (or a conversation depending on the choice you make) and there are various threads that bring in the likes of Nightwing, Talia al Ghul, Black Mask and a few others into the story. There’s plenty of explosions - maybe too many - and some pretty nasty violence meted out by the Joker with a crowbar.
The film is an extended short story that is obviously lengthened as the viewer make their choices leading to different mid-sections and endings. Its good fun and the deviations don’t detract too much from the original.
This is very much a psychological story with Jason and Bruce questioning their motives and actions, despite all the violence. It calls for some intense work from the actors who don’t shy from the challenge of writer, producer and director Brandon Vietti’s excellent script.
The Bat has the headline but this is a showcase with all the other shorts collected from previous releases.
They are solid introductions to Sgt Rock, Adam Strange and The Phantom Stranger however Death is by far the strongest. Based on the character created (for the Sandman universe) by Neil Gaiman and Mark Dringenberg, this story written by J.M DeMatteis is beautifully realised and incredibly moving. It will be interesting to see if WB decide to develop Death beyond this short.
Batman: Death in the Family is available on digital now and Blu-ray from 26 October.