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Batman vs. Robin: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Limited Edition Gift Set Review

Batman vs. Robin (2015) Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Limited Edition Gift Set cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Batman vs. Robin

Video Premiere: April 14, 2015 / Running Time: 80 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jay Oliva / Writer: J.M. DeMatteis

Voice Cast: Jason O'Mara (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Stuart Allan (Robin/Damian Wayne), Jeremy Sisto (Talon), Grey Griffin (Samantha Vanaver), Troy Baker (Owl Lieutenant), Kevin Conroy (Thomas Wayne), Trevor Devall (Jack), Robin Atkin Downes (Grandmaster), Griffin Gluck (Young Bruce Wayne), Sean Maher (Nightwing/Dick Grayson), David McCallum (Alfred Pennyworth), Peter Onorati (Draco), Andrea Romano (Jill), Al Yankovic (The Dollmaker/Anton Schott)

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, German, Castilian, Latin American Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai)
Blu-ray Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, German SDH, Castilian, Korean, Latin American Spanish
DVD Subtitles: English, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai
Video Extras Subtitled; Commentary Subtitled in Korean; Not Closed Captioned
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover in Cardboard Box with Figurine
Suggested Retail Price: $29.96
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD ($24.98 SRP), standalone DVD ($19.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Batman vs. Robin from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Gift Set • Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics have found a market and cornered it with their evidently profitable and well-regarded series of direct-to-video DC Universe Original Movies. The line that began with 2007's Superman: Doomsday, a movie whose video sales Wikipedia calculates at $12.3 million, continues to expand at a rate of three new releases per year.
Their success, even as home video sales continue to dwindle, raises the question of why nobody pursued making PG-13 animation sooner, given that year in and year out, most of the top-grossing films are either PG-13 or animated.

Released this week, Batman vs. Robin picks up where 2014's Son of Batman left off. In this narrative, Gotham's caped crusader has recently met and taken in Damian Wayne, the 10-year-old son he never knew he had. Damian is being groomed to be the new Robin, but the headstrong boy doesn't entirely embrace that sidekick status. At the beginning of this movie, Damian sneaks out of Wayne Manor and visits Ichabod, a town 60 miles outside of Gotham that was wiped out by floods three years ago. There, Damian discovers that a madman named The Dollmaker (who wears a one-eyed doll face as a mask), formerly Anton Schott, is keeping kids in cages.

Outraged by that abusive practice, the ferocious Robin gives The Dollmaker a hearty beating, before a mysterious figure swoops in and rips out the creep's heart. With Batman's credo of "justice, not vengeance" burning in his ears, Robin can't bring himself to actually kill. Still, he's not one to kowtow and even after bonding with his Dad over a viewing of David Lean's Oliver Twist (at a time when Damian is reading a bunch of Dickens), the boy continues to sneak out in defiance of the house rules.

Batman and his son Robin have a teaching moment in "Batman vs. Robin."

Damian again crosses paths with that figure, who identifies himself as Talon and recruits the boy to become his protιgι. Talon makes a persuasive argument that Batman's moral code isn't enough to rid Gotham of crime and, when prompted to choose between Talon and Batman, Damian gives it serious thought, having only his reluctance to kill standing in the way.

Meanwhile, Batman, who has been recalling his childhood tales of a secret society called Court of Owls, discovers the legendary group really does exist (the large gathering of masked people reminds one of that group from Eyes Wide Shut, minus the sex). The Owls bring Batman's alter ego, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, in and invite him to join their ranks. Talon and the Court are in cahoots, though, and neither of them present promising opportunities to the Wayne father and son.

Batman vs. Robin easily earns its PG-13 rating with violent action, blood, mild profanity, near-nudity and a touch of innuendo. The content is probably closer to R-rated movies from twenty years ago than today's tame cartoon features like Big Hero 6 and Frozen assigned PG ratings. Still, the target audience would appear to be teenagers and pre-teens, the same ones who contribute much to the bottom lines of PG-13 blockbusters from the Fast and Furious and Marvel universes. The DC Universe films aren't explicitly designed to shock or titillate. They just aim to bridge the gap between Saturday morning cartoons and live-action movies that has long existed in superhero entertainment. There is definitely a tradition of dark, graphic comic books that one can trace these films back to.

Bruce Wayne is courted by the Court of Owls without them realizing his heroic alter ego.

This outing kindly contemplates some big ideas and explores thoughtfully some of the foundations of Batman's legend. The murder of his parents is seemingly always being revisited and revised, but at least it's always done with conviction.

Batman vs. Robin looks nice, demonstrating that though it is rarely used in feature films these days, 2D animation still has its appeal. Those flat characters are complemented by CGI elements and environments that are tasteful enough (though zero threat to the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks). The sight of Batman punching and kicking his underage,
undersized would-be sidekick (and vice-versa) is out of character and kind of unintentionally hilarious. For the most part, though, this movie can be taken seriously and enjoyed as something distinct from all the other superhero entertainment that's out there.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases Batman vs. Robin as a lightweight single-disc DVD and as one of their standard combo packs. The latter set, a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD, is also offered in the Limited Edition Gift Set reviewed here, which for a few dollars more adds an exclusive Batman figurine.

VIDEO and AUDIO

It should surprise no one that Batman vs. Robin boasts strong picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 visuals are undoubtedly the perfect product of a direct digital transfer and thus void of any undesirable qualities. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, meanwhile, is potent early and often, immersing you in action without making you reach for your remote to adjust volume levels.

The Mythic Court of Owls' role in the comics and the movie is explored in the dead serious "Gotham City's Secret." Longtime Batman animation maker Bruce Timm promises good things from "Justice League: Gods and Monsters."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by director Jay Oliva, DC Entertainment creative director of animation Mike Carlin, and supervising producer James Tucker. Their track is screen-specific and spirited, addressing topics as they arise, from visuals to characters to this project's relation to its predecessor, Son of Batman, and other DC Universe movies to acknowledging individual crew member contributions
to the freedom of tackling a recent comic and not directly adapting it. Anyone with passion for this movie ought to appreciate hearing it shared by this trio.

On the video side, we start with "Gotham City's Secret: The Mythic Court of Owls" (31:25, HD), a documentary celebrating the society that features prominently in the film. Those involved in the making of this movie and in pertinent Batman comic books weigh in on the Court of Owls and, stepping back, secret societies and owls at large. Presented like a dead serious episode of "Dateline", it's a little ridiculous, but also not insubstantial.

"The Talons of the Owls" (14:03, HD) discusses the film's assassin antagonists and their historical influences, with input from both comic book artist and the filmmakers. Like the previous piece, this is higher-minded than you'd expect for a direct-to-video animated movie's bonus feature.

The only thing to make both Blu-ray and DVD is a sneak peek at DC Universe's next animated movie, Justice League: Gods and Monsters (11:08, HD). Producer Bruce Timm and others behind the movie speak about their story in detail and what you can expect from it.

Colors surround Batman and Robin when they battle Quilt in "The Color of Revenge!", a 2009 episode of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Clark Kent investigates the abduction of a supermodel who isn't what she seems in "Obsession", a 1998 episode of "Superman: The Animated Series."

From the DC Comics Vault holds four relevant TV episodes of DC animated series of yore, presented in standard definition.

From "Batman: The Brave and the Bold", "The Color of Revenge!" (22:44; originally aired May 22, 2009) sees Robin taking more responsibility as he and Batman do battle with blinded artistic villain Quilt and his boldly colored henchmen.

"Batman: The Animated Series" "The New Batman Adventures" is represented by "Old Wounds" (21:13; originally aired October 3, 1998), which finds Dick Grayson telling his young successor of his earliest experiences with Batman and Batgirl.

From "Superman: The Animated Series" comes "Obsession" (21:19; originally aired November 14, 1998), which sees an assortment of robots kidnapping a supermodel with a secret.

Finally, "Auld Acquaintance" (22:04; originally aired April 21, 2012) from "Young Justice" has the team discover the identity of the mole in their midst.

Bugs Bunny unleashes his superhero in the classic 1943 Merrie Melodies short "Super-Rabbit." Robin and Batman battle on the Blu-ray's menu, as they do on the cover art.

Next comes a "Blue Ribbon" short from Warner's classic Merrie Melodies line. From 1943, Super-Rabbit (8:15, HD) reimagines Bugs Bunny as a Superman-type hero,
who taunts a rabbit-hating cowboy. Though you may argue it would be better suited for something Superman-related, it's a fun cartoon

The Blu-ray and DVD open with trailers for Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts. Neither ad is listed on the Trailers menu, where we instead find previews for DCU: Son of Batman, LEGO - DC: Justice League vs. Bizarro League, and The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown.

Each disc's static menu attaches loud score to a wide rendering of the cover artwork. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback of everything, but does not let you set bookmarks on the film.

This Limited Edition Gift Set places the slipcovered standalone combo pack inside a cardboard box behind a reasonably sturdy 5-inch plastic Batman action figure made by Schleich. The keepcase's one insert supplies directions and a unique redemption code for the Digital HD with UltraViolet included with your purchase.

Batman fends off hordes of Talons in the climax of the 2015 DC Universe animated film "Batman vs. Robin."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Batman vs. Robin offers a reasonably diverting new take on classic Batman lore. If you've enjoyed past DC Universe animated movies, this is another one to check out.

Even without the Limited Edition Gift Set's figurine, Warner adds value to the Blu-ray combo pack with a wealth of substantial bonus features, from directly related new content to generous samples of past television cartoons. That certainly enhances this set's appeal and encourages a purchase over a rental for parties who are interested.

Buy Batman vs. Robin from Amazon:
Blu-ray Combo Gift Set / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Son of Batman • Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham • Batman (1966-68): Complete Television Series • The Dark Knight Rises
JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time • The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown • The Lego Movie
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore • Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United • The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed April 15, 2015.



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