Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons
The sons of Batman and Superman must work together to save their parents and the world from a threat in Matt Peters’ Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons.
One of my favourite things about comics is how versatile the storytelling can be. This is something that doesn’t always come across in live-action adaptations as there is a frustrating fixation on resetting the characters every few years for a usually not different enough reboot of the character. Animated films don’t have the same limitations and often exercise the freedom to pick up with the characters at any point in their journey while expecting the audience to follow what’s going on. It’s a great approach that allows for a wide variety of storytelling to answer what isn’t being delivered elsewhere.
This entry focuses on Jonathan Kent (Jack Dylan Grazer), son of Clark Kent aka Superman (Travis Willingham) and Lois Lane (Laura Bailey) as he starts to manifest powers and learns the truth about his father as well as where he came from. He is very quickly tested beyond what he could be reasonably expected to deal with when Starro (Darin De Paul) possesses most of the Earth’s population including his parents. Fortunately, he has help in the form of Damian Wayne aka Robin (Jack Griffo), son of Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Troy Baker).
One thing that immediately stands out is the realism in Jonathan’s relationship with his parents. Prior to learning his father’s secret his uninformed perspective frames Clark as an absentee father who prioritises work over family. There’s a tinge of resentment in their relationship early on as Jonathan doesn’t accept Clark’s apparent need to sacrifice quality time with his family but that lack of understanding doesn’t define their connection as shown by a wholesome montage of them doing chores around the farm together and sharing a meaningful moment where Clart imparts advice to him. Prior to this, there’s a strong scene where Lois explains the value of journalism and the importance of truly understanding a story before drawing a conclusion. These are important because each interaction delivers an example of the values imparted to Jonathan from both parents and sets up what he needs to internalise over the course of the film. There’s a good balance between outlandish lessons about being a hero and more relatable ones like understanding why bullies act they way that they do.
Jonathan’s arc is centred around gaining confidence in himself and learning how to be a hero. Learning the truth about his father is the first step in that journey and Jack Dylan Grazer plays the unfiltered excitement of learning that his father is Superman brilliantly. As the film progresses he learns more about his heritage and the progression of his arc is efficiently linked to various powers manifesting. Equally, his moments of self-doubt are neatly connected to the escalation of the problem beyond something he feels equipped to deal with.
Outside of his relationship with his parents, his connection to Damien is the most important one he has. Damien is the voice of experience who leads Jonathan down the heroic path he has been forced to walk. Damien isn’t without his flaws as his impetuous nature and reckless attitude often get him in trouble. Together they are a riff on the traditional Batman and Superman friendship -something that the film directly calls out- but their connection is also unique with their collective immaturity being a major factor. They are very much at the beginning of their friendship and both have a lot to learn about themselves as well as each other. Damien’s arc involves him learning how to play well with others but on his own terms and understanding his ability to be a good person. These are things Jonathan can teach him but the lessons are hard learned.
The film suffers slightly in the villain story. Starro is more of an idea than a defined antagonist and the film fails to develop it in any significant way. The suggestion of a moral dilemma around Starro’s ability to remove all of the world’s problems by making the entire population part of its hive mind but there isn’t time to give it more than glancing coverage. The advantage is that its presence allows the Jonathan/Damien relationship to be central with most of the film’s running time used on them. Another issue is that the film covers a lot of ground and the storytelling often moves too quickly for a given idea or event to receive the focus it needs.
Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons is a stunning looking film. The CGI animation takes on almost a watercolour aesthetic that allows for vibrant visuals that never cease to be striking. The world it inhabits pops out of the screen and the viewer is encouraged to drink in the visual variety it has to offer. It’s somewhat disappointing that the film’s climax takes place almost entirely in a dull grey room but there’s plenty to dazzle the eye otherwise It delivers impressive set pieces that make great use of what the characters have to offer as well as the toolbox being in a fully realised DC universe provides.
In terms of storytelling, there’s a classic quality to the way it delivers its narrative. It’s always fun and light-hearted but not in ways that lessen the gravity of the threat. Loving homages to the Richard Donner Superman movies are plentiful and clear respect for the source material can be found everywhere. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to include aspects of the canon that could easily be ridiculed and it manages to deliver them in organic ways. All told it’s an excellent animated entry into the DC universe with a lot to offer.
An excellent and beautiful looking animated entry into the DC universe with a strong central relationship, lots of relatable ideas and clear love for the source material. Jonathan and Damien’s relationship is always compelling and the two characters compliment each other nicely. Using Jonathan as the lead character with Damien as the voice of experience with plenty to learn from him in exchange made for a strong dynamic that carries the film nicely. Connecting Jonathan’s growing confidence to his emerging powers was an efficient choice underscoring his ongoing development. The film suffers slightly in the villain as it isn’t developed in any significant way. There is also a tendency for the narrative to move too quickly as a consequence of packing so much in. Visually the film is stunning with plenty of vibrant and striking visuals. The storytelling has a classic quality with loving homages to Richard Donner’s Superman movies as well as loving use off aspects of the canon that could easily be ridiculed. All told it’s an excellent animated entry into the DC universe with a lot to offer.
- Jonathan as an excellent focal character
- his realistic relationship with his parents and how those are set up
- Jonathan and Damien as a unique riff on the Batman and Superman connection
- the two Super Sons complimenting each other wonderfully as they progress through their arcs
- efficiently linking Jonathan’s progression to the manifestation of his powers
- stunning visuals
- light-hearted storytelling that doesn’t lessen the gravity of the threat
- loving homages to different aspects of the source material
- Starro failing to dazzle as a threat
- storytelling that sometimes moves too quickly
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