I was more excited than skeptical about the interactive Batman: Death in the Family movie. I already know the basic story and the DC Animated Universe releases are usually more than impressive. Top this off with it being a prequel to one of their best, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and I had every right to be excited. That all began to change, though, when I started to look into how to watch the movie.
The movie was released this week, but the interactive version is only available if you buy the Blu-ray. So instead of watching it digitally the night, it came out, I had to make a trip to the store to buy it. It wasn’t actually at the first store we went to, but luckily there was another down the road that did. It was a reasonable price for a new Blu-ray movie at $17.99. However, I didn’t necessarily want to own it before having watched it.
I took a look at the back of the Blu-Ray the next day, so I could plan out time to watch it that evening. I was a little taken aback when I noticed the variable run time of 18-31 Mins listed on at the bottom. I was hoping for another great Batman animated movie to sit down and make a night of watching. Instead, I was looking at an episode of Batman the Animated Series at best. Below the runtime in smaller print, it does state “Additional DC Showcase Shorts 65 Mins”. I wasn’t as excited for those, though. The draw and pitch for the movie had been for an animated Batman A Death in the Family. Although a bit disappointed, I was still looking forward to taking in all the DC animated greatness that the entire Blu-Ray had to offer. Plus, there was always the exciting new “choose your own adventure” aspect.
The movie is the first interactive animated presentation for Warner Bros and the first interactive cartoon that I’m aware of. It’s especially a big deal because you get to select the actions of iconic characters, Batman and Robin, and then watch them play out. I have some experience with this from reading choose your own adventure books as a kid. I remember enjoying these because it was exciting to get to make a decision and flip to that page to see what trouble you’ve chosen for yourself. This worked because it made the book/story shorter, and the endings were more shocking. You can’t have every option lead you on a long, drawn-out quest or live a full life with your grandkids. Many of the options are death by…or inferred slow death by… so to a kid, that’s pretty wild and exciting. I think the style technically made us read more by going back and trying again, too, now that I think of it, which is a good trick.
The difference with Death in the Family is that the story’s meat is short, to begin with. It’s like saying the turtle crossed the road and successfully got to the other side—the end of the story. There are a few variations on that story, and though they are shocking or even fantastic, they are still brief. Worse, most of Death in the Family’s story has already been told in Batman: Under the Red Hood. And even worse, most of Batman: Death in the Family is the direct footage from Batman Under the Red Hood. By this point, you have to have some clue that I was regretting buying the movie. So how is the interactive Batman: Death in the Family?
Well, the first thing is, don’t kill Robin. It’s the first choice you have, and it’s just a summary narration by Bruce over clips of Under the Red Hood. It goes on longer and in more detail than it should since that movie already exists. While watching this choice, I literally felt like I had been fooled into buying the same film over. From there, other options pop up that usually involve Good or Evil and Death or Life. Now maybe that sounds like it’d be good and better suited for a younger audience like myself as a kid. Well, apparently not because the film is rated R. So, who is it for exactly?
If you do choose to save Robin, there are a few exciting pathways. They feel like brief Elseworlds snippets. I will say I like their version of Red Robin. I would like to see a character like this expounded upon, but his story is over in minutes. There are a decent amount of choices to make, despite the resulting stories being fairly short. Overall, I didn’t really enjoy the interactive aspect.
I would definitely recommend only watching one version of the “choose your own adventure” all the way through in one sitting. I tried to go back and get more out of it, but it ended up being overwhelming. I started to have trouble keeping track of the storylines as I made more choices and replayed options. I actually got tired of selecting and eventually let the Blu-ray pick for me.
Instead of many short, shocking choice stories, I would have preferred a few Elseworlds style 30-minute shorts. I would like to see a couple classic Batman and Robin tales made with a twist and played out like a typical story with a beginning, middle, and end. There was a lack of flow, not enough drama, and little sense of a complete story. I saw many Batman clips, a lot of Batman narration, and new Batman endings. Still, they didn’t all go together, and I really can’t say I enjoyed them as a whole.
I give Batman Death in the Family 1 out of 5 twist endings. I would recommend the movie to those who haven’t seen Batman: Under the Red Hood or those who aren’t familiar with the Batman A Death in the Family story.