Batman: Death in the Family – Blu-Ray Review

This interactive animated film is loosely based on the comic of the same name. Death in the Family was a 1988 Batman comic that famously allowed readers to let Robin live or die by calling a 1-900 number. The Joker has him trapped in a warehouse and he’s in peril—that part is all in the film, which is where the interactive aspects start. You make a choice there, and then the film plays various shorter pieces in response. There are ‘Choose Your Own Adventure”-type questions along the way.

As portrayed here, Robin is not the most iconic version of the character, which might make it easier to kill him off. The film itself is a compete fiasco: half of it is footage from a previous Batman film that I haven’t seen, called Batman: Under the Red Hood, which is considered one of the very best of the animated films that have come out on this series over the past decade (where Batman: The Dark Knight Returns represents the gold standard amongst them). There is some new footage, of course, with Bruce Greenwood voicing Batman again. Greenwood has a great voice for it, but the choices aren’t really that interesting, to be honest, and it’s only faithful to Death in the Family with the one Joker-Robin sequence.

That means it’s a bit of a disappointment if a faithful version was what you were expecting. It’s a shame that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who had been very interested on making a more straight-ahead version of the comic, didn’t get a chance to do it.

The animation is good—the animators behind this series are always pretty decent—but there are better choices in the same series. The only way to get the interactive elements is to buy the Blu-Ray version. You might just prefer to read the comic—and to see Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Extras include a commentary from two former contributors to DC Daily on the 31-minute Blu-Ray version, plus four additional short animated films (all of which have been previously released on DC animated Blu-Rays, and so kind of pointless). Usually their Batman releases include an episode from the series, a documentary about one of the characters and so on, so that’s a bit slim. Hopefully the next instalment – Batman: Soul of the Dragon—will be a real return to form for the DC animated film division, as it sounds very promising.

★★½

Ian Schultz

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