Please note there are spoilers in this review. If you don’t mind, please proceed. The …
(Please note, the piece below includes SPOILERS. If you choose not to have the story line unveiled for you, you can rent this animated film on Amazon Instant Video from $3.99+. If you’re fine with knowing plot lines, read on.)
With the recent news out about The Court of Owls joining this season of Gotham, I decided to check out an animated film that featured the lesser known group. Perhaps the most recent is “Batman vs. Robin” (April 2015). In this origins story, instead of The Joker responsible for the death of Bruce’s parents, it’s actually the Court of Owls. Story goes, the Waynes refused to join this prestigious group of the financial elite (who bends the city to their will – using extreme prejudice) and were murdered because of it.
The Court of Owls is an organized crime cabal made up of Gotham City’s oldest and most wealthy families. Think of the Illuminati or the Masons, or in the case of the upcoming James Bond film, Spectre. The group was founded in the colonial era and are known to kidnap unwanted children and train them to become their assassins, which they call their Talons. To hide their identities, all their members wear owl masks (this includes their assassins). In the story line written by Scott Snyder, young Bruce suspects the Court of Owl’s involvement in his parent’s death, so he stakes out one of their supposed gathering spots, but finds nothing, and eventually gives up that lead.
Due to the lengthy history of the organization, their existence is now only thought to be legend by unassociated Gothamites, evident from the below nursery rhyme:
Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime.
They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed.
Speak not a whispered word about them, or they’ll send the Talon for your head.
In Batman vs. Robin, Scott Snyder’s “Court of Owls” story line is the backdrop to the complicated relationship between Damian and Bruce. When we enter the story, Damian has taken up the mantle as (a rebellious) Robin, defying Batman’s direct orders. Being the biological son of Talia al Ghul (yes, Damian is the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul, the head to the League of Assassins) and Bruce Wayne, Damian is the fifth Robin, but is Bruce’s (unpublicized) sole heir. Growing up with the League of Assassins, Damian is physically capable to handle the position, however mentally he has a difficult time holding back from the desire of killing his adversaries, which is evident in the first two minutes of this film, finishing Batman’s command “justice, not vengeance”.
Due to Damian’s genetic makeup, and perhaps his upbringing, Damien is more distrustful than his father, with a self important streak similar to Ra’s, and wanton rage and spiteful demeanor like his mother. When given the opportunity to follow his baser instincts and join the Court of Owls, as the protege to their head assassin (Talon), he’s more than tempted to say yes. In this incarnation, Batman is older, and although still capable of kicking ass, he takes more shots than we are familiar with. He’s also less patient than when he was with Dick and more hard nosed. Dick Grayson does make an appearance as Nightwing and assists in the training of Damian, to Damian’s dismay.
Although the story line in this film does follow most of Snyder’s original comic, there are some major differences in this version. In the Fox show Gotham, it will be interesting to see whether the writers will include the new characters Theo and Tabitha Galavan as well as socialite-gone-psycho Barbara Kean into the Court of Owls, since it’s evident that all three fit the criteria (wealthy aristocrats with long standing ties to the community) and whether the breakout in episode 1, season 2 from Arkham was to liberate what would be the new Talons for this organization. So far IMDB hasn’t provided any clues in relation to any of the well known characters associated with this cabal, it wouldn’t be the first time Gotham introduced new characters to push their main plot.
There’s a good deal of violence, and hints of possible child molestation (The Dollmaker – within the first five minutes of the film) as well as fight scenes between the ten-year-old Robin vs Batman, and an earlier one of Batman fighting against young children that look straight out of the last Mad Max movie (including hand-graphed circular saws and blow torches). There’s also a great deal of child abuse and some adult scenes, including a post sex scene. Although you don’t see explicit body parts, it maybe more than you would deem acceptable for children. Although this is rated PG13, please use discretion.
As mentioned in the beginning, if you haven’t picked this one up on DVD/Bluray yet, it’s available on Amazon Instant Video for $3.99+ (depending on rental or purchase and SD or HD). It’s a strong story line, which you’ll enjoy, especially since I didn’t give away the main plot twist to the film. Have fun!