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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Batman: Death in the Family'
(Bruce Greenwood, Vincent Martella, John DiMaggio, Zehra Fazal, Nick Carson, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Trained as Batman’s protégé, Jason Todd brings a relentless sense of justice as Robin, who sets his sights on bringing down the Joker.

But can Batman save Robin from a fate worse than death? Tragedy, revenge and redemption await in this groundbreaking DC film! Who will live? Who will die? Who will watch over Gotham?

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, before we dive into this quite brilliant 'Batman: Death in the Family' film, it should be known that this is the third animated film in which Bruce Greenwood has voiced Batman (following 'Batman: Under the Red Hood' (2010) and 'Batman: Gotham by Gaslight' (2018). Although, and additionally, Greenwood voices Batman in the animated TV series 'Young Justice,' although Jensen Ackles, who originally voiced Jason Todd in 'Batman: Under the Red Hood' does not return due to scheduling conflicts with the final (delayed) season of Supernatural.

In the original comics, DC had two separate 900 numbers where readers can determine whether Jason Todd should live or die. Ergo, this new film is similar to the original poll in how the viewer can determine Jason's fate as it is also the very first DC animated interactive film.

In this new version, the animated film is an interactive storytelling presentation with numerous “branches,” allowing the viewer multiple options from which to choose and alter the path of the core characters (Batman, Robin, Joker, Red Hood and more).

As the second person to assume the role of Batman's sidekick, Jason Todd had a completely different personality than the original Robin.

Rash and prone to ignore Batman's instructions, Jason was always quick to act without regard to consequences. In this fatal instance, Robin ignores his mentor's warnings when he attempts to take on the Joker by himself and pays the ultimate price.

Driven by anger with Superman by his side, Batman seeks his vengeance as he looks to end the Joker's threat forever.

Originally conceived as an "acrobatic" replacement to Dick Grayson, he wasn’t actually very popular from the off! Fans just didn't care that Batman had a "side kick," and moreover, didn't want Batman to even have one!

At the time back then, the Batman comic books were going through a wee decline and Detective Comics was losing readers and was even (and again) on a list of books to be cancelled!

But, in stepped Frank Miller, who created a different end for Batman, that sprang from a very definite beginning. The DC universe went through a crisis and Jason’s origin was altered.

So now he was just some low life street punk who had tried to boost the wheels from the Batmobile, but the man in black had seen something in the lad and raised him to be the next Robin.

At the beginning of 'Batman: Death in the Family,' we find Robin has been grounded for disobeying Batman. Then, and in what con only be described as a "well-timed coincidence" (the kind that only exists in comics, of course), Jason gets some family information that leads him on an African safari hunt for his mom!

But, of course, the Joker is also Africa bound with a number of schemes to get rich so he can get back to being top dog in Gotham!

So, if you're playing along at home, we now have Bruce Wayne and Batman in Africa at the same time, along with Robin and the Joker! Oh, and all three of their mothers happen to be in Africa too ... along with a nuclear bomb (courtesy of the Joker, of course!)

But, and even with that all said, the premise us handled well enough, kept above water nicely, all the way to the third chapter, when the unthinkable happens.

It is at this point that you need to remember that it was the readership of the time, thanks to a 900 number, that decided Robin's fate!

Of course, we move gentle past that particular point and continue to witness some of the strongest Batman storylines to date, in my humble opinion.

And, finally, and not to give anything away, but there is an obvious point to make in the last chapter, when Batman says “Who killed Jason”, for you have to consider, well, Has he just given away his secret identity?!

It’s inevitable that the ending has to have a Did he? or Didn’t he? survive element, which would help set Batman on a more destructive path until the idea of Robin would get another run out, and so therein, it does get kinda left open ended, so to speak.

'Batman: Death in the Family arrives on Blu-ray™ and Digital on October 13th, 2020.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, 'Batman: Death in the Family' serves as the anchor for an anthology of 2019-2020 animated shorts - including "Sgt. Rock," "Adam Strange," "Death" and "The Phantom Stranger."

FYI: The interactive component is only available on the Blu-ray. The Digital version of 'Batman: Death in the Family' offers four fully-played out linear versions of the short.

'Batman: Death in the Family' - "Don't Go After Joker Alone" Clip

'Batman: Death in the Family' - "Opening Title Sequence" Clip