Prime Video’s animated film, Merry Little Batman, puts a fresh spin on the caped crusader while telling a fun, and heartwarming, Christmas tale with oodles of charm.
Merry Little Batman
Directed By: Mike Roth
Written By: Morgan Evans, Jase Ricci
Starring: Luke Wilson, Yonas Kibreab, James Cromwell, David Hornsby
Release Date: December 8, 2023 on Prime Video
This week brings a new Christmas movie to add to your watch list over the holidays, with the arrival of Merry Little Batman on Prime Video. Despite changing up some Batman lore and carving its own path through the iconic mythos, it manages to hit just about all the right notes and deliver something fun, and surprisingly touching.
Merry Little Batman takes place in a slightly different Gotham than we’re used to. Having finally—and completely—eliminated crime in the city in order to make it safer when his son was born, Batman has been retired for several years, only occasionally taking on the cowl when the Justice League needs help. Eight year-old Damian idealizes his father and seeks to follow in Bruce’s footsteps as a superhero.
The two have an adorable dynamic that’s at once sweet/sincere. How they play off of one another (and with Alfred) in the early part of the film comes off genuine. Everything you would actually hope to see out of a Batman who decided to actually live life and dedicate to being a good father. I’ll come back to this point in a bit…
Anyway, after receiving an unexpected call from the Justice League on Christmas Eve, Bruce once again dons the cape and cowl and jets off to the arctic. He soon finds himself stranded, however, as it turns out to be nothing but a ploy from the Joker who’s returned with a group of aging supervillains. Looking to bring crime back to Gotham at last, Joker is looking to steal Christmas!
All alone, Damian sees this as an opportunity to prove himself ready to be a hero. After thwarting (mostly), an attempted home burglary, Damian sets out into Gotham as Little Batman to take on some of his father’s most iconic foes.
Without getting into any spoilers, there are some stumbles along the way for the young crime fighter. In order to save Christmas, he’ll have to dig deep into what it really means to be a superhero beyond the flashy gadgets and ninja moves. The result is a movie that manages to hit on some heartwarming themes that work within both the world of superhero stories AND Christmas classics.
Changing Things Up
As I mentioned, Merry Little Batman approaches the lore a little bit differently. In the comics, Damian kept secret from Bruce and trained to be a brutal assassin by his mother until they were ready to unleash him. He’s kind of a dick, and frankly, I’ve never cared that much for him. Thankfully, Merry Little Batman tosses just about all that lore (though he is still the son of Talia and Bruce).
Instead, Bruce has been an active and caring father since Damian was born. In fact, knowing he was about to be a father is what prompts Bruce to step up and finally take down all the villains/crime once and for all. He wanted to give his son a chance to grow up in a safer world that didn’t need the Batman.
As such, we get a Batman who’s no longer brooding and gloomy, but instead looks to the future with hope. Genuinely enjoying the opportunity to be a normal father. At one point in the movie, Alfred expertly sums it up as Bruce doing everything in his power to make sure Damian has what he never did: a childhood.
It’s honestly one of my favorite moments in the film and cemented into place why this take on the characters/dynamic works much better for me. It takes away the jaded and cynical elements, but stays true to everything that makes Batman, Batman. He has to be something more than an outlet for vengeance. More than dwelling on the trauma of his past. In order to affect real change in Gotham he has to work toward a better future. Be proactive to prevent the tragedies that shaped him.
Some of my favorite Batman stories in comics have taken this approach, but I understand why the broody/dark tales continue to be popular. Even so, it’s a nice change of pace to see here, and is honestly the first time I ever found myself really liking Damian as a character and empathizing with him. Knowing this film essentially serves as a starting point for a new animated series (Bat-Family), I came away from the film eager to see more from this version of the characters.
A Style for All Ages
The animation style for Merry Little Batman is definitely different from what many have come to expect. I was wary of it when the first trailers hit, unsure of how it would play in the long run. In the context of the story being told, however, it really works.
Not utilizing the more “realistic” and serious style of previous animated Bat shows (even Harley Quinn to an extent) serves as a clear indicator to audiences to expect something different. In many ways, the unique art style works as a visual cue that things will be different from what we expect. As such, when we see those dramatic changes in lore, it doesn’t feel out of place.
And yes, the style is also indicative that this story is more in line with a slightly younger audience. That said, there are a number of hilarious moments that long-time (adult) Batman fans will love. It’s not “kiddie” material, but definitely designed to be something the whole family can enjoy.
Which is great because it practically oozes charm and heart in every scene. Hidden amongst the humor is a truly heartfelt story with some important messages on being yourself and the real meaning of Christmas. It’s just a delight and I can’t wait to check it out with my youngest to see her reaction.