Saturday at Metaverse, the combined effort of New York Comic Con and London’s MCM Comic Con to conduct virtually conventions this year, the first interactive animated DC movie Batman: Death in the Family was previewed for this week’s October 13th Blu-Ray and Digital release.
The fate of Jason Todd is decided with your remote control! No pesky 1-(900) numbers this time. Are there still 1-(900) numbers? The Batman: Death in the Family panel came in the form of two Zoom meeting rooms, the later of which was exclusive to members of the press. I swiped right on Jason Todd for both and it was a match, here is what we learned!
Bruce Greenwood reprises his Batman role opposite Vincent Martella’s Jason Todd. The interactive movie is a sequel/prequel to the 2010 film, Batman: Under the Red Hood as confirmed by producer, writer and director Brandon Vietti, of Young Justice fame. DC Daily‘s Tiffany Smith moderated the public panel. The voice of Talia Al’Ghul, Zehra Zehra Fazal gave some insight to playing her controversial character.
MODERATOR: For Bruce and Vincent: What is it like for you revisiting these characters?
BRUCE GREENWOOD: The sensibilities were a little bit different and I toyed with the voice the for the first time. The second time I still started searching for what I think is going to be in the real pocket. That’s one of the fun things about it. Maybe terrifying and horrible for the viewers, but as I’m sort of experimenting, it was fun to try and reach for new, different colors.
VINCENT MARTELLA: Brandon and Wes Gleason were really helpful in making sure that I found a performance that really fit the entire mood of the entire film and matched up with what they wanted and what their vision of it was.
MODERATOR: How did you come up with the concept?
BRANDON VIETTI: I’ve been lucky to get to work on a lot of Batman stuff over the years, and I’ve been a Batman fan for a very long time. I’ve read a lot of stories.
I had a lot of great source material to pull from. I wanted to kind of bring in all the things that, our fans know and remember about these character. I asked, “what’s what’s the twist on that? What would have happened if different choices were made along the way”?
What if the viewer gets to make that choice?
That choice might just completely turn upside-down everything you know about Jason, Batman or Talia. And I think that’s like a rewarding story experience that allows you a deeper insight into these characters that everybody knows and loves.
MODERATOR: How will the audience pick things and choose things?
BRANDON VIETTI: When you start up your Blu-Ray, you’ll get an introduction to the ‘Death in the Family’ story. It will take you up to that, that fateful moment in Jason Todd’s life in a warehouse with the Joker and a stack of dynamite nearby.
And this is the exact same point the comics took fans to in 1988. Infamously, DC Comics the fate of Jason Todd into the hands of the fans. And in those days they put a page in the comic book that had two, 1-(900) numbers in it. One for him to live, the other to die!
Famously, people chose for Jason to die. I wanted modern fans that didn’t get to experience it back then to kind of have that same sensibility.
We looked at the very design of that page and we crafted an interactive menu page that you’ll come to that fateful moment. You get three different choices at that point. You’ll have to be careful because you just don’t know what the outcome will be from some of the choices that you make.
MODERATOR: What was it like when you were approached for this interactive project?
ZEHRA FAZAL: Gosh, I was so excited when I found out, I loved working with Brandon on Young Justice. Figuring out what’s the temperature of my character in ‘this setting’ versus ‘that setting’ is really, really fun. Cause you get to explore all sides of a character that way.
I think Talia has always fascinated me because I really think she and Bruce Wayne are very similar people. They’re both interested in this idea of a legacy and family. Batman is such a team builder and I think Talia shares that quality. When I was approaching her, I wanted to think about the ways she was parallel to Bruce Wayne, but also to be sure to give her her own agency.
BRUCE GREENWOOD: Sometimes if you’re shooting a film or shooting television, you’ll give three or four different choices within a certain set of dialogues that have different emotional components. And the editor will pick one, right? Or they’ll pick four or five and confuse the issue clearly.
But here you got to go down these distinct routes that are going to be intact. That was was kind of exciting to be able to see them all.
VINCENT MARTELLA: I’m excited to check out the extended footage too, because I haven’t seen the fully interactive version yet!
ZEHRA FAZAL: There’s also one particular line that jumped out at me, written by Brandon made so beautiful Bruce, by your performance. “the impossible is just the unthinkable lying in wait”. That has been in my head ever since I heard it!
BRANDON VIETTI: I hope fans will like going back to Under the Red Hood and we’ve incorporated some of that footage into this new project. That’s not something that every filmmaker gets to do. It’s not something every audience member gets to experience, either. It’s a push and pull between old and new an another interesting element in addition to the branching part of the interactive narrative too.
BRUCE GREENWOOD: To some degree the audience has ownership of what happens, right? They’re going to have a knot in their stomach, hopefully, as they contemplate making the choice. They then make the choice and watch where it takes them knowing that they could have made other choices, but, “the first choice I made, says something about me”. “What does that say about me? Oh my God”! I hope they appreciate that danger.
Later in the afternoon, I was happy to join 30 of my colleagues in a virtual Press Room where we weren’t vying for outlets for our dying laptops. Ines Logarta from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment rallied our pre-submitted questions into an orderly panel. I only hope that Bruce Greenwood saw my heart and applause ‘reactions’ as I remained on mute. This recap is edited for clarity and condensed from the footage. Thanks to the other writers for their contributions and questions.
MODERATOR: What is the one thing that you want fans to know prior to watching this film?
BRANDON VIETTI: It was very hard to put together promotional material for Batman: Death in the Family without giving things away. We definitely kind of leaned into Under the Red Hood material but there is a lot of new stuff.
Making the outcomes unexpected and making the choices deep, I think is, is such an important part of the storytelling process to really help you connect deeper with the characters. The story had to surpass the gimmick, so to speak. That was my attempt to draw people into this interactive experience. I really hope people enjoy, these, these decisions and these outcomes.
VINCENT MARTELLA: When Brandon showed me the art of all the different types of Jason Todd, I was going to get to play I got so excited. I myself am a fan of animation and of being a part of DC Comics, it was really exciting. (Vincent stars as Phineas in Phineas and Ferb).
BRUCE GREENWOOD: A simple way to say it is that choices matter. Choices that we are given the opportunity to make in a moment, when you can’t see the larger landscape, you can’t imagine the outcome. You’re still projecting some kind of outcome.
Those choices really matter and they’re really dangerous and you can never know. It reflects what we all go through all the time. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is given. Nothing is forever. And we better do our level best to figure it out and land on the choice that is ‘the best’ is too simple a word, but perhaps the ‘most human’.
BRANDON VIETTI: In Batman’s world and Batman’s characters there’s a lot of criminal psychology involved. In news headlines and in the world around us and our friends and our family these sorts of psychological issues are more well known appreciated now.
With Death in the Family, I leaned into the horror of it because I wanted to have people feel the consequences of dark choices and dark paths that people faced.
MODERATOR: How do you approach a character like Batman who is heroic, but is much more of a pessimist or realist?
BRUCE GREENWOOD: Irrespective of whether you’re playing, a real historical person or not. I think I tend to look at the things that are unwritten. And I imagine what’s going on behind the scenes to expose how pessimistic they might be or not.
While the show floor this year was literally my unmapped kitchen floor, it was great to be a part of NYCC online during this pandemic. Perhaps next year we can choose to participate in Zoom comic book panels or walk around buying Red Hood action figures, but we’ll be sure to pick the choice that seems ‘most human’.
Keep an eye out here for a full review of DC Showcase Shorts Collection: Batman: Death in the Family.