Batman: Death in the Family Interactive Movie Lets You Kill Robin

The latest DC animated movie uses interactive cinema to recreate the original fan experience behind Batman: Death in the Family.

Batman: Death in the Family
Photo: DC Entertainment

With Netflix going hard on interactive movies like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, it was only a matter of time before other studios started experimenting with them. Now, DC’s animated movie division has figured out a way to use the format to make a true-to-life adaptation. With Batman: Death in the Family, a new animated short film, the fans will get decide whether Robin (aka Jason Todd) lives or dies.

Announced by IGN, the movie version of Death in the Family will be fully interactive and let viewers choose one of multiple, branching fates for Jason Todd. It’s also a rough prequel to Batman: Under the Red Hood, one of the more successful comic adaptations in the DC Animated line. Returning voice actors include Thirteen Days dreamboat Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Gary Cole as Commissioner Gordon, John DiMaggio as Joker, and Vincent Martella as Jason.

Check out the trailer below:

The original comic storyline on which the movie is based, a 1988 joint by Jim Starlin and Aparo, was an attempt to deal with the second Robin, who some fans were displeased with by the late ’80s. The second Boy Wonder started out as almost a carbon copy of Dick Grayson, his predecessor. But following DC Comics’ universe-wide reboot, Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was revamped as a troubled street tough who Batman took in to try and save. That didn’t work out, however, and Jason grew more and more wild and violent. With that evolution of the character came fan outcry and then-Batman editor (and comics legend) Dennis O’Neil came up with a plan: let the fans vote.

The original story takes Jason Todd to Lebanon to track down his mother, while Batman also simultaneously investigates the Joker, who is trying to sell a nuclear weapon to Middle Eastern terrorists. All three eventually find Jason’s mother — Jason first, then the Joker, who beats Jason nearly to death with a crowbar, then sets off a bomb in a warehouse he had trapped Jason and his mom in. At that point in the story, DC set up a 900 number (that’s a phone number you could call for a fee) to vote on Jason’s fate. The company commissioned art for both outcomes — Jason lives, and Jason dies — and when the final results came in, Jason was killed by fewer than 100 votes.

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In the trailer for the movie adaptation, it appears as though animators and designers have given Jason Todd most of Tim Drake’s (the third Robin) look. He’s wearing late-period Tim Drake’s Robin outfit, and one of the interactive movie’s branching storylines apparently turns Jason into a violent, vindictive Red Robin. It remains to be seen whether this is as unforgivable a decision as it first appears. However, the decision to go interactive is certainly an inventive one, and we’ll certainly be trying all the branches the day this drops.

Batman: Death in the Family will arrive on Blu-ray and Digital HD in Fall 2020.