Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of a grim, grief-stricken protagonist with the merriest of festive seasons or the aesthetic choice of pitting a dark, shadowy hero against the resplendent beauty of snow and lights—whatever the reason might be, Batman shares a rather unique connection with Christmas Eve. Some of the best Batman media out there, like Batman Returns, Arkham Origins, and a number of animated series episodes, perfectly highlight the connection—and its about time we had a Batman movie solely dedicated to celebrating it as well. WB Animation/MGM Studio’s Merry Little Batman, DC’s latest animated feature, is the perfect Christmas movie Bat-fans have been waiting for and a much-needed call-back to the Cape Crusader’s fun-filled, light-hearted adventures, which are almost on the verge of going extinct due to the obsession with a darker tone.
For the first time in Batman media, Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian Wayne, has been given a leading role without having to share the stage with other Bat-family vigilantes. The intriguing characterization of Damian in the movie (who is more often a poorly treated character in comics), balanced presentation of heart and humor, morbid art of Ronald Searle beautifully combined with old school Cartoon Network-styled animation, and fun, catchy tracks make Merry Little Batman a worthy entry to the Bat-directory, one which fans will like to revisit every festive season.
How Did Damian Lose His Christmas Gift?
Two days before Christmas Eve, inside the Wayne Manor, a different kind of bat-cat chase seems to be going on. Eight-year-old Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia, is chasing his pet tabby cat, Selena, across the Manor, re-decorating the interior in the process and giving old Alfred a headache of sorts. Overenthusiastic to follow in his father’s footsteps and join his crusade against crime, Damian is preparing himself to become a superhero, and his chase drill is just a part of that training. However, his father, Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, has quit chasing criminals across the rooftops of Gotham. As a responsible father, he has worked overtime to ensure supervillains like Scarecrow, Riddler, and Joker stay behind bars so that he can provide his undivided attention to his son. Bruce effectively ended crime in Gotham almost a year ago and is living a peaceful life with Damian, Alfred, and Tabby cat, Selena. Despite Damian’s eagerness to begin his journey in capes and tights, Bruce isn’t too keen on the idea of Damian pursuing the life of superheroism, as he feels that Damian isn’t yet ready to shoulder the burdens of responsibility, sacrifice, and other ideals a hero needs to respect.
The morning before Christmas, Bruce presents Damian with his first utility belt as a Christmas gift, and Damian is over the moon, considering the gift to be a precious symbol of the beginning of his journey as a crime fighter. However, father-son breakfast time between Bruce and Damian is cut short when, out of nowhere, a distress call rings up the Bat-phone, with his Justice League colleagues on the other side asking Bruce to check a weather anomaly in Nova Scotia. Damian gets super excited and pleads with Bruce to let him accompany him, as having a chance to assist his father in a superhero mission is the best Christmas gift he could have ever asked for. Bruce quite obviously turns down the idea and promises Damian that he will return before Christmas Eve.
After spoiling Damian’s attempt to sneak inside the Batwing, Bruce leaves for his mission. Later, Damian trickily sends Alfred away from Wayne Manor to get on with his ‘unsupervised extreme training.’ During his training session, which consisted of mischievous activities of every random variety, Damian unwittingly damaged Manor’s security system, which allowed the burglar duo Terry and Francine to enter inside and rob the place. Knowing about their presence, Damian uses his house ninja skills, wearing a makeshift Batsuit of his own to test his skills, and greets the duo with a proper Kevin McCallister treatment, prompting them to flee. Even though the burglar duo loses all their loot while fleeing, they manage to take Damian’s precious Christmas gift, the utility belt, with them.
What Did Damian Learn About Superheroism?
The burglar duo were Joker’s henchmen, who had to return to their boss empty-handed due to Damian’s machinations. The Joker was also responsible for sending Batman away to begin his reign of crime on Christmas Eve. Initially livid with Terry and Francine’s failure to come up with anything except the utility belt, Joker gets excited seeing the video recording little Batman (Damian) in action, considering the possibility of using the little kid’s mischievous, destructive streak to ruin Christmas for Gotham instead. Elsewhere, at Nova Scotia, Bruce realizes that he has been tricked into leaving Gotham as Batwing crash lands in a blizzard created by Mr. Freeze, and the two engage in a battle.
Meanwhile, Damian is determined to get the utility belt back by hunting down the burglars in Gotham, and he enters the Bat Cave to equip himself with his father’s gadgets. Too much to his surprise and delight, Bruce had made a specialized bat-suit for his son for when he comes of age in the future, equipped with Bruce’s consciousness as an AI named ‘Bat-dad,’ as the suit was also a failsafe for the worst-case scenario: Bruce’s death. Anyway, donning the cool suit and taking the Batpod, Damian rides to Gotham and comes across the decorated central mall, Dankworth (a cheeky pun on Alfred’s surname), to ask Santa the whereabouts of the utility belt.
However, mall Santa and Elf turn out to be Bane and Poison Ivy, who attempt to taunt Damian into taking the utility belt, as directed by Joker, and Damian’s effort to gain it causes extreme ruckus in the mall and the eventual destruction of the giant Christmas tree. Joker’s plan to let Damian rampage through the city succeeds, and he lures him to Gotham Zoo to cause even more chaos. At this point, Bat-dad AI shares a moment with Damian, mentioning the fact that getting the utility belt won’t prove anything to Bruce. The AI recapitulates Bruce’s memories of visiting the zoo with his parents—a few of his cherished moments as Bruce lost his parents almost at the same age Damian is right now. It further shares that Bruce designed the AI for the sole purpose of never letting Damian face the same fate of being alone later in his life.
Damian locates the belt, but in his attempt to get it, he falls into a trap that leads him to Penguin. Unsurprisingly, he gives Penguin a hell of a chase, which ends up taking both of them airborne, destroying the Christmas parade in the process. The giant float crash lands on the street, causing fire across the streets and even more havoc than the mall fiasco. With the suit’s integrity already compromised while battling Penguin, AI Bat-dad sacrifices itself to redirect the suit’s energy to break Damian’s fall from great heights. Before getting obliterated, Bat-dad mentions the most important quality of superheroism—sacrifice—and thanks Damian for letting it make a few warm memories of its own.
Was Damian Able To Save Christmas?
With the Christmas spirit going in flames due to the mayhem caused by little Batman, Damian, the city folks bring out the pitchfork and rile up against him. Already distraught over losing the belt, losing Bat-dad, and causing an unnecessary ruckus all around, the little kid gets extremely scared and flees with his life. As Damian tearfully curls up in a dingy lane, Gotham’s oppressive darkness starts to scare him, and the sequence is shown in a beautiful woodcut print animation. However, old Alfred’s reassuring presence finds him and calms him down, with a cup of hot cocoa to boost his spirits as well. Realizing Damian’s desperation to prove himself stems from Bruce’s overprotectiveness, Alfred shares with him that his father only wants to protect one thing that was taken away from him: childhood. Damian reflects on his mistakes and regretfully apologizes, and Alfred assures him that he is certain Damian will grow up to be a fine hero of his own accord.
However, Joker abducts Damian by knocking him out using gas, and upon waking up, Damian finds himself inside a candy factory, which turns into a snow globe, with Joker’s hideout inside. Reaching there, Damian prepares to apprehend all the present supervillains—the Joker, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Penguin—but gets welcomed by them instead. The Joker reveals how Batman’s prompt actions not only put him out of attention; they had ended the life of crime for his group of supervillain friends, and it was only Damian’s actions that caused mayhem across Gotham—truly marking the triumphant return of crime. While Damian’s shenanigans were in public focus, Joker and his crew swept out all the Christmas presents across Gotham, thereby making sure to truly steal Christmas, but it was Damian who unwittingly ruined the eve. With his tendencies veering more towards being a villain than a hero, the Joker welcomes Damian into his club of supervillains and, as a mark of gratitude, returns his utility belt to him, now filled with weapons and explosives loaded by all the rogue galleries.
By now, Damian has learned his lesson and willingly uses the belt to destroy the Joker’s hideout, thereby sacrificing the one thing he values the most for the greater good. The rogues eventually corner Damian, and with a defeated Mr. Freeze, Batman returns just in time to rescue his son. The father-and-son duo laid waste to Joker and his gang in spectacular fashion, and with Christmas morning approaching, they played the role of Santa as they airdropped Christmas presents across the city using the batwing. Thereby saving Christmas and restoring the festive mood all over again.
Before returning to Wayne Manor to begin the celebrations, Damian shares that despite everything Joker did, he still kind of sympathizes with him, as deep down, his actions were motivated by the need for companionship. Damian considers that on Christmas morning, even the Joker doesn’t deserve to be alone. Adhering to his son’s request, despite having his own reservations against it, Batman takes Alfred and Damian to meet the Joker at a Christmas breakfast. As the movie ends, everyone except a disgruntled Batsy recites the Joker’s infamous Christmas carol. Merry Little Batman ends on a heartwarming note, and this is not the last time fans are seeing these wholesome, jolly versions of the characters, as the movie is going to be followed up by an animated series consisting of all the characters and possibly more Bat-family members as well. The way the movie shaped up to be one of the best DC animated entries in recent years, it is needless to say that we will be eagerly waiting for the new adventures of Bruce and Damian.