DC fans have plenty of reason to be excited for Batman: Death in the Family, the company’s latest direct-to-video animated project. Not only is this movie a direct tie-in to 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood, it’s also DC’s very first interactive animated movie. Viewers will get the chance to determine the course of the story as they watch Jason Todd’s fateful run-in with the Joker and choose how his tragic journey plays out.
At this point you might be wondering how this interactive element is going to work. How do you choose your own Batman adventure, and how many variations of the movie will there be? Read on for a breakdown of Death in the Family and why this is one case where you might want to buy the physical Blu-ray rather than the digital version.
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How Batman: Death in the Family’s Interactivity Works
Death in the Family is based on the infamous 1988 comic book storyline of the same name, which involved DC holding a fan voting campaign to determine whether then-current Robin Jason Todd would live or die after a bloody confrontation with Joker. Jason died, at least until he was resurrected in 2005’s Batman: Under the Hood (the storyline that inspired the 2010 animated movie).
Rather than act as a direct adaptation of the original comic, however, the Death in the Family movie is honoring the spirit of that voting campaign by giving viewers the opportunity to dictate the course of the story. At several key points during the movie, viewers will be prompted to make a choice using their remote control. It’s as simple as pressing an arrow key to highlight a specific choice and then pressing the enter button. Picture an animated choose-your-own-adventure book or a slower-paced version of something like the ’80s video game Dragon’s Lair, albeit with no option for failure.
While we don’t yet know every branching path in the movie, those choices will affect elements like whether Jason lives or dies at Joker’s hands and what decisions he makes in the aftermath of Joker’s attack. For example, one possible story path has an embittered Jason returning to Gotham and taking up the costumed identity of Hush. Even though the running time of any one version of the movie will be fairly short, there appear to be quite a few different possible story combinations, along with several alternate endings.
Viewers will also have the option to passively watch the movie, with the Blu-ray automatically choosing story paths.
Why the Digital Version Is Different From the Physical Version
The one downside to this interactive approach is that it won’t be available on the digital versions of Batman: Death in the Family. Only the physical Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and DVD discs have that option. The Digital HD release is non-interactive, and most likely the same holds true for the eventual DC Universe or HBO Max versions.
We assume technical limitations are the culprit here (though Netflix certainly proved interactive streaming movies are possible with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch). Instead, the digital release will consist of four distinct, non-interactive versions of the movie. One of these is presented as a direct, in-canon prequel to Under the Red Hood called “Under the Red Hood: Reloaded.” The other three versions will be presented as alternate universe stories, under the titles “Jason Todd’s Rebellion,” “Robin’s Revenge” and “Red Hood’s Reckoning.”
This suggests there are basically four main story paths in the interactive movie, even if Blu-ray viewers have more leeway to customize the plot to their liking along the way. The disc version also features roughly five minutes of footage that won’t be included in any of the digital versions.
In short, even if you tend to buy the digital releases of these animated movies or wait until they’re available to stream, you might want to make a point of buying a physical copy this time. That’s the only way to get the full, interactive experience.