SYNOPSIS: Set in the midst of the swinging 1970s, this Elseworlds adventure finds Bruce Wayne training under a master sensei. It is here that Bruce, along with other elite students, is forged in the fire of the martial arts discipline. The lifelong bonds they form will be put to the test when a deadly menace arises from their past. It will take the combined efforts of Batman, world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, and Lady Shiva, and their mentor O-Sensei to battle the monsters of this world and beyond!
DC Animation is kicking off 2021 with BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON — a somewhat mystical, kung fu romp taking place in the 1970s. Sounds a bit unique, but I’m always in when it involves our Dark Knight.
I should’ve been prepared for Bruce Wayne.
In short, it’s the 1970s and the leader of an evil cult named Kobra is in control of a unique gate. All he needs is a sword, Soul Breaker, which resides in Gotham City. How does that involve Bruce Wayne? Flashback years ago to Nanda Parbat, where he and others were trained by their master, O-Sensei, who awards one of them with the powerful sword. What plays out is a mix of past and present, characterization, and kung fu. Lots of kung fu.
I liked this movie quite a bit. The animation was solid. The story was different and mystical, but still pretty cool. And the action was pretty fierce. It had my attention for the entire 80 minutes. More knowledgeable DC fans than I will also pick up on all of the Easter eggs, especially the large cast (Lady Shiva, Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, Jade Nguyen, and more) and their placement in DC history.
Therein lies my only critique.
I know the talent behind this film needed to slap Batman’s name on the front to give it better odds of being greenlit. This movie could’ve easily been labeled BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, and it would’ve rung more true. It could’ve even been more accurate to call it “Bruce Wayne” instead of “Batman.”
For those uninformed, they’ll see this movie on a shelf or in the digital market as a Batman movie, and buy sight unseen. Then they may be disappointed because it’s an ensemble movie with Bruce Wayne, but not much The Dark Knight. For me, the story was so strong that I wasn’t bothered too much, however it did cross my mind once or twice.
That being said, this was a very enjoyable movie for a genre of which I don’t have much knowledge. I liked the atmosphere, the characterizations, and the story itself (even if it goes beyond my Batman sensibilities). The switching between past and present also complemented the story itself.
If you’re looking for a Batman movie, I’d rent it first. But if you’re looking for just a good movie, then this is one jive turkey. – Ryan Lower