Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: In the 1970s a missing teacher of martial arts is the subject of a quest by his devoted and brilliant but distant students, who include Batman.
Que that Shaft theme song!
Review: Ever since the DC Animated Universe hit the reboot button with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War they’ve been hitting us with fresh new takes on their heroes. The animation style keeps changing based on the director, and each story can stand on its own. Their latest, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, keeps this positive momentum going with its ’70s-styled animation, fun-filled tone and loads of great action sequences.
The voice cast here is pitch perfect, with David Giuntoli (Grimm) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Kelly Hu (X2: X-Men United/The Scorpion King) as Lady Shiva, 90s action star Mark Dacascos (Hawaii Five-0/Crying Freeman) as Richard Dragon, and Michael Jai White (Spawn/Black Dynamite) as Bronze Tiger all doing a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life.
Some of these actors aren’t strangers to the world of DC either, with both Hu and White being mainstays in shows like Arrow (the former was villain China White and the latter a modern version of Bronze Tiger) and doing voice work for Young Justice and Static Shock. But my absolute favourite here is one of those character actors whose name you might not be familiar with, but whose face I’m positive you’ve seen before, James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) as O-Sensei, the kung-fu master who trained Bruce and his companions. In this story, he is a gem! You don’t usually find this much humour in a DC animated movie and a lot of it comes from O-Sensei. Wong’s voice and line delivery is perfect for this character and all of his jokes hit their mark.
The story itself is heavily inspired by Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, as well as the aesthetics of 60s and 70s action movies and blaxploitation flicks such as Shaft and Black Belt Jones. Batman is one of those heroes that actually does work well in different timelines and eras, at least when it’s done right (sorry Batman Ninja). So huge props to writer Jeremy Adams and director Sam Liu for pulling this off so well.
Now after all that, I’m sure there are those who won’t like this movie for one very specific reason — there isn’t much Batman in it. He wears the suit a total of maybe two or three times and Bruce himself isn’t really treated like the main character, something I think fans are gonna take great issue with. For myself, well, as folks would say back in the day, “I dig it!” I enjoyed seeing this version of Bruce’s past. I like the fact he wasn’t perfect and wasn’t instantly the best at everything, because the truth of the matter, and something fans of the Bat don’t like to admit is, Bruce isn’t the best fighter in the world! That title goes to Lady Shiva and you can fight me on it if you want to, but I have a whole heap of comics that would prove you wrong.
So without getting into a whole tirade I’ll stop right here and say Batman: Soul of the Dragon was a ton of fun for me. It’s James-Bond-meets-Bruce-Lee vibe worked for me. I liked the characters chosen for this story and I liked seeing a younger, still-learning-where-he-fit-in Bruce Wayne/Batman working as a teammate instead of hogging the spotlight. And once again, I love the direction DC has been taking their animated movies. Say what you will, but at least these are the kind of films that don’t look and feel like they all meld together to the point where you can’t even remember which was which.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
You can check out my video review of Batman: Soul of the Dragon below:
And for my review of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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