A step away from the conventional DC Animated Film, as creators craft an epic martial arts adventure.
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While Batman might be the title character here, he is definitely the least interesting character. Which is a good thing for this film, the filmmakers put Batman in the backseat this time around and give the full attention to Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva and Ben Turner (AKA Bronze Tiger). While these characters are not as well known by fans, with just a few brief appearances in the Arrowverse or in video games. In this case, these characters are on the frontlines of storytelling.
Exploring a look in Bruce Wayne’s past as he comes across a monastery where six other people are being trained in marital arts. Here is where Wayne is first introduced to Shiva, Dragon and Turner. The film goes back and forth between these martial artists first meeting and the present day where Richard Dragon is requesting the help of Bruce who has now become Batman. The present shows us Bruce and Dragon seeking out Shiva and Turner so they can stop this evil organization from retrieving a rare sword that can unlock a gate into a realm with evil forces. As the past goes into more background behind these other characters and the origins of the gate and what it is this organization seeks. The scenes taking place in the present is where most of the action scenes took place, while the ones in the past delved into Dragon, Shiva and Turner which made those scenes all the more entertaining due to the way the creators have written them for this iteration. As I mentioned, most of the action scenes took place in the present and while they were all entertaining to see, they lacked the true potential I know DC animators are capable of.
Considering this is a martial arts film, it almost felt lacking in that department. This film however suffers the same issue many live-action movies face, lots of quick cuts and close up shots. In other DC Animated films like Batman: Bad Blood, Batman vs. Robin or Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay they shoot fight scenes from wide angles and you get to see our heroes use their skills in combat, making it much more believable that they are skilled fighters. Which is what this film lacks, we know they are capable of creating such content and this seemed like as missed of an opportunity as ever. It did not take away from the entertainment value, but it is something the film could have benefited from.
Something else to appreciate from this film however, is the art style they chose to animated it in. Similar to Bruce Timm’s art style from Justice League or Batman Beyond, the same is applied to Batman: Soul of the Dragon. A simple yet effective way to animate these characters made the film feel like it was a lost episode of Batman the Animated Series. And of course, it is combined with the directing talents of Sam Liu who is best known for this work on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and The Death and Reign of Superman. When you have this type of collaboration, it’s difficult to not appreciate a film like this.
Overall, the film is a blast. Other than some poor character choices and lack of wide angles, everything else about this film works. Creators have managed to tell a compelling original story, not based on any prior comic books. The characterization and relationships of these characters are a unique blend that puts them at the forefront and Batman in the backseat for a change. For fans and none fans of Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva or Bronze Tiger, if you didn’t know much about these characters, you will now. While this film isn’t on par with some of DC’s best animated work such as Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman: Under the Red Hood or Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. It is about in the same category as Superman: Red Son, Batman: Assault on Arkham or Justice League: Doom. We anticipate to see the other upcoming animated films by DC and WarnerMedia. Justice Society: World War II is set to be released Spring 2021 with the two part adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween scheduled for summer 2021 and fall 2021.