‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon‘ is an animated film directed by Sam Liu and places the Dark Knight in a Kung Fu action movie from the 1970s.
A young Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) makes his way to the hidden region of Nanda Parbat where he is greeted by O-Sensei (James Hong) and his five students training in the martial arts: Shiva (Kelly Hu), Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Jade (Jamie Chung), Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox). While training there, Rip steals a mystical sword, murders Jade to open a door to another dimension where the demon Naga lives. Rip is killed by the demon and O-Sensai sacrifices himself to close the door.
Years later, Richard Dragon is operating as a secret agent and stumbles on the Cult of the Cobra, who have stolen the mystical door. He goes to Gotham City to seek Bruce’s help, only to discover that his old friend has become the Batman. From there, they head to Lady Shiva’s club, where Cobra assassins steal the mystical sword. After reuniting with Ben, who now goes by Bronze Tiger, the four friends go after Cobra in order to stop their leader Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton) from unleashing the Naga on the world.
I found the story entertaining and interesting. Placing these iconic characters in a sort of Kung Fu action flick setting was actually a lot of fun. The animation for the fight scenes and the contemporaneous music added to its sense of adventures. Watching the Caped Crusader spar in a Martial Arts fashion is always cool.
I have two qualms with this movie. First, it was billed as a Batman flick in all of the trailers and even with the posters. However, it is really a Richard Dragon film. He had the largest role and was the most important character to the plot. Nothing wrong with that, but when I was promised a movie regarding the Dark Knight, I want it to be about him. He barely spoke and even his first and third fight scene were out of costume. He did not even change into it until Dragon’s prompting. A better title would have been: “Richard Dragon: Soul of the Cobra.”
The second is how they changed some of the characters. Lady Shiva is played well by Kelly Hu, but they turned her from a coldhearted assassin to a lecturing scold minor thug. I am not sure why they did not use Katana or, keeping with the Kung Fu-theme, Gloss from the New Guardians or Kwai from the Blood Syndicate.
Also, Richard Dragon was originally a white character who embraced the philosophy of O-Sensai and would go on to train Bruce Wayne. Now he’s a Bruce Lee clone. Why not use one of the Warner Media already established by DC Comics? There is John Chan from Primal Force, Ryan Choi the third Atom, Thunderlord from the Global Guardians, and a whole team of Chinese heroes in the Great Ten. Why swap out a character when these others can shine? It comes off like the current regime know nothing of the lore and is nothing more than pandering.
Bottom line, Batman: Soul of the Dragon fibs about being a Batman movie, but it is well-animated, well-written, and has a groovy vibe to the action.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong animated violence, Some foul language
FAVORITE QUOTE: Let’s get it on.
Check out the trailer below:
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