- Directed by Sam Liu
- January 12, 2021
- Bruce Wayne / Batman-David Giuntoli
- Richard Dragon-Mark Dacascos
- Lady Shiva-Kelly Hu
- Ben Turner / Bronze Tiger-Michael Jai White
- O-Sensei-James Hong
- Jade Nguyen-Jamie Chung
- Jeffrey Burr-Josh Keaton
- Rip Jagger-Chris Cox
- Schlangenfaust (German for “Snake Fist”)-Robin Atkin Downes
- Lady Eve-Grey Griffin
- Sir Edmund Dorrance / King Snake-Patrick Seitz
- Silver St. Cloud-Erica Luttrell
During the 70s the former students of a missing martial arts teacher search for him.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon is as much a (minor) Batman origin story as it is a story about forged bonds that last through the years. Each of the central characters in this story were trained by the same sensei to be the best that they could be. During that training they became close and now with a new threat on the rise they are drawn together. This is not some film about a villain that just shows up and the good guys do what good guys must do. This is about loyalty and ties built through shared experience that transcend time and personal differences.
The story centers around a snake worshipping cult called Kobra that plans to bring their demon god Naga into our world. This is not a movie where Batman has to face somebody with designs on Gotham. Batman and friends must stop a demon with designs on global destruction. That is a bit of a step up.
As is normal, DC reaches into their character vault. The difference here being the characters are reframed through the 1970s where this film takes place. They did not go over the top to let you know the time but did so with a few musical choices and styling the characters in much the same way as you might see in the action adventure cartoons of the time.
The animation style used here is also a variation on what was done with Batman: The Animated Series when it moved to the WB. I personally prefer that style because it is a bit of an homage to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. It is not over stylized, and the characters do not look goofy in any way.
On an interesting note, Kelly Hu who voices Lady Shiva here previously voiced the character in the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. Also Michael Jai White voices Ben Turner / Bronze Tiger. He had previously portrayed the character on The CW TV series Arrow. I like when movies do that even if the iterations do not tie in to what the actors had previously done.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon is an animated supernatural martial arts film with sprinklings of superspy that opens very much like a James Bond film-specifically Dr. No and then moves into a handful of other Bond film openings. I really liked that. In this day and age the older the Bond film the more it is considered “problematic” and it was nice to see something tipping the hat to the classic Bond movies.
There is the usual action leading to the finale. I do not mean that as an insult. Batman is action oriented so you expect action. I found it an interesting twist that unlike other animated DC films, Batman and friends do not walk away from everything and go back to their lives at the end. There is a little bit of ambiguity in their ultimate fate. With the Batman on your side, you are all but assured victory but that is not explicitly shown in the closing moments though they do save the world.
In the film Batman shares focus with the character Richard Dragon. He is the super spy type character at the opening of the movie who seeks out the help of his old friend Bruce Wayne to stop the Kobra cult from getting a sword called Soul Breaker that will open the doorway that keeps the demon god out of our world. A hint as to why Richard is important to the overall story is dropped at the beginning, but it will not smack you in the face at that point.
It took me a little bit to get to this movie in my unwatched pile, but I am glad I did. It is yet another great animated Batman film. This is a completely original film. There is no comic book storyline or graphic novel upon which it is based. It is a great story that holds you from beginning to end. The characters do not simply exist to support Batman and his actions. They are well done in their own right.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon is another great entry into the DC animated catalog for Batman. It is a great story with well-crafted characters, great animation and plenty of action. Pop it in and watch it or stream it. Whichever but see it definitely.