Batman: Soul of the Dragon
review by Bobby Blakey
The DC Animated Universe continues to knock it out of the park. The latest film Batman: Soul of the Dragon looks to bring an old school martial arts vibe and features a great voice cast including David Giuntoli as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Mark Dacascos as Richard Dragon, Kelly Hu as Lady Shiva, James Hong as O-Sensei and Michael Jai White as Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger reprising his role from Arrow. Could this latest flick be yet another great addition to the DC Animated filmography or will it fail to have enough soul?
Batman: Soul of the Dragon follows an Elseworld’s adventure set during the swinging that 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!
I have loved the majority of the DC animated films that have been release, but this is without a doubt my favorite to date. Obviously the martial arts vibe was already a plus going in, but its 70s vibe and tone remind me of films like Enter The Dragon, and Black Belt Jones with a supernatural flair thrown in for good measure. The music and style is awesome and brings that funky vibe to immerse you into the time period. I love that while Batman’s name is on the header to the film this is not a Batman flick but instead a martial arts team up flick featuring Batman.
There is plenty of action with the martial arts fights all kicking major ass. They clearly spent a good amount of time researching to get the techniques spot on and it showed. They also seemed to cover every element of this genre from organized crime, underground fighting, and spies as well as infusing martial arts wisdom to the mix. All of this not only feeds into the bigger story
here, but features various training flashbacks that is part of the training Bruce did to become Batman. Per usual the animation is beautiful as always and the character designs look similar to the Justice League animated series while still being its own style.
The voice cast kick all kinds of ass with Mark Dacascos stepping into the role of Richard Dragon. He brings a tone that fully embraces both the Bruce Lee and James Bond vibes it needs to make it work. Michael Jai White has been playing Bronze Tiger for some time both animated and live action and steps right back in perfectly. This time around he brings even more attitude mixed with even more swag reminding me of the late Jim Kelly. Shiva is one of the more interesting of the bunch and Kelly Hu brings a confident strong presence to the character making here the most dangerous, feared and all around badass of the bunch. I am always picky with my Batman voice actors, but David Giuntoli does a decent job in the role and captures the essence of the character well. Rouding out the fun cast is the always great James Hong bringing the O-Sensei to life with all the needed wisdom, humor and heart the story needs.
This will no doubt be one I will revisit often as I loved everything about it. Sure it loses some of the classic feel once it gets into the supernatural elements later in the film, but it is still a hell of a lot of fun. I hope this isn’t the last we have seen of this groups adventures and the ending lends itself to more, but only time will tell.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including featurettes, cartoons from the DC vault and a sneak peek at the next DC Animated film Justice Society: World War II. Grab your copy of Batman: Soul of the Dragon available now on digital and then on 4K Ultra, Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.