Batman: Soul of the Dragon (2021)

Movie Title: Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Year Released: 2021

Rated: R

Runtime: 1h 23min

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Crime

Director: Sam Liu

Writer: Jeremy Adams

Starring: David Giuntoli, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White, James Hong, Jamie Chung, Chris Cox, Robin Atkin Downes, Grey Griffin, Erica Luttrell, Patrick Seitz,

Review: In the swinging 1970s, Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) must join forces with a group of elite martial artists from his past to rescue their master sensei (James Hong), defeat a deadly cult, and battle monsters from beyond our world. Batman fights side-by-side with Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Ben Turner aka Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), and Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) to save the world and bring honor back to the man that trained them to be the greatest warriors ever! It's time to throw down and with Batman: Soul of the Dragon.

I was really looking forward to this animated feature after I saw the trailer. It had everything going for it - martial arts action, 1970s exploitation style, and Batman. Unfortunately, Batman: Soul of the Dragon was a big disappointment.

I think the two biggest problems with this misfire is its tone and its script. It doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Is it a spoof? A homage? An action movie? A comedy? A Batman story? A supernatural thriller? It changes so drastically and frequently that I got rather frustrated while watching it. (It reminded me of the problems I had with Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019)) It could have be all those elements, but it never becomes a cohesive story. The best way I can describe it is that it's aggressively lazy. It introduces interesting elements, but never really pays them off or explores them. Frustrating, right?

I did enjoy Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White, and James Hong, and the characters they voiced. But Batman was so... not Batman. Bruce Wayne is barely in the cape and cowl, and when he is he reveals his identity to fellow martial artist Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos) without much regard for the importance of having a secret identity. I guess being Batman is the 1970s was too big of a deal or maybe it is all of the partying and drugs compromising the Dark Knight's judgement.

The action is fine, the supernatural element kind of took me by surprise, but there isn't much tension or a satisfactory conclusion to this original tale. I kept looking at my watch trying to anticipate when things were really gonna kick it gear - no pun intended!

Maybe I'm expecting too much from these DC animated movies. I really wanted to like this one, but Batman: Soul of the Dragon honestly lacked soul. I'd say skip it, unless these type of flicks are your jam!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: The film is dedicated to comic book writer Denny O'Neil, whose comics inspired this film and who created Richard Dragon, Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva.


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