By ANGELA XU
“The door to destiny is always open for those who are brave enough. Now, shut the door before you let the heat out!”
On Jan. 12, DC Comics released their new animated film, Batman: Soul of the Dragon. The movie revolves around Batman joining forces with three other fellow students of martial arts master O-Sensei to close a gate that is home to a horrific monster and uncover the mystery of their teacher’s disappearance.
As the 40th installment of the DC Universe, Batman: Soul of the Dragon takes a new twist in the Batman franchise by giving the dark hero some new challenges and companions.
One aspect of a DC storytelling breakthrough is that the plot does not focus solely on Batman. From Lady Shiva to Bronze Tiger, each character in the movie was given enough spotlight that allowed audience members to get to know the characters to a certain point. The film essentially makes use of previous canon installments with flashbacks of when the main characters were still being trained by O-Sensei. These flashbacks also take the opportunity to expand Batman’s character as an individual beyond the suit with more appearances of him as Bruce Wayne. He is often portrayed as a skilled martial artist, so being able to witness his training first-hand is the result of the writing taking another step away from the typical Batman films.
In addition, the style of the animation is a nice throwback to the early 2000s DC cartoons. Taking advantage of the simplified designs, characters were able to showcase their amazing martial arts skills in a dynamic style. With each punch delivered, you could feel the impact as the coordinating sounds and effects perfectly match with each sequence. In comparison to the more modern Justice League series, the animation style of superhero cartoons have evolved; however, Batman: Soul of the Dragon immerses viewers once again with the nostalgia of old DC movies.
Another one of the movie’s prominent features is the flamboyant soundtrack. The movie tackles different genres of jazz and rock that emits an upbeat and exciting feeling for listeners. It does not take much to notice how the tracks contrast to the 2015 music of Batman films where the producers were more focused on somber sounds to match the dark atmosphere of Batman at that time.
To elaborate, unlike many other Batman movies such as Batman Hush or Son of Batman, the film portrays a lighter tone with its style and sound. However, its status as an R-Rated movie shows consistency within Batman films, although violence was a lot less prevalent in comparison to Justice League Dark Apokolips War.
Despite the film’s unique premise, many had argued that the 70s James Bond style the movie was trying to reenact made the overall film boring with lazy-cut animation. However, it can be argued that the movie attempting this approach is what makes it more interesting. The animations were indeed not up-to-bar with modern standards, but they are not exactly “boring” animations as it takes into account the many action scenes occurring within the story.
Furthermore, the addition of a full Asian cast, omitting Batman and Bronze Tiger, voice-acting, and animating the series is another leap for the Warner Bros industry to feature more accurate Asian culture in films. From depictions of the dragon to the specific martial arts style taught by O-sensei, the small details depicted in the film showcase the dedication of the cast that should not go unnoticed.
Overall, the movie is a breath of fresh air. With a good plot, well-established characters, and a cast that nicely represents the culture and setting of the movie, the film gives way for new and unique Batman films in the future.