Friday 24 May 2024

Ani-MAY-tion: Batman: Soul Of The Dragon (2021)

I have enjoyed many of the animated Batman movies from the past couple of decades, some of them rank alongside some of my favourite live-action features, and so I went into Batman: Soul Of The Dragon with a certain amount of optimism. It looked as if Batman was being thrown into the middle of a Bruce Lee escapade, and that was alright by me. Okay, there’s no ACTUAL Bruce Lee here, but we all know this is a pairing of Batman and Lee in everything but name.

The plot revolves around a mystical and powerful sword. It was guarded for years, but now may have fallen into the wrong hands. If the sword is used to open a secret gate then our world will be at the mercy of some grand horrors. Fortunately, Batman is on the case, and he is accompanied by some skilled martial artists who used to train alongside him many years ago.

This should have been a slam dunk. I cannot think of the last time I was so excited by the premise of an animated Batman movie, and I kept putting off my viewing of it with a heavy heart. The fact that it ends up being a sub-par adventure for the Caped Crusader is almost unforgivable. There’s no reason for this to be as relatively dull as it is, and things aren’t helped by a supernatural element coming to the fore in the third act.

Writer Jeremy Adams supplies a dull and lifeless script, seemingly uninterested in using the period and setting to occasionally let loose and have some fun with the characters, and director Sam Liu (who helmed one of my favourite animated Batman films a few years ago) does little to liven things up in between the moments of dialogue. The fights lack a certain amount of power and flair that I was expecting, and the pacing isn’t helped by the non-chronological structure, making things feel a bit too drawn out as we are pulled towards a finale that doesn’t seem half as interesting as other movie ideas I had in my head.

The voice cast do well enough. David Giuntoli is fine in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, although he isn’t up there with the best actors to take on the role, but I was much happier to hear the performances from Mark Dacascos, Michael Jai White, and Kelly Hu. I am not saying that I recognised them immediately, but they were a great fit for their respective roles, and I am generally a fan of them in anything they do. James Hong also has a small role, and is always a welcome delight, while Josh Keaton is stuck playing a fairly uninteresting villain.

It’s all okay, I guess, but almost every department deemed a bit more. The visual style should have been bolder, the soundtrack should have been more interesting, and the plot should have mixed in more recognizable elements from one or two classic martial arts movies. We should have been given a great “Bruce Lee” movie with Batman added in as a special ingredient. Instead we got a mediocre Batman movie with “Bruce Lee” and co. mishandled and wasted.


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1 comment:

  1. It seemed like it was basically a backdoor pilot for a Richard Dragon series of movies. I did a little research on Richard Dragon afterwards and he was basically DC's version of Marvel's Iron Fist in the 70s. Later incarnations were Asian instead of white. Unfortunately this is the kind of bait-and-switch DC movies have done a few times where they call it a Batman movie for the marketing but it really focuses more on other character(s). It's definitely not high up on my list of animated DC movies.