Review: Batman, Soul of the Dragon
I always look forward to the DC animated movies. I was disappointed when the official DC Animated Universe ended with the second Justice League Dark movie. While they will keep making animated movies, they won’t be in continuity with each other allowing all types of stories that would have fallen under the old Elseworlds category. This one follows Bruce’s training in the martial arts and takes a lot of liberty given to it under Elseworlds.
One of the big changes is the character of Richard Dragon who, in regular DC continuity is a white guy. In this movie, he is Asian. I get that they are trying to promote diversity in a lot of movies nowadays. The thing in this case is that about half the main cast of characters are already Asian so changing this character just turns him into a stereotype. After all, if he can do martial arts, he’s probably Asian, right? Wrong. But for this movie, it seems to be in most cases. The really sad thing is that it’s not like it was used to develop the character at all which is why I said he was just a stereotype. The characters come off very flat. There’s no connection with them and it seems like everyone goes through the motions just to get to the end of the movie which I was very glad to do. Like I started out with, I always look forward to these movies, but this one was a definite disappointment. So, on to the details.
Most of the movie is about as cheesy and predictable as it comes. The movie starts out like a stereotypical spy movie with the fake waiter (Richard Dragon) lifting prints to sneak into the bad guys’ office. (Why did they always take pictures of everything with cameras that had a section slide in from the side as the trigger?) Just as he finds the picture of a mysterious door, the goons come in and find him. Move on to a fight scene with all the standard troupes. We move on to the bad guy who “pure evil”, feeding the hooker he just used to a bunch of snakes while he sits and watches. We’re then introduced to Bruce Wayne in the 70s who is just as brooding as ever as he loses another girlfriend. (It’s more or less…. Her: “Tell me your secrets.” Him: “I can’t.” Her: “Good bye. Don’t call me.”) She certainly didn’t fight hard for it. It doesn’t matter because that’s when Richard shows up anyway.
Queue flashback to Bruce climbing a mountain up to Nanda Parbat. This seems to be the place for anything martial arts to be learned as it’s used so liberally but is different in every story. This is where Bruce meets Richard, Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger), Lady Shiva, Rip (Jagger, Judomaster), and Jade (Cheshire). We keep jumping back and forth from the flashback period to the movie’s “present day”. In the 70s, Bruce and Richard are attacked by a bunch of guys that remind me of Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat. Of course, Bruce runs off mid-fight and then all of a sudden, Batman shows up. (Do heroes really think that no one ever puts two and two together?) The bad guys are defeated and the heroes decide they need Shiva.
Flash back to introducing Soulbreaker, a very powerful sword that needs to be protected by the best of the group, Shiva. Of course, in the 70s, the guys show up in to where Shiva is just in time for the sword to be stolen by members of Kobra. (Because who wouldn’t hang a super-powerful mystical sword on the wall above their chair with tons of people around where it could be easily taken if you’re busy with something else?) Now they need Ben too who happens to be a martial arts teacher. Back in the past, we learn the secret of the door in the picture Richard found as Rip kills Jade with Soulbreaker to open it. (They changed a hero into a murderous member of Kobra and Shiva is shown to not be a very good guard of the sword even back then.) The students fight off a bunch of lizard men while the sensei goes into the gate to seal it. End of flashbacks.
We now jump back to the present as the quartet air drop onto Kobra’s island and begin fighting all sorts of bad guys. Shiva and Richard end up pairing off against Lady Eve (who is linked to Kobra in the comics but isn’t someone I’d ever heard of before this) and King Snake. (At least he stays true to theme in the names of his henchmen.) Of course the good guys win the battle but King Snake, who start out seeming like a very adept fighter, turns into a total idiot mid-battle. (King Snake is blind so Richard tricks him but tossing little rocks in different directions to confuse him. The villain keeps turning to attack those directions like a novice and seems to ignore all the other noise Richard is making moving around.) The heroes free the children who were captured for sacrifice to the door so Kobra kills himself to open the door because, of course, he figures he’d still survive after his soul has been sacrificed to the door. (How do you become the head of an evil empire when you’re this dumb?) The door opens and out walks the sensei. A door to an evil dimension opens and out walks your mentor who was in there for years. What do you do? You give him a hug, apparently, because there couldn’t be anything weird going on here. The possessed sensei kicks their asses all over the place until eventually Richard attacks him and they sprout avatars (a Chinese dragon and a snake) and Richard kills him with Soulbreaker. The gate still needs to be closed though. They argue that they each think they should be the one to go through the gate. So, of course, they all go through and get locked in the other dimension. And that’s how the movie ends.
As you can tell by my parenthetical notations, I had a hard time taking this movie seriously. I mean, yes, it is a cartoon, but this is like one of those B movies that’s made to be a B movie. Those can either be funny or just really bad. This was just really bad. (If you want to go funny, go the route of the Brave and the Bold cartoon.) I was really underwhelmed. (As Robin would say, I could have settled for at least being whelmed.) The fact that the movie ends on such a “cliffhanger” when I doubt there will be a part 2 is another reason I didn’t enjoy it. There’s no closure but at the same time, I don’t want to see any more of this so I’m conflicted. After all the previous animated movies DC released that were so good, this was quite a let down. Knowing how the movie is now, I can honestly say that I could have gone without ever seeing this one. In a few months, we should have the Justice Society movie. I really hope they do better with that one.