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Years ago, Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) went to an impossible-to-reach compound to be trained in martial arts by O-Sensei (James Hong). His fellow students were Jade (Jamie Chung), Rip Jagger (Chris Cox), Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) and Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos). In between hard-fought lessons about martial arts and the way of life, tensions break out amongst the group until they must fight together when an interdimensional demon threatens their compound.
Years later (i.e., the 1970s), Richard Dragon and Bruce (as The Batman) round up their former classmates when they discover a snake-worshipping cult lead by Kobra (Josh Keaton) wants to grant that same demon passage into this world to take it over. This sets the stage for a magical, mystical entry in DC’s animated superhero films clearly designed for more mature (read: older) fans – and I’m all for it!
Batman: Soul of the Dragon is a very cool animated film from writer Jeremy Adams (Teen Titans Go! VS Teen Titans, numerous Lego DC titles, several episodes of the final season of Supernatural) and director Sam Liu (Superman: Red Son, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen). The guy clearly knows his stuff, and that’s evident here.
The story feels unique in the DC animated cinematic universe as, for once, it doesn’t feel like a global threat or even a city threat – although it still is – as it’s just Batman and other street level characters facing off against a ninja organization. It honestly felt similar to the single season Netflix series The Defenders. It was tight, character driven, action-packed, and with just a hint of impending doom. Given the setting you can bet there are tons of great action sequences amidst all the story and character building, creating a perfect ebb and flow throughout.
The voice acting is perfect. This was Giuntoli’s first outing as Bruce/Batman, but he felt just as confident in the role as Jason O’Mara, who’s played the role in over a dozen titles. Michael Jai White reprises his role as Ben Turner, aka Bronze Tiger, who he’s played many times on the CW series Arrow. Kelly Hu, no stranger to the DC universe, plays Shiva exactly as I imagine she’d be like in a live-action version – frankly outclassing other TV versions who’ve played her.
And I believe this was our first ever version of Richard Dragon in any media other than the comics, and Mark Dacascos plays him flawlessly.
The only things I took issue were are the ending (which feels far too easy and comes a little out of nowhere) and the fact that it takes place in the 1970s. I’m a believer that a period piece should need to be a period piece. This could have just as easily been in present day without altering anything about the movie besides the wardrobes, making it feel like a bizarre choice. That said, I absolutely recommend watching Batman: Soul of the Dragon. It’s a great time for everyone.