By: John C. Mayberry
The decade of the 1970s saw many things important things happen, the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics to name a few of the more serious and tragic events of the decade. The harsh realities of these and other events resonated with many, oftentimes necessitating the masses to find different ways of distracting themselves. One of the more notable forms of this I firmly do believe was finding escape in the cinema, particularly within the genres of martial arts and spy movies of the day. In taking inspiration from the genres previously mentioned and adapting the style of the decade, Batman: Soul of the Dragon is the perfect blend of these pop culture elements that, once combined, provide an animated film experience the likes of which I wasn’t expecting, but was pleasantly surprised with in its masterful execution.
Starting off with Richard Dragon, who by the start of the film has already gained a reputation in the spy community, we first see him gathering information on a shady organization with plans in place that are more sinister than even he could have conceived. The predicament is made even more serious, and personal, when he recognizes something that ties intelligence he’s gathered directly to his past as a student of O-Sensei in Nanda Parbat. Realizing how close he is to the mystery, he finds himself having to reach out to three of his fellow pupils who studied with him under O-Sensei’s tutelage: Bronze Tiger, Lady Shiva and Bruce Wayne. Upon each of them surviving near death incidents, O-Sensei’s four best students have to come together once more to not only ensure each other’s survival, but to unlock the mystery of The Gate and prevent whatever sinister machinations are planned for it.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon takes a unique and excellently told story, and after blending it together with two film genres that are still widely loved and respected decades later, some of the most fluid movements I’ve seen in any animated feature, packed with action, intrigue and an overwhelming sense to watch and re-watch this latest release from Warner Bros. Animation. And if this movie is any indication as to where their home video releases, digital or otherwise, are going, then I think its safe to say we have many more great things to look forward to from Warner Bros. Animation in the years to come.
Consistent with the times – From the look of the characters, down to the environment in which they are surrounded, the look and feel of this movie are very consistent and keeping in theme within the period of the 1970s, which is when this movie is set. It is obvious also that heavy influence was taken from two of the most popular film genres of the era: the spy caper and the martial arts movies, giving it more of the vibe of a 1970s era film.
Fluid animation – The fluidity of movement most certainly lives up to the reputation of excellence Warner Bros. Animation’s has built over its numerous animated film releases. It’s smooth, flawlessly flows along and is just downright amazing and awe-inspiring to watch the fighting sequences alone. Even if watching this purely as an action movie buff rather than a fan of DC Comics, I challenge you to not be entertained by this film.
Soundtrack – Exactly as you would expect the music composition of a 1970s movie to sound like. Very fitting with the style of the movie as well as very inspired by the popular music of that era. Aside form the movie’s artistic style with regard to character and environment design, the soundtrack you will hear will take you back a few decades.
Transition between present and past events – Some parts of the movie’s story are told through flashbacks, two common occurrences of this being when Bruce sees something in his surroundings that reminds him of his time training in Nanda Parbat. The use of symbolism in the triggering of these memories is very well utilized and adds a certain level of depth to the story’s events.
Excellent writing – One of the best scripts, hands down, that anyone has ever conceived for any of Warner Bros. Animation’s featured films. The interaction between the four protagonists feels natural; they don’t miss a beat, no matter how long it has been since they’ve all seen each other, or despite how they may have changed in the time since. In addition to excellent character relations there are also some very deep concepts at play here, especially with one scene where Bruce begins to learn the true lesson behind one of O-Sensei’s teachings.
OVERALL SCORE – 10 out of 10
I had absolutely no complaints, or even for that matter the slightest of gripes, with Batman: Soul of the Dragon whatsoever. This, this right here, is an example of what a great animated feature can be, and one that Warner Bros. Animation has yet to falter on. They have consistently released great movies with memorable content and the release of this film is no different. All you guys as Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics, keep the greatness coming because we cannot wait to see more of what you have waiting for us!