The new DC animated film “Batman: Soul of The Dragon” is definitely one of the most unique Batman films I have seen, animated or live-action. The film is set in the 1970’s, and has an opening tailor made for any James Bond movie. After the awesome opening, and Bond style opening credits, we see Bruce Wayne in his younger years when he travels to the hidden city of Nanda Parbat (a fictional city in the world of DC comics) in the Himalayan region, to train with caretaker O-Sensei and his five other students of the martial arts: Shiva (Kelly Hu), later known as Lady Shiva, Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Jade (Jamie Chung), who will be later known as Cheshire, Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), later known as the Bronze Tiger, and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox), later known as the Judo Master. The students have a rigorous training regime, and even though they are sometimes rivals as students, they bond as family. During the training, one of the group betrays master O-Sensei, and the group is forced to leave their training habitat. The film then moves forward to the 1970’s setting for the film, as Richard is on the hunt in Gotham City for Bruce in an effort to recruit him to fight against the evil Kobra snake cult, led by millionaire Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton). When Richard finally makes contact with Bruce in his high rise penthouse, the two are surprised attacked by a gang hired by the Kobra cult. As they fight the invaders, Richard learns Bruce is the Batman, and discovers the Kobra cult is in search of an infamous sword named Soul Breaker. Shiva, now known as Lady Shiva, resides in Gotham’s Chinatown, and is the area’s crime lord. Not long after Bruce and Richard meet with Shiva, they are again attacked by a group of cultists, who make off with the Soul Breaker. The trio attempt to retrieve the sword in an exciting chase sequence, but their efforts fail. The trio realize they must travel to the island headquarters of the cult, but first recruit help from Ben, who has been fighting under the mantra of Bronze Tiger for several years, and has had his own battles with the Kobra Cult. The group head to the island in one of Burce’s planes and have to parachute down in order to evade the island’s massive defense systems. The island is the setting of a final showdown between the heroic group and the cult, and the battles are exciting and the ending left me wanting more. The film does have flashback sequences, which help with development of the characters Bruce when training, who are now his allies. Sometimes, flashbacks can slow down the action in a film, but that isn’t the case in this film, as they embellish the storyline. I especially enjoyed seeing Bruce/Batman fighting alongside characters other than his usual crime fighting pals, which several of which (Bronze Tiger) have been sorely underutilized. The film’s 19703s setting is also fun, as this is the era when martial arts films became popular. Seeing Bruce Wayne in bell bottom pants and strutting around like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” is a classic moment from the film. With witty dialogue, amped up action, and a clever script, this film hits on all cylinders. “Batman: Soul of The Dragon” is not a typical Batman film, and is all the better for it. I hope more Batman adventures of this ilk come from DC animation. Now on DVD and Blu-ray.
(Rated R for some violence)