Directed By: Sam Liu
Starring: David Giuntoli, Kelly Hu, Mark Dacascos
Set in the groovy '70's a legendary martial arts teacher kicks off a quest by his loyal students which just happens to include the caped crusader Batman. So, I actually have not seen an animated Batman movie outside of 1993's Mask of the Phantasm, which I consider one of the best Batman movies. I said this because I had no idea what to expect in tone and graphic content. Batman: Soul of the Dragon is certainly a movie geared towards adult fans. Right away the movie goes into a bombastic fist punching, high kicking sequence that could revival any big budget Bond film. And, while the movie has plenty of great action-set-pieces it has a decent enough story to go with it.
Dragon basically tinkers with Bruce Wayne/Batman's mythos incorporating his pre-Batman days studying material arts. This might offend some diehard fans but, I see it as a alternate timeline situation. Indeed, it was nice to see a young Bruce in a different setting. While the plot may not be the deepest or as well fleshed out as it could have been, I give the movie credit for being a lot of fun to watch. Wisely the film finds a nice balance of sincerity and tongue-in-cheek. It knows when to be serious and also knows when to be a cheeky without ever feeling like a tonal mess. This movie was also way more graphic than I was expecting which I didn't have an issue with as it never feels like it fetishes the bloody-violence. In fact this element feels like higher stakes because people do get serious hurt and or die. Visually the movie really takes full advantage of its colorful animation with a fun and bold color palate. This of course works wonderfully in tandem with its funky '70's setting.
David Giuntli (Grimm series) gives a stellar vocal performance as Batman/Bruce. Not to be over-shadowed is an equally impressive supporting cast including Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White and Mark Dacascos. It's worth pointing out that Michael Jai White was featured in the live action The Dark Knight (2008).
At a lean eighty-three minutes the movie gives us a good amount of character building, over-the-top villain's and of course a lot of action. I loved that Batman's design is pretty close to his pulpy '30's-40's era look with the long ears. Director Sam Liu provides fans with a nearly non-stop carnival of action, great characters and a pretty good story at the heart of it. Setting this in the ultra-groovy '70's was a nice choice and allows the movie to be playful and not ultra-bleak. A must-watch.
Picture: Batman: Soul of the Dragon looks great in UHD. As I expressed in my review the color palate is incredibly vivid and this transfer really does this justice. You can see the up-tick in color thanks to the HDR enhancements.
Sound: Soul of the Dragon features a DTS 5.1 track. This film is filled with action scenes and big booming music and, in my opinion this track is working overtime to match the great visuals.
Extras: This disc has a nice array of features including:
- Batman – Raw Groove (New Featurette)– From the explosion of gritty cinema and kung fu to the cultural changes spreading across the U.S., we explore the early '70s and how they inspired Batman: Soul of the Dragon.
- Producer Jim Krieg's Far Out Highlights (New Featurette)– It's an off-the-hook and out-of-sight supercut of one of Producer Jim Krieg's funniest in-character appearances.
- A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie – An advance look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection, Justice Society: World War II.
- Look Back: Superman: Red Son (Featurette) – Kal-El's rocket fleeing Krypton never reaches Smallville, but instead lands in the Soviet Union, single-handedly shifting the new world order. This is the epic re-imagining of Superman's origin story.
- Look Back: Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (Featurette) – Set against the backdrop of turn of the century Gotham, Batman is involved in a hunt for a criminal who has committed the most heinous acts of murder. This is Batman versus Jack the Ripper!
- From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, "Day of the Samurai"
- From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, "Night of the Ninja"
- Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature