Buckle up your bell bottoms, spin the disco ball, and grab your nunchucks. The dark knight returns in a groovy retro animated adventure from the seventies. Batman: Soul of the Dragon is an original story that mixes Bruce Lee inspired action with a James Bond story. The Caped Crusader is actually a supporting character of the ass-kicking Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos). Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) genesis story is updated with a Japanese master and a cohort of allies. The plot is thin at times, but the film features a fun and interesting new take on the beloved superhero.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon opened in the 1970s with a secret agent, Richard Dragon, who infiltrates a shady millionaire’s mansion. There is something sinister about snake-eyed Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton). Richard finds a threatening clue. After a soaring escape, he travels to Gotham City to reconnect with an old friend.
Bruce Wayne is stunned to find Richard in his penthouse. The film remembers Bruce as a troubled young man. He travels to a secret monastery hidden on a snow-capped mountain. Burdened with the guilt of murdering his parents, Bruce asks the wise O-Sensei (James Hong) to train him to conquer evil. Bruce is introduced to Richard, Shiva (Kelly Hu), Jade (Jamie Chung), Ben Turner (Michael Jai White) and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox). O-Sensei’s students brutally compete against each other during the strenuous training regime. Bruce quickly learns that his fame and fortune are viewed with contempt by the other students.
In the present, Richard informs Bruce that O-Sensei’s most prized property is being hunted by a cult called the Cobra. You must bring the trainees back together to prevent Kobra from carrying out her hideous plan. But the disciples of O Sensei did not part in a friendly way. A devastating event in the monastery darkens all their fate. You have to overcome your bitter past to defeat a truly monstrous enemy.
The film is essentially a combination of Enter the Dragon and Live and Let Die. It’s full of martial arts duels, high speed chases, and snake-inspired supernatural themes. The protagonists come from the comic series “Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter” from the seventies. Lady Shiva, Bronze Tiger and O-Sensei stay close to the source material. Richard Dragon becomes an Asian character in the style of Bruce Lee. Hardcore Batman fans can be turned off by his minor character status. I found it refreshing to see Bruce Wayne in a different light. He doesn’t have to be the toughest or deadliest hero to make an impact.
Director Sam Liu and screenwriter Jeremy Adams surpassed the 70s. You could have called it back a little. The disco score got on my nerves after a while. The plot is good, but there are some scattered weaknesses. The training scenes and an exciting third act make up for the lull. Character development is decent across the board, but Richard Dragon needed more exposure. He’s the star of this show. It is never explained how he came to the monastery and became O-Sensei’s best student.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon Earned its R rating with bloody violence, mature themes, and a disturbing sex scene. This is not a movie for the younger kids but should be fine for the teen audience. The animation does the job. It’s not overly noticeable, but the fight scenes are well staged. The ending will definitely surprise the audience. Batman: Soul of the Dragon is a production by Warner Bros. Animation. It is currently available for digital download and will be released on January 26th by Warner Bros. Home on Blu-ray / DVD. Entertainment.
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