Batman: Soul of the Dragon Casts Dark Knight into Grindhouse Kung-Fu Epic

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Batman: Soul of the Dragon

A great deal of the Batman animated movies (and the live action ones, for that matter) have focused on the technological advantages Batman has and how he uses them to fight crime: the car, the armor, the gadgetry. "Where does he get those wonderful toy," indeed.

With BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON, the producers take Batman and make him a character -- and not even the central character -- of an animated grindhouse kung-fu flick.

Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), reinvented here from his occidental comic book origin as a sort of Bruce Lee / James Bond character, discovers that a mystical gate has been stolen. To prevent it from being used to release horrors upon the world, he goes to enlist the aid of those who trained with him years ago in Nanda Parbat -- beginning with Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli), not realizing Wayne has been putting his training to use as the masked vigilante, Batman. As a fighter, Dragon notices Bruce is much more effective when he wears the costume, and not because he's holding back when he's not in it out of some need to protect a secret identity.

Realizing their opponents are going to require a mystic sword next in order to open the gate, they pay visit to the sword's guardian -- the leader of Gotham Chinatown's underworld and another former student, Shiva (Kelly Hu), before moving on to enlist the aid of the last surviving member from their days in training, Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), all of whom trained under O-Sensei (James Hong).

The enemy in this scenario is the Kobra cult, led by Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton) and including among its number the snake-handed Schlangenfaust (Robin Atkin Downes), Lady Eve (Grey Griffin) and King Snake (Patrick Seitz). And while there's plenty of martial arts combat, 1970s aesthetics, and otherworldly threats, what's truly interesting here is that Bruce Wayne (or Batman, for that matter) is not the best fighter on the team, let alone against the enemy they face. That DCAU has taken a step back from "bat god" is a refreshing and welcomed change of pace, even if this story is completely out of canon and stands alone, with an ending that cements its status as such.

Bonuses on this Blu-ray release include two featurettes that look back at the martial arts era of 70s cinema, the latter of which had already been released as a Sneak Peek at this film on the previous DCAU release. There is also a Sneak Peek on this release for the next animated feature, JUSTICE SOCIETY: WORLD WAR II, which looks to feature both the Jay Garrick and a pre-JLA version of Barry Allen who visits via time travel. (We say "pre-JLA" because Barry comments as to how he's never seen a team of heroes come together and fight before.)

This release also has two bonus cartoons from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES -- "Day of the Samurai" and "Night of the Ninja" -- shown in reverse chronological order.

One odd thing of note about this release is the spine art for the Blu-ray case: it features an image of Wonder Woman, who does not appear at all, in any way, in this feature.

4.0 / 5.0