Warner Brothers Animation has returned to the scene with a new DC Universe feature length animated movie. In another Elseworlds tale, this Batman adventure takes place full on in the 1970’s, complete with bell-bottoms and pork chop sideburns. The title is a bit misleading, because this is really more of an ensemble piece and “The Batman” character only appears in about a fifth of the whole movie (although Bruce Wayne gets plenty of screen time)
Inspired by the films of the 70’s, the story is actually about a team that did their Martial Arts training with a young Bruce Wayne as he was on his way to becoming Batman. The students includes Richard Dragon (a Bruce Lee type character), Ben Turner (a Shaft type character), Shiva (a Martial arts Femme Fatale), Jade (the young impatiant student), and Rip Jagger (the All American Military man). They are taught by the wise master O-Sensei.
The island that holds their training area has a mysterious door that contains a secret known only to the Sensei. When a group of zealots learn what is behind the mysterious door, their activities to try and open it puts the fate of the world in jeopardy. Now years later, they’re returning to finish the job, causing the martial arts students to reunite and try to stop them.
I was hoping to get a typical Batman story, albeit with all the 70’s window dressing, and the movie actually pays more of a tribute to films like “Big Trouble in Little China”, fantastical mystical elements are definitely in play. Once I was able to accept that weirdness, the film became more enjoyable. Although Batman hardly features here (mainly because half the film is flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s training), the other characters more than make up for it, and keep you invested in the story. My favorite was Lady Shiva, she was more of the anti hero which made her actions very unpredictable. O-Sensei was also a standout character.
The plot is very simplified, but that fits perfect with this being a non stop Martial Arts flick. The animation to convey the fight scenes is completely top notch. You can feel the impact of every punch and kick. The “R” rating doesn’t come from language, but from some of the badass (and sometimes bloody) violence on display. The soundtrack is also superb, blending the era’s scratch guitars with a bombastic orchestral score.
All in all, a decent movie if you’re a fan of the DC animation style, familiar with tropes of 70’s films, and can accept that Batman is not the lead, although he does get a few moments to shine.
3.5 out of 5