Movie Review: Batman: Soul of the Dragon
Cheap and quick it may be to knock Batman: Soul of the Dragon with a “more like Batman: Soulless” quip, it would remove the opportunity to discuss the animated format of DC filibusters and faff. Make no mistake, the Sam Liu-directed piece is as obstructive as this introduction makes out. But how can something so harmless be so horrid? How indeed. Under the impression that the charms of these cartoonish affairs were light, spry and of a quality similar to the glory days of Batman’s animated escapades, you would be forgiven for expecting something of quality. Say farewell to your endless and senseless love for Batman, because this piece concerns itself with an opening that steals from James Bond and then suffers the immediate guilt of doing so, backing down and relinquishing any sense of quality this product could have had in the first few moments.
What should be instantly noticeable is how poor the animation looks. To compare it to a cartoon that would play in the dead hours of the early morning, as the first few streaks of that burning yellow came through the murky clouds would be too much of a compliment. Batman: Soul of the Dragon looks rough around the edges, and without much polish must instead rely on those chirpy, lethargic drawings. It certainly captures the Batman: The Animated Series style, in the sense that Batman: Soul of the Dragon looks like a weak product distilled in a barrel from the early 1990s. But from what little this brain of mine can recall from such a show, there was at least a narrative quality.
This is as much a Batman film as that time he teamed up with Scooby-Doo. He’s unrecognisable anyway, had he been milling about in the background nobody would have noticed. A design flaw rather than a character issue. On the rare occasion the caped crusader does show up, he is of little use to anyone. A billionaire playboy with a knack for dressing up as a creature of the night and pummelling those few foolish enough to hit a man wearing a metal suit with a bit of wood is nary to be found. He is, for better or worse, more or less absent. Instead, the film concerns itself with triad-like terrors, evil must be vanquished yet again, but not by Batman, no, he’s far too busy burying another iteration of Robin or hanging from the ceiling. He passes on the opportunity to dispense justice, and his three urchin proteges take over. They will surely not be seen again, especially given how bland and boring they are.
Who this product is made for is a genuine mystery. Surely it cannot be fans of animation, for if they wanted this quality then they would surely leap at What’s New Scooby-Doo. At least then there would be a story resonant throughout. Batman: Soul of the Dragon will fail to appeal to the three major draws its title has. A lack of Batman, no soul whatsoever, and who knows, if your definition of the word “dragon” is loose, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, there is no real reason to participate in the rushed, underwhelming and uninspired shlock Liu provides.