What’s great about most comic publishers is that they aren’t afraid to mess around with their own stories. DC has a history of taking their well-known properties and playing around with their timelines and skewing expectations of what you think you know about their characters. As far as new takes on classic DC heroes go, Batman Ninja, the new animated film from Warner Bros. and Junpei Mizusaki; the creator of Afro Samurai, takes the cake. Nothing else comes close. You’ve never seen anything quite like it. Trust me.
Mild spoilers ahead…
Batman Ninja begins with Gorilla Grodd trying to set off his greatest invention; a time displacement machine he calls the “Quake Engine“. Batman and Catwoman are in the midst of trying to stop Grodd, but it’s too late. Everyone in and around Arkham Asylum is transported back to Feudal Japan. Two years have passed before Batman even arrives. In that time, Joker has taken over and has been dubbed the “Demon Lord” and he and Harley Quinn command an army of samurai. The other four lords vying for power over the country include Penguin, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and Deathstroke. Obviously, our Caped Crusader will not stand for this injustice and sets out to right all of these wrongs. He can’t do this alone though, so he enlists the help of Catwoman, Robin, Red Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Bat Clan, a group of ninjas devoted to following the prophecy of a foreign “bat ninja” that will one day restore order to the land. Also, it’d be nice if they could gain control of the Quake Engine that Joker has acquired to get back to Gotham City, but one thing at a time.
First off, the animation is gorgeous. It flows fluidly. The hand to hand battles are fantastic, especially the final sword fight. Everything looks amazing. Each set piece is more grandiose than the last. The voice acting is well done all around, but the lip synching is a bit off. At some points, it was a little annoying but after awhile you just get used to it. There is one scene that switches up the animation style and looks kind of odd, but other than that misstep, Batman Ninja is a thing of beauty.
When it comes to representation of characters, you’ve never seen a Joker like this one. Usually, he is just a brute that cracks one-liners and swings a crowbar. Nothing has changed here, but this time he attacks with precision and swiftness with a samurai sword. One scene involves Joker and Batman jumping through trees, exchanging blows with each other like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The character designs are wonderful and suit each hero well. Even the villains look awesome. What I really thought was great is that none of the characters loses any of their personality in the transition to Feudal Japan. They each have their own quirks that make them unique, like Harley Quinn and her giant hammer, but their designs look different and feel right at home in this strange new world. Robin has some crazy hair, but I still thought he looked cool. I would love to see a sequel or something in a different era, like a Medieval setting. Now that I’ve watched Batman Ninja, I know this could work.
Not everything is sunshine and rainbows though. The story is ridiculous, which I guess is to be expected from a movie called Batman Ninja. What you don’t realize is just how ridiculous it gets. The third act goes full-blown Power Rangers with the villains battling it out with their respective giant robots that form into one giant robot. It was surprising, but I suppose given the fact that earlier on, we find out Robin communicates with a monkey named Monkichi (seriously, I’m not making this up), the giant robots really don’t seem so weird. With all this crazy nonsense taking place, the third act dragged on for me. The giant robots have cool designs and look great, but I just wanted to get back to the heroes and villains battling it out with swords and guns, face to face.
Batman Ninja is insane. There’s no other way to say it. The story is bonkers, but the animation is extremely well done. The fight scenes are excellent. If you love seeing your favourite DC characters in all kinds of outrageous new storylines, I definitely recommend checking this one out. You’ve never seen anything like it. – NVJ
Batman Ninja is now available on DVD & Blu Ray.
Blu Ray code provided by the man, the myth, the legend, Jamie Boomhour