Title: Batman Ninja
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Director: Junpei Mizusaki
Starring: Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale
Story By: Eric S. Garcia
Running time: 85 minutes
(The following article contains minor spoilers for DC’s Batman Ninja. If you haven’t seen it and plan on watching it, keep in mind that this review will spoil some of the later parts of the film.)
Batman Ninja is one of the oddest movies I have ever seen. While the anime-centric animation does provide for beautiful action sequences, the rest of the film lacks anything of substance and instead is filled with cliches and tropes from both Batman and anime lore.
The story starts with Batman and the Robins attempting to stop Gorilla Grodd’s latest creation, the Quake Engine. Before they can stop it, the machine goes off, sending Gotham back in time to feudal Japan. Batman arrives to find that Gotham’s most notorious villains have all risen to the ranks of feudal lords and that he is the only one that can stop them.
While it sounded ridiculous to at first, I was able to forgive the simple execution of the premise, for the sake of comics. It doesn’t take long before that ridiculousness starts to run rampant though. Characters become parodies of themselves. Whether it is Batman delivering the same brooding, dour lines or his enemies screaming something along the lines of “I’ve got you now!,” the only thing interesting about characters in Batman Ninja is their design. Bane becomes a sumo wrestler, Red Hood a monk, and The Joker appears to be an oni daimyo.
It becomes pretty obvious that those design, the location, and the idea of a Japanese version of Batman were the only reason this film was created. If not, there what are the characters motives? Why did they wait two years until Batman arrived to start doing something? And why the hell does Batman get sad about the fact that he doesn’t have his technology?
All of this is air apparent immediately, occurring in about the first 15 minutes. The rest of the 85-minute film is filled with a Batman Ninja clan, Joker Samaraui, a giant Batman, and a mech suite fight (ala Voltron). I’ll admit, the sheer insanity of it all was indeed fun, but this was definitely not a Batman film. Batman films have always been about the characters and the story. This was 100 % an anime film and will likely appeal to fans of hardcore anime. Batman Ninja is pretty much all about the fight animations and seeing if they can top the madness of the last scene.
In all fairness, the fight scenes are what drew me in from the trailers. The idea of Batman fighting similar to some of my favorite anime’s – think more along the lines of baby’s first anime like Naruto – was too alluring to pass up. And Batman Ninja delivers. It took what the short film Batman of Shanghai promised and made into a full-length film. There were a lot of scenes where I was sucked into the quick, fluid motions on display. I think the animation would have been absolutely perfect had it not been for the distracting 3D element too.
While fast-paced fight scenes were gorgeous, Batman Ninja is ugly when standing still. Maybe chalk it up to the fact that it was dubbed over, but lips did not match up to conversations far too often. More often than not it simply felt like I was watching a Telltale movie when Batman Ninja wasn’t in an action sequence.
Voice acting wasn’t too much better. Outside of DC regulars Tara Strong (Harley Quinn) and Grey DeLisle (Catwomen), most of the performances felt phoned in or overexaggerated. Where Roger Craig Smith’s portrayal of the Dark Knight did nothing for me, Tony Hale’s joker was a whiny imitation of Mark Hammil.
I can’t fault Batman Ninja for going out of its way to freshen up the design and style of Batman as a whole. What I can say is that this movie is hollow when it comes to being an actual movie, let alone a Batman story.
Verdict: Batman Ninja shows that while it has an awesome premise, it was also far too reliant on it. As a result, its story and characters suffer. It will definitely be a polarizing film. Hardcore anime fans will consider it to be a new standard for the DC animated films. Those that are looking for substance will be considerably confused throughout though, as the movie makes no sense.
What did you think of Batman Ninja? Did you love it as an anime fan? Did you hate it as a Batman fan? Or are you waiting for the dub to release? Either way, be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below!
- Beautiful fight animations
- Anime fans will likely love it
- One dimensional character
- Non-sensical story
- Voice overs and English Dub
- 3D animation looks terrible out of fights