Not every movie is going to resonate with all audiences, especially when it deviates from expectations, when it shifts our ideas of what a franchise means AND when it embraces unpopular elements to make something better.
Batman Ninja (2018)
Cast: Roger Craig Smith, Grey Griffin, Tony Hale, Fred Tatasciore, Tara Strong, Yuri Lowenthal, Will Friedle, Tom Kenny, Adam Croasdell, Eric Bauza
Director: Junpei Mizusaki
released on blu-ray Apr 24, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Audience Score 47%
The Guardian: N/A
Junpei Mizusaki is a Japanese animator, producer, and newly minted director. Having previously worked on Mega Man games (Megan Man X8, Megan Man X Command Mission, Mega Man X7) a TV series called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a segment from the film Zoo, and a host of other anime content.
His anime resume should more then prove his ability to put together a solid anime film, but what is truly at stake is the mythos of Batman. And the question that remains is can Mizusaki properly fuse to elements of culture without bastardizing one to improve the other?
Special thanks to Warner Bros. for the IMDB summary of the film –
Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s (Fred Tatasciore) time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight (Roger Craig Smith) and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker (Tony Hale) taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman (Grey Griffin) and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.
If it’s not clear yet, I actually love Batman, which is why I’ve been so selective in my reviews on Batman related content, because at timotheories we really want to give you the best movies to watch, not just what is popular and trending. And so I can argue without a reasonable doubt that this is one of the best Batman movies since 2008’s The Dark Knight. Yes, I loved The LEGO Batman Movie, but there have been so many other properties distributed in recent years that fail to capture the discipline, absurdity, intellect, and intensity of The Batman.
Gotham By Gaslight was pretty good too, but this resonates much more strongly. I’m not sure that’ve made this statement properly before either, but I believe that Batman should be a public domain property at this point. Sure DC Comics can retain the right to produce movies, make stories and sell merchandise, but other creators should have the ability to tell stories with a character which is almost a century old at this point.
And this is why I loved Batman Ninja. An untested director took the mythos, respected it, and also added to it. Now, I will admit that the movie gets stranger as it moves along, but if you watch any anime, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the film would enter into weird tangental discussions and feature ridiculous plot threads.
This is common in anime, and Batman Ninja delivers on the absurdity of Batman’s history.
Pros: The Japanese animation team that constructed this story honours the history of Batman, while also elevating his mythos and injecting something new into the mix, something that is far more interesting then many of the previous DC animated films. The backdrop of the story is lushly crafted, and the zaniness of the comics is amplified with Japanese samurai, ninja, and feudal era culture.
Cons: The premise of the story is unique, but it is somewhat rushed to resolution in the final act, and how everything progresses to reach that resolution (spoilers: robot castles) is somewhat bizarre when considered through the lenses of western standards of filmmaking.
Runtime: 1 hours 25 minutes
Points of Interest: All of the fight scenes were performed and filmed with live actors first and then animation was created from that footage. The Batman figure formed from the bat and monkey armies in the final battle is very similar to his first costume in Detective Comics.
Ultimately, my major disappointment with this film is that I expected a more serious exploration of Batman trapped in feudal Japan. Learning and improving upon samurai and ninja disciplines was an awesome plot thread, but why wasn’t it explored more?
In summary, if you are willing to accept the flaws of Batman, and go into this film expecting it to defy traditional western filmmaking, then you’ll have a really great time seeing a properly made Batman anime. In fact, I hope DC makes more of these types of films, or all of their flagship characters. If you’re a collector this needs to be on your shelf.
And if you want another genre-defying film to fill your film-watching needs, then it might be time to either dust off The Descent or pick it up if you haven’t seen it yet. Chris has all of the details in this Watch Culture video movie review
Lastly, please let me know what you thought of both of these reviews on love, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel (and email) if you haven’t already. Lots more theories to come!