Jun 27, 2018

[Movies] Batman Ninja (2018) Review

Well the world of comics is filled with a lot of different experiments and explorations of alternate concepts for established characters. For DC specifically they've come to call these stories "Elseworlds" stories as they had set it as a separate publishing line. They're never part of the main series canon and they do make for entertaining reading.

Batman Ninja is the movie version of this sort of experience, but oddly enough it's an original story and not based on any existing Elseworlds-style work. It's a crazy effort to adapt the anime aesthetic to the Batman franchise with a quirky story holding things together.

While visually stunning, the story is a bit of a mess and overly complicated. But hey, do you really need a serious plot to justify some of the crazy action sequences in this movie? It's really just a wild ride and not much more than that.

Synopsis: Batman Ninja is a 2018 Japanese animated superhero movie directed by Junpei Mizusaki. Character designs for the film were by Takashi Okazaki, who also created Afro Samurai. The story was written by Leo Chu, Eric S. Garcia for the American version and Kazuki Nakashima for the Japanese screenplay.

The movie begins with Batman (Roger Craig Smith/Kōichi Yamadera) battling Gorilla Grodd (Fred Tatasciore/Takehito Koyasu) but the activation of his time displacement Quake Engine sends them all back in time to Feudal Japan. But somehow they arrive at different times and the time displacement also sent back several residents of Arkham Asylum. Thus Batman is initially confronted by samurai dressed like the Joker.

He eventually encounters Catwoman (Grey Griffin/Ai Kakuma), who had been involved with the fight with Grodd and it seems she arrived closer to the time the others did 2 years ago. The other criminals are now all feudal lords with their respective forces. But together with Catwoman and surprisingly Alfred Pennyworth (Adam Croasdell/Hōchū Ōtsuka), he's not entirely alone in this fight. As best as they can figure it, the key to everything is gaining control of Gorilla Grodd's Quake Engine, which is now in the center of what is known as Arkham Castle.

What I Liked: The reinterpretation of Batman and his usual enemies into Feudal Japan anime characters was pretty thorough and resulted in some crazy beautiful renditions as featured in the trailers for this direct-to-video movie. There's a lot of great action and key moments celebrating each character whether good or bad and that's quite the achievement.

And you gotta love how gonzo things get. The best example of this beyond the different stunts Batman ends up doing with his vehicles is the fact that the very castles that each Batman villain ends up using as their individual bases of operations turn out to be giant transforming battle platforms because why not right? So we get giant robots of a sort despite the feudal Japan setting. And I guess that's all that could be expected from an effort to turn Batman into a full anime experience.

What Could Have Been Better: The craziness of the animation did not result in a story that made a lot of sense. It's not clear how the villains were each able to gain so much political power in Japan in the span of two years or how they created their battle castles. It's not like they arrived armed to the teeth since for the most part they were still in their individual cells in Arkham Asylum when the engine was triggered.

Then the big plan was even more bonkers with mind control, even bigger robot and bat-related mysticism. It's really hard to accept things with any degree of logic in mind and thus it goes to the realm of ridiculousness. This might have been easier if it was just an alternate Batman entirely and not a time-traveling story that tried to ground itself in Batman's current reality. That decision twisted the whole story and opened the doors to a lot of crazy.

TL;DR: Batman Ninja is great popcorn fun and is like a Saturday morning cartoon (or in this case anime) amped up to 11. The story is painful to even attempt to comprehend but at least the action is worth it. Thus the movie gets a great 4 Batman-themed feudal characters out of a possible 5.

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