"Batman: Soul of the Dragon" Animated Release Talkback (Spoilers)

"Batman: Soul of the Dragon" - Rate and Discuss this DC Universe Movie!


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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Batman: Soul Of The Dragon

I really don't like the DC Universe Original Animated Movie line. I never have. Once in awhile I will see a movie I like. Rarer still, I'll see a movie I love. But even the movies I love, I quickly get over them, or believe they don't work in hindsight. I liked Superman / Batman: Public Enemies, All-Star Superman, Justice League Doom, and The Death Of Superman when I saw them, but if you ask me now what I responded to at the time I draw a blank. I don't remember. About the only "good" DC Animated films I've seen that have stuck with me are Justice League: The New Frontier and Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five. As a rule, even on the rare occasion I love a movie, it doesn't get in my head and stay with me.

Let me just tell you, I do not believe I will be forgetting why I loved and enjoyed Batman: Soul Of The Dragon anytime soon. I would love to say it was a perfect movie, but it wasn't. But it was singularly unique for this line, and frankly it's the best one and my favorite.

Before we get into the things I responded to in the movie, I need to address some of my critiques in previous reviews. Specifically, the pushback I've gotten from some of them. My negative reviews of Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, Justice League Dark: Apokalips Wars, and the first episode of Harley Quinn. My reviews of each of these projects were harsh, and I was told my low grades for some of them were ridiculous. I think a common complaint of my reviews is "Well, we know you don't like R-rated animated films, so why keep watching them?" I get the argument, and the annoyance at my eternal negatively to the projects I mentioned. Left unsaid is that I gave a very positive review to Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, and was one of the rare few to give a positive review to Batman: The Killing Joke. But I want to be clear. It's not that the projects are R rated which was my problem with them. My problem was that all of the scripts were weak, and they each masked the weakness with bloodspattering gore, and hoped that would be enough for bloodthirsty fans. I actually gave the recent Mortal Kombat cartoon film, which was more violent than all of those things put together, a positive review because as simplistic as the story was, it actually worked and had resonance. I'll confess I'm not a fan of blood and gore. But a movie that has those things is not automatically bad for it. What's bad is when that is all it supposedly has going for it.

That makes sense, right? I mean, if I AM squeamish and prudish about gore and language and all that nonsense, doesn't it make complete sense that my views of the projects I mentioned were negative? Because they literally had nothing else going for them. If their entire draw and selling point is something I don't like, of course I'm gonna hate the movie. And it's not because I hate violent R rated movies in general. I loved Pulp Fiction and The Crying Game. In reality, it's because it was a bad R rated movie.

But honestly, I think I loved this movie for the same reason Captain America: Civil War was my favorite Marvel movie for years: It doesn't act or feel like a superhero movie. It feels like a great movie in general from an entirely different genre. I don't much like current superhero comics, or at least not the ones I've read and been exposed to. I like movies that take chances with the premise, and sort of expand it beyond what a superhero movie should be.

I knew the movie would be getting a super positive grade by end of the opening scene. Yes, it's awesome that Richard Dragon beats down all the bad guys with an apple in his mouth. But that was mere gravy to the scene. The movie won my heart while he was looking through the files with the apple in his mouth. You don't see very many animated films use a distinct visual cue to sort of fill in the blanks of a character's personality. The movie did not need to have the greatest animated expressions ever for me to connect with it. That moment told me everything I needed to know about Richard Dragon. And it's the first scene.

Another great character moment for him was him inviting the bouncer out back for a Karate demonstration and fight. The viewer practically rubs their hands in glee while muttering under his breath, "Oooh, this guy's gonna get it!" Instead, Dragon locks him in the alley, and walks into the club unmolested leaving us all hanging. I freaking love that. I love the comedy of disappointing the audience's expectations of seeing this guy violently put in his place, when all Richard needed to do to put him in his place is outthink him. Did I mention I loved the movie?

I also liked the bit where Shiva defeated Rip with one finger by sticking it in his mouth and tossing him to the ground from inside his cheek. Gotta admit, never seen that move before. I also liked her taking down the idiot fighter in her ring who basically dishonored her entire establishment by cheating.

I thought it was a neat moment that Ben Turner warms to Bruce simply because he refuses to stop getting beat up.

I also like that the climax of the movie made Dragon the actual protagonist of the final fight. Batman played a small supporting role (no doubt a mandate from corporate) but it's another reason this doesn't feel or play like a superhero movie.

David Guintoli is an underappreciated actor, and he made a very good Bruce Wayne. He was the right person to deliver the line, "It's a distraction." Guintoli was the lead on Grimm, but nobody who loves that show ever raves about him. We're all about Monroe, and Bud the Eisbeiber, and all of the other "Wesen" characters, but the truth is Guintoli was the lead on the show, and was probably more responsible than anyone else for it being the success it was. And if you think about it, it makes the role of Nick Burkehart, the Grimm, somewhat thankless, while we are oohing and aahing over some of the Wesen supporting cast. But Grimm was solid for most of its run, and it wouldn't have been if it didn't have a solid anchor for everyone else. I very much believe Guintoli deserves to be cast in more stuff because of it.

Why is Wonder Woman on the Blu-Ray spine? Is that actually supposed to be Shiva? Because it looks like Diana.

What was up with the scene with the prostitute and the snakes? And does the dude eat live mice? Super creepy.

Shiva IS the weapon. Because of course she is.

Do I have any complaints? Two. One small. One not. I object to the kids in jeopardy trope every single time I see it. It's cheap and manipulative. The good news is that the movie wasn't cynical enough to kill a kid or two off to raise the stakes, or demonstrate the villain's evil. The heroes are allowed to save them all.

The other thing I regret I didn't like, but even if I didn't like it, it was interesting. I didn't like the last scene. Frankly, if Batman had sacrificed himself and we never saw him again as the rest of the characters did the needed story wrap-up, I'd consider that a great ending. All of them sacrificing themselves and us missing the battle where they were almost certainly killed feels unfulfilling on some level. Didn't I say it was interesting though? I don't know how many Batman cartoons I've seen where the implication is that Batman dies at the end of it. Even if I don't like it, I can admire the audacity of it.

While I am here I should probably TALK about the R rating. It's another example that the MPAA is freaking useless. If I were in charge of rating the movie I wouldn't have given it an R on its worst day. It's a middle of the road PG-13 at best. But MPAA ratings are completely arbitrary, unhelpful, and corrupt, so that doesn't shock me. Still, the truth is, even if I'm wrong and it deserved one, it doesn't FEEL like an R-rated movie, or try to portray itself as one to be edgy. Which is fine with me.

So basically, Bruce Timm, Jim Krieg, you both did good. My biggest objection to this DTV movie line is that for the most part the producers do not believe I should be enjoying what I'm watching. This movie was actually fun. This movie WANTED me to think it was cool, from the 70's era Warner Logo (which gave me flashbacks to a Ralph Bakshi cartoon) to Dragon taking out the blind dude by throwing pebbles everywhere, this movie wanted me to like it. So I actually did. Funny how that works. *****.
 

Yojimbo

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Why is Wonder Woman on the Blu-Ray spine? Is that actually supposed to be Shiva? Because it looks like Diana.
The spine art of each movie, starting with Man of Tomorrow, combines into a larger graphic that won't necessarily correlate with the released movie's cast. In this case, on the Soul of the Dragon spine is Wonder Woman from the upcoming Justice Society: World War II. One of her arms was previously on the Man of Tomorrow spine. Her other arm looks like is on the JS: WW II spine along with other characters, but we don't have a good image yet - just at an angle.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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To tell the truth, we had two big inspirations for the ending. One was the series finale episode of ANGEL, “Not Fade Away”, wherein our heroes are facing seemingly unbeatable odds, and it cuts to black before the final epic battle begins. During one of our story-breaking sessions, I was delighted to learn that Jeremy was one of those weirdos (like me) who actually really liked the ambiguous nature of that one. Knowing that lots of Angel fans DIDN’T care for it, that some felt it was anti-climactic or that it was inconclusive or whatever, we knew it would be a gamble to do something kinda similar here — but it just felt right to us. So there you go.
"Not Fade Away" was the first thing I thought of. But unlike that ending, it didn't annoy me. Because I didn't just invest 5 years with the characters, (or 8 years counting the entire Buffyverse). A flippant ending is perfectly fine here.

For the record, Batman and friends definitely died after the credits rolled. That's my opinion and you can't take it away from me.
 

Troy Troodon

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Only other thing I think worth critiquing in this film is it's portrayal of Lady Shiva.

Here she seems too cold and bitter. And yeah I know the character is supposed to be a ruthless assassin type character, but in spite of her prowess she can also exhibit some amusement and even an gallows sense of humor even when she's pissed off. She can enjoy getting into some conflict while still not getting cocky and ahead of herself. Sort of a balanced conduct.

I think her portrayals in Beware the Batman, and even Young Justice are perhaps closer to the original character in terms of demeanor and behavior.
 

Yojimbo

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Only other thing I think worth critiquing in this film is it's portrayal of Lady Shiva.

Here she seems too cold and bitter. And yeah I know the character is supposed to be a ruthless assassin type character, but in spite of her prowess she can also exhibit some amusement and even an gallows sense of humor even when she's pissed off. She can enjoy getting into some conflict while still not getting cocky and ahead of herself. Sort of a balanced conduct.

I think her portrayals in Beware the Batman, and even Young Justice are perhaps closer to the original character in terms of demeanor and behavior.
Yeah, but the flashbacks reveal exactly why she's like that in the present of the story yet she still has a lot of great moments like 'I am the weapon' that are totally Shiva.
 

Jiggle-Bot

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I enjoyed this film and it was really fun to watch. It was interesting to see a Batman that wasn't invulnerable as he wasn't the best at everything - not that I mind that badass version of Batman but it was good to see him in an ensemble cast where he was better for being part of a team.

I thought the title meant it was going to be a more Bat centric movie but I'm guessing the movie wouldn't have have been harder to sell if it was just called 'Soul of the Dragon'.

Interesting design for Batman's cowl with the more pronounced flair out for his ears and his more narrow but still square jawline... it almost looks like a prototype for the new Batman Caped Crusader look...
 

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