BATMAN NINJA (2018)

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Batman Ninja - CoverWarner Brothers have recently released a full length animated adventure which introduces us to a manga-inspired version of the Dark Knight. The film is 85 minutes long, directed by Junpei Mizusaki, and it features the vocal talents of such actors as Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Tara Strong, and Fred Tatasciore. Plus as a special bonus, the end product will also include three featurettes surrounding the making of this film.


Batman Ninja


THE STORY:
Look, Grodd (Fred Tatasciore). Look at what you’ve done. Go on, open your beady little eyes and see for yourself what you and your time machine has actually done to everyone around us, including me, my enemies, and my allies. One minute we were all fighting inside Arkham Asylum, fighting it out in order to prevent you from using your damn machine, and the next, BOOM, we were all transported through time and ended up here, in feudal Japan

Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, to make matters even worse, as soon as we arrived some of my enemies took it upon themselves to take over numerous parts of this already divided kingdom! While The Penguin (Tom Kenny) took over one section of land located in the east, Two-Face (Eric Bauza) took over another section of land located in the west. Then there was Deathstroke, Poison Ivy, and of course, The Joker and Harley Quinn (Tony Hale & Tara Strong), each of them setting down roots while setting up shop in the name of anarchy, bedlam, and mirth.

Now I can’t allow any of this to carry on for much longer, now can I, Grodd? No. Obviously not. So that’s why I have to adapt to these ancient times and become accustomed to these oriental ways, doing so with the hope that I can find each of the missing pieces of your broken time machine! Otherwise, well, we’re all going to be left stranded here for the rest of our lives. And you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you? 

But wait a minute! I just thought of something! Where should I begin my quest and who should I join forces with? You? Catwoman? Red-Robin? Nightwing? The other Robin? Or maybe somebody who knows the lay of the land? Come on, you sneaky ape, answer me damn you! Answer me now! For I am the Batman (Roger Craig Smith), the legendary Dark Knight, and what next transpires will begin when I take on the locals. As a band of warriors gets ready to clash - a sailing ship takes an awfully big splash - a clown and his wife have simply forgot - and at the end of the day, a group of monkeys slap-down a giant robot. 




THE REVIEW:
One night, after a pretty heavy drinking session down the pub, I came back home and found myself feeling rather peckish. So, as per usual, I went to my fridge and took out something for me to eat: Namely, a frozen spicy pepperoni pizza plus a bar of milk chocolate.

But, the problem was, I was drunk, I was really drunk, and for some strange reason I thought it would be a good idea to eat the pizza and the chocolate at exactly the same time. Which I did, eventually, after placing them both in the oven for the next twenty minutes, gas mark 6, with the chocolate sitting on top so it would melt over the pizza like a layer of icing on a cake! 

Batman Ninja - Catwoman and Harley Quinn
Well, in my mind I thought, you know, I like pizza, I like chocolate, so who would it hurt if I digested them both in one foul swoop? Me. That’s who it would hurt. Big time! And if you want proof, try it yourself one day just to see how quickly it takes you to run to the nearest toilet. Trust me, it isn’t a very nice experience, which in a funny way brings me quite nicely onto this animated adventure, 'Batman Ninja', as its the type of adventure that possesses two sets of ingredients I really quite enjoy, Batman and manga, but once they’re mixed together, well, blluuurggg! 

Do you know what I mean by this? If not, then please allow me to explain in another way. After all, when I first sat down to watch this film I was hoping that it would be a straightforward story steeped in ancient tradition and Japanese culture. I’m sure you know the type of thing I’m referring to, dear reader, as I was hoping it would be a timely tale, like 'The Legend of the Monkey King', and would feature our favorite hero fighting the good fight while learning new traditions and old customs. But what we got instead was, well, how can I put this? Oh! I know! Generally speaking what we got was a fairly bog-standard action-adventure that featured an army of giant robots, a ton of pointless cameos, plus a strange little sub-plot that implied Batman relied heavily upon the use of his technology.

Batman Ninja - Giant Joker Robot
Seriously, does any of this make much sense? Keeping in mind that most of this story is set in feudal Japan! No. Unfortunately not! Saying so because tonally these additional elements directly hindered the historical aspects associated with the era depicted. Take those cameo appearances I just mentioned, for instance, because they were in reference to Alfred Pennyworth and the villain Bane: Two characters who showed up, had a little time in the spotlight, but unfortunately didn’t have any real impact on the overall plot. The same can also be said about those 'Transformer' styled robots too. As a matter of fact, not only did their inclusion impact the historical tone this adventure attempted to convey, but in some respects, their designs were so wild, so outlandish, and so over the top, I’m afraid to say that their mere presence completely took me out of the picture.

That said, however, this full-length cartoon did have some redeeming features, as I particularly enjoyed the scene where the Joker seemingly lost his memory! Now the first time I saw it I felt that it was a pretty disposable sequence at best, unneeded even, but upon the second viewing, WOW, and I do mean, WOW, because on that occasion I was able to appreciate its poetic tone and style which gave it some much-needed substance and depth. Likewise, the final fight between Batman and the Joker was equally poetic, tonally at least, and I must applaud the manner in which it was staged and choreographed in order to highlight its dramatic intent.

Batman Ninja
Anyway, that's enough of that for the time being, because I think now would be a pretty good time to present you with the following filmic facts: (1) In order to promote this film's release, AnimeJapan, a very popular Japanese convention held annually in Tokyo, hosted an event on the 25th of March, 2018, which featured the Japanese voice actress who played Catwoman, Ai Kakuma. (2) Junpei Mizusaki not only directed this movie but he also has nice hair and directed one other. It was called 'Zoo' and it was released in 2005. (3) Even though this not-so-live action adventure is more commonly known as 'Batman Ninja', for reasons of their own, in Japan it's called 'Ninja Batman'. (4) Takashi Okazaki designed the costumes for each of the characters seen in this piece, and he's best known for writing and illustrating the manga series, 'Afro Samurai'. (5) This film first started to be developed way back in 2014. (6) Kazuki Nakashima is the playwright who wrote the screenplay for this picture, and he was born on the same day a rampaging elephant charged into a crowd and killed 20 people who were attending a religious festival held in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]. It was on the 19th of August, 1959. (7) There are two versions of this film currently available, both included on the disk, and each one was voiced by a different set of actors. The Japanese version features the voices of: Kōichi Yamadera, Wataru Takagi, Ai Kakuma, Rie Kugimiya, Hōchū Ōtsuka, Takehito Koyasu, Daisuke Ono, Yuki Kaji, Akira Ishida, Kengo Kawanishi, Junichi Suwabe, Atsuko Tanaka, Toshiyuki Morikawa, and Chō. Whereas the English version features: Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Grey Griffin, Tara Strong, Adam Croasdell, Fred Tatasciore, Yuri Lowenthal, Will Friedle, Eric Bauza, and Tom Kenny. (8) Warner Brothers have developed a website focused on this project that's located right here.

Batman Ninja - Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Catwoman, Alfred, Nightwing
Now in closing, I would just like to highlight some of the more artistic aspects featured in 'Batman Ninja'. For one thing, a good portion of the animation on display was very well crafted and I particularly enjoyed the varying degrees of design. Sometimes some of the scenes were reminiscent of pastel-colored paintings, other times they seemed more like pencil sketches drawn by hand, and on the odd occasion a battle would occur, the screen would be awash with bold and vivid designs similar to an episode of ‘Afro Samurai’. 

I would also like to mention that most of the voice work was of a fairly good standard, although here and there it didn’t always tonally sync up with the visuals on offer. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. If anything, it’s an observation at best, and kind of illustrates what I think about this film in general. It’s a good film, but I wished it was better. Just like the taste of a chocolate covered spicy pepperoni pizza. 

THE RATING: C+

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