“You think you’ve heard every Batman story? I promise, you haven’t.” exclaims Catwoman in the opening scene of new DC animated film, ‘Batman Ninja’. This is certainly one way to establish that this Dark Knight narrative is far from ordinary. In one of the most bizarre Batman stories yet, through circumstances outside of his control Bruce Wayne is transported to feudal Japan where he discovers that many of Gotham’s fiercest criminals have also been relocated to this divided island and are battling for control. It’s ultimately up to Batman to restore peace and get back to modern day Gotham before one, or all, of his adversaries alter history forever!
This story does take a certain suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, but once its bonkers storyline is embraced it actually boasts quite a cool concept. This era in Japan is a fascinating setting to witness these comic book characters in and it makes for a refreshing change from the dark and door streets of Gotham City. Having some of the most famous Batman villains all on screen together fighting for ultimate power made for the basis of a really fun story, however the overall outcome is something more cheap. ‘Batman Ninja’ can, at times, feel overstuffed with characters who instead of being given proper exploration and development feel shoehorned in simply for the sake of it. Furthermore, there is a lot of very obvious exposition provided for the audience through character’s dialogue. This isn’t always so much of an issue in this style of film but at times it just felt too apparent.
The work of the animators was much more impressive with a range of animation styles employed to tell the story here. This range of styles offers some good variation that blends nicely together. This helps to keep the visuals fresh and engaging which can be a struggle for some animated films. However, even despite the film’s short running time it does feel long. It suffers majorly from finale fatigue which isn’t helped by some of the more childish content present in the narrative. A certain, ‘Power Rangers’ meets ‘Transformers’ sequence comes immediately to mind. The more grounded sequences were always the more entertaining and effective. It was maybe the reluctance to devote longer periods of time to certain sequences that was the problem. Instead of showcasing say three stand out action set pieces the film opts to include countless, shorter, sequences which give the film a more episodic feeling to it. This is maybe more like the comic book style that it’s based on but I’m not confident that this works as well in the format of film. The moments when the film took its time and really allowed sequences to breathe was when ‘Batman Ninja’ was at its best and thankfully there were several standout scenes like this.
‘Batman Ninja’ is worth it for its unique concept alone. The anime style of animation fused with probably the coolest comic book character of all time is all kinds of bad-ass. This doesn’t meant that it’s a faultless animation though, the reality is far from that. It’s definitely over crowded, audiences will be able to play DC villian bingo throughout and it’s often frantic jumping to and from characters/storylines holds it back from having a real impact. It tries to be too many things at once when it should have instead taken confidence in its unique concept and streamlined its story. Still though, will you really be able to say no to Batman as a ninja?
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 6/10
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