The hell did I just watch!?
When originally announced, the idea of a Batman reimagined into a samurai adventure sounded amazing. An all new, almost Elseworld take on the Dark Knight sounded incredible. How would they re-imagine the cast? What would a Batman from Sengoku period Japan be like? Imagine my surprise when the film begins and instead of an Elseworld adventure, we are treated to a time travel experience!
When Batman arrives at Arkham Asylum to stop Flash villain Gorilla Grodd from setting off a deadly machine known as the Quake Engine. The device activates, and Batman finds himself hurdled backwards through time to Sengoku period Japan. Upon arriving, he discovered that not only had he been sent back, but several others had been sent back and been living there for two whole years. He finds himself surrounded by samurai guards wearing Joker masks. Upon escaping, Batman finds himself face to face with Catwoman and Alfred. They explain the situation to him and along the way he finds allies in the time displaced Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood and Robin alongside the Bat Clan of ninjas. As they go up against not only Gorilla Grodd and the Joker, but also Poison Ivy, Two Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn and Deathstroke. It’s a battle to return to the future in a time displaced, manic adventure.
The fantastic character designs of Takashi Okazaki are striking and beautiful. Something that seems to come naturally to the creator of Afro Samurai. Figures in this style are sure to be hitting the shelves soon. The films cinematography and choreography make all the more sense when you discover that the films director is Junpei Mizusaki. The man responsible for the bombastic opening sequences for many of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series, particularly the fan favourite Stardust Crusaders. Along with Mizusaki, Batman Ninja brings on another JoJo alumni with music composer Yugo Kanno. Unfortunately, this may be one of Kanno’s weakest scores, as the visuals overpower the score to the point of being forgettable.
All the characters feel ripped right out of the comics and help the film feel even more dynamic. With the glaring exception of Damian Wayne/Robin. The film portrays him as a happy-go-lucky and obedient kid just happy to be there. This is not Damian. Damian is a serious assassin in the body of a 10 – 13-year-old boy. The one who would possibly appreciate being stuck in this period of Japan the most. He has his fun moments, and does have a love of animals, but the Robin portrayed here feels like a completely different character.
The films style is incredibly memorable and striking. Its backgrounds have a glorious hand drawn feel, with the occasional break into a water colour motif. However, the films 3D characters stick out terribly against the background and frequently break into very jerky and unnatural movement.
The film is by no means a serious story. It’s fun for the sake of fun. The characters work well in this new environment with a simple plot that allows the characters to stretch out and just be themselves. Mostly. It’s a bombastic adventure of spectacular proportions that’s not afraid to go over the top or bring out the big guns. The big, mecha, feudal Japan, guns…