14th May 2018 (UK Blu-Ray release)
Batman, along with a number of his allies and adversaries, finds himself transplanted from modern Gotham City to feudal Japan.
Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Grey Griffin
Batman’s turning Japanese in DC’s latest animated adventure Batman Ninja, a visually stunning but overall hollow outing for the caped crusader.
Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.
The first thing you’ll notice about Batman Ninja is the anime-style animation it features. Taking cues and inspiration from the country it’s set; the film’s undisputed strongest point is the way it looks. A samurai outfit on Batman is a match made in heaven and The Joker is more aesthetically menacing than ever with razor sharp cheekbones and a chin that stretches down for miles. There’s some ingenious character design for the other foes on show too – Harley Quinn, a sumo wrestler Bane and Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent being highlights.
The same praise can’t be said for the English dubbing. Roger Craig Smith, who previously lent his voice to Batman in the video game Arkham Origins, sounds more bored and unenthusiastic than determined to get the job done while Tony Hale (Buster from cult comedy series Arrested Development) admittedly does impress as a gleeful and maniacal The Joker. The rest of the cast don’t particularly standout, but that’s largely down to the script as well – it’s tough to make an impact with derivative lines such as “It’s time for some girl-on-girl action” when referring to a Catwoman and Quinn fight.
Disappointingly too, with the potential of some of Gotham’s finest bad guys at its disposal the only crime they’re guilty of is being underutilized. This is very much a Batman vs. Joker show, which is all well and good but it’s hard not to be disgruntled that some major players in Gotham don’t get the screen time they deserve. Nevertheless, the final rooftop confrontation between the long-standing enemies is worthwhile and there’s some wonderfully deceptive tricks played by Joker and Harley.
Ultimately though, Batman Ninja will be remembered for its respectful and gorgeous animated style and rightly so. It’s consistently awesome to look at, even if everything contained within is a little underwhelming.
Ingenious character design
Great final battle
Most villains underutilized