‘Batman Ninja’ Review

Batman ninjaBatman Ninja is a Japanese-American animated superhero film directed by Junpei Mizusaki based on the DC Comics character Batman. The film was written by Leo Chu and Eric Garcia for the American release, rewriting the film from the original Japanese script written by Kazuki Nakashima, ultimately making two entirely different versions of the same film. The English cast features the veteran voice talents of Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Grey DeLisle, Tara Strong, Fred Tatasciore, Yuri Lowenthal, and Will Friedle. The story follows Batman as he, the Bat-Family, and Gotham City’s top criminals are sent back in time to Feudal Japan by Gorilla Grodd. Once there, Batman must find Grodd, stop the villains from taking over Japan and changing history. The story is an interesting choice as Batman is no stranger to time traveling adventures. However, the setting of Feudal Japan is what makes the film unique as the Caped Crusader’s demeanor and fighting style is heavily influenced by the ninjas of this era, hence the film’s title. Batman rarely has adventures set within Asia and it was fun to see how his skills lined up with the other shinobi. The animation style is different with character designer Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, using mostly computer-generated models as opposed to traditional cel animation much of which is clearly inspired by Japanese anime and martial arts films. This gives the film a video game-like feel and allows for more detailed characters with developed environments. The voice cast does a fine job with each actor embodying their characters appropriately. Roger Craig Smith and Tara Strong have voiced Batman and Harley Quinn in other animated features so their voices stand out. Tony Hale provides the voice of a sillier version of the Joker more in line with a typical anime villain than the psychotic killer clown audiences are used to. The music is amazing with the composer Yugo Kanno combining classic Batman themes with original Japanese instrumentals. Even with all the interesting and cool things about this film a lot of it doesn’t work. The story is very disjointed and clunky. The animation, while good does not always look the best. There is even a point a little over halfway through the film where the animation changes to traditional cel-shading for a scene before changing back to normal. The abrupt change felt off as if the scene belonged in another movie. Many characters are designed as if they lived in that time instead of being displaced because they are from the future. This is especially noticeable during a scene with Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Many of the secondary characters are not explored and feel thrown in the film for fan service instead of serving the story. There are also a few plot holes that require large leaps of faith, which hurts the overall enjoyment of the film. All of these issues most likely stem from the adaptation of Kazuki Nakashima’s original script since the Japanese version is an entirely different story and the animation is designed specifically for that story. I give Batman Ninja a Normal 5.5/10. The film has an ambitious vision but fumbles in its execution of that vision (at least in the English version).

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