With the saturation of superheroic productions that we have been experiencing for approximately a decade, it seems increasingly difficult to surprise the audience most loyal to the subgenre. Big studios tend to play it safe, focusing on the most popular heroes and villains in their franchises, widely known to the vast majority of fandom, and prone — except for surprises — to undercut the possibilities for innovation.
If we focus on the DC catalog, in the middle of this desert – and except for anomalies like ‘Joker’ – in the middle of this desert, we can find a refreshing oasis in their division of animated feature films. A kind of litter box with which the company can afford to try your luck with much riskier products; with tones, stories and protagonists that would hardly fit in their multi-million dollar live action titles.
‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon’ fits this description perfectly, reducing the Masked Crusader to practically a simple commercial claim to introduce us to a choral tale in which Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva and Bronze Tiger gain a deserved prominence. A peculiar action and martial arts show in which creativity flows without filter.
The funkiest DC
Sam Liu, director of this ‘Soul of the Dragon’ is by no means unknown to the two-dimensional superheroes of Detective Comics. The director is the head of such recommended tapes as the adaptations of ‘Year one’, ‘The killer joke’ or ‘Superman: Red Son’, and has once again made his experience clear, showing his most inspired side with the adventure that occupies us.
In it, above any other element, tone is everything, and could be defined as a 70s exploitation delusion in which there is room for kung-fu, bell bottoms, sideburns, ninjas and reptilian gods, all to the rhythm of funk. A hilarious hodgepodge that is not afraid to wander onto the grounds of the grindhouse and crying out that his age rating – R in the United States – had been stretched even further.
Along with its tonal proposal, ‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon’ finds a great bulwark in its commendable sense of action; reinforced by a more than satisfying animation that elevates set pieces to a new level. However, on the other side of the coin there is a narrative development that, despite fulfilling its mission —without bragging—, suffers from a greater focus on its characters, who cry out for an extra background —Especially when it comes to the antagonists.
Putting the latter aside – which is simpler than it sounds, it’s hard not to appreciate the film’s self-confidence. A rarity that bets on entertainment without ties of any kind that, for sure, all lovers of the ‘Elseworlds’ and the most unexpected angles on pop culture totems like the Gothamite batman will appreciate.