Wednesday, May 02, 2018

"Batman Ninja": brief review

"Batman Ninja" is a 2018 animé action film directed by Junpei Mizusaki and written by Kazuki Nakashima. It stars the (English-language) voice talents of Roger Craig Smith as Batman, Tony Hale as the Joker, Grey Griffin as Catwoman, and Fred Tatasciore as Gorilla Grodd, the evil-genius ape who sets events in motion. The plot is simple: Gorilla Grodd has created a time machine. When Gotham City's best and worst converge on Grodd's location, everyone gets sucked into a time-vortex that transports heroes and villains alike to feudal-era Japan. Batman, encountering a wobble during the time travel, arrives two years later than Catwoman and the others. The various villains, thanks to modern craftiness and technical savvy, have insinuated themselves into feudal life, carving Japan up into sectors dominated by a single villain: Poison Ivy, Two-Face, the Penguin, Deathstroke, Grodd, and the Joker. Batman, now deprived of the resources of his Batcave, must figure out a way to keep these villains from disrupting history any further while also figuring out a way to use the time machine (called a "Quake Engine") to get back to his own era.

I've never been the biggest fan of animé, and "Batman Ninja" contains every single animé trope I find most annoying: squeaky-voiced female characters, vomitously cute animal sidekicks, male voices incoherently screaming, whirl-and-whoosh fight-scene animation that is more of a flashy abstraction than anything bone-crunchingly realistic, and last of all: big, stupid, giant robots. The script plays fast and loose with time-stream/time-paradox issues, by which I mean it basically ignores the historical ripples created by such a deep disruption of Japan's history. The time travel was obviously just an excuse to get Batman to dress like a black-armored samurai. There are other implausibilities, too, such as the idea that the Joker might be Batman's physical equal in hand-to-hand combat. Despite being almost 90 minutes long, the film doesn't spend that much time developing the characters of the other villains, and the biggest plot hole is that all of these English-speakers seem to have no trouble at all communicating with the Japanese locals—all of whom also seem to speak English. This is a version of the problem found in the various Star Trek series: why do all the aliens speak English? (I imagine that, in the Japanese-language version of this movie, the question to ask is why all the American heroes and villains speak Japanese.)

Ultimately, I ended up bored. The preview trailer for this movie led me to believe I'd be in for something amazing, a truly different vision of Batman. But the story, the voice actors' overacting, and the inherently annoying properties of animé all conspired to turn me off and tune me out. Definitely not recommended.

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