Aside from anything residing under the LEGO umbrella, I’ve prided myself on collecting every animated and live action movie to feature the Dark Knight and, believe me, I’ve accumulated a nice little library. As such, I had every intention of adding Batman Ninja to my shelf, but I had no idea how utterly disappointed I’d be once I sat down to watch the flick.
If you’re a regular reader here at We Got This Covered and happen to be familiar with my reviews, then you know how much I love DC animation and must be baffled by my displeasure. After all, weren’t there all those trailers that wowed the fanbase?
Well, I think therein lies the problem.
You see, trailers can often mislead by showing some quickly cut together action sequences, thus giving us the impression we’re in for one awesome viewing experience – and that’s exactly what happened here. Trust me when I say that what can appear to be a juicy steak may be more comparable to the sole of shoe once it’s actually in your mouth. (And no, I didn’t put the Blu-ray disc in my mouth.)
Granted, I should’ve seen this coming, but the atypical plot is what yielded this colossal misstep, even if it sounds quite simple. In short, Batman, along with his closest allies and greatest enemies, are all transported back to feudal Japan, only the titular character arrives two years after everyone else. Given that, they’ve all had time to establish a new status quo in the region as the Masked Manhunter shows up in a state of confusion.
To make matters more complicated for Bruce, some of his deadliest foes now control competing states and it’s up to him to rectify the situation. On top of that, he’ll have to get his hands on Gorilla Grodd’s time machine in order to return everybody to the present.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Instead of crafting a compelling narrative, the filmmakers instead allow the script to take one goofy and/or nonsensical turn after another, ranging from jarring scene transitions all the way to a climactic battle featuring Gotham’s top criminals forming a Voltron-like robot made up of smaller robots that transformed from castles. Maybe you’ll find it cool, but when said ridiculous moment arrived and was accompanied by some atrocious music that took a left turn from the rest of the score, I was about ready to check out. Still, I powered through because I had to write a review.
What’s worse is that some fine talent was wasted on this crapfest, namely one of the best voice actors to have ever lent his pipes to Batman, that being Roger Craig Smith. Joining him are other veterans such as Grey Griffin as Catwoman and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. As a matter of fact, I just listed every character that didn’t look terrible.
Given the material, it makes sense for all included to be granted a makeover appropriate for feudal Japan, but most simply don’t work. The finest example is “Lord Joker,” a take that’s so over the top, I couldn’t help but cringe at my favorite supervillain every time he was on screen. And to make matters worse, Tony Hale sounded like every cosplayer doing a bad Mark Hamill impersonation I’ve encountered.
I guess if you really want a chuckle, be sure to check out Bane, who is all but useless and resembles E. Honda of Street Fighter fame more than the Santa Priscan brute we’re all familiar with. To my surprise, he didn’t do the infamous slap-thingy with his hand.
In all honesty, the (mostly) impressive cast assembled isn’t enough to save a screenplay that’s ridden with dialogue so terrible it wouldn’t even pass in a video game. Seriously, Batman Ninja is one of the most laughably bad movies I’ve seen in my lifetime. If you’re skeptical, please sample this line that Robin was heard to say: “Now witness the awesome power of the monkeys!”
I’ll leave it to you to find out the context in which that was used.
If I have anything to say to aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters, it’s to take notes during the third act, because it puts on an absolute clinic of incoherency, effectively letting you know what not to do. This is where you’ll be treated to that aforementioned robot fight, a legion of primates and Batman actually turning into a swarm of bats during the final showdown with the Joker. After taking it all in, you’ll probably double check to make sure that you didn’t ingest some powerful substances.
Should you be of the percentage of the audience disagreeing with me, then you’ll probably want to stick around for the bonus features on the Blu-ray. While only three may be included, they contain some keen insight into the production and are pretty well put together. Hey, I guess I do have something nice to say today.
Incredibly impressive visuals notwithstanding, it’s my recommendation that you skip Batman Ninja and instead pick up a copy of Gotham by Gaslight on Blu-ray or DVD if you’re looking for a great alternate take on the Caped Crusader. Warner Home Video would be well advised to stick with what’s worked for them going forward.
Batman Ninja makes Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin look like Mask of the Phantasm by comparison. No joke.