DC’s animated movies are of a far more consistent quality than the current crop of live-action efforts, and a trailer has now been released for the next installment, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, and it looks glorious.
Instead of some nebulously defined time roughly analogous to the present, this is rooted firmly in the ‘70s, mullets, sideburns, tank tops, afros, funk and all, and is directly inspired by the ceaseless succession of martial arts movies that Hong Kong churned out throughout the decade and beyond. It sees Batman (David Giuntoli) reunite with those with whom he trained – Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) and Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) – when the world is threatened by a fanatical cult led by a mad scientist who wants to usher in a new age of global chaos.
Although you may be familiar with the name Richard Dragon from the vicious crime lord in seasons 6 and 7 of Arrow, that was the New 52 version of the character who in the comics had appropriated the name of the original, who was a far more heroic individual, and it will be no coincidence that this animated interpretation of him bares more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Lee. Speaking of Arrow, White played Bronze Tiger in live action periodically throughout much of its run, and to cap it off, Kelly Hu is also an alum of the series, but there instead portrayed China White, a ruthless assassin and the first of the show’s multiple recurring antagonists.
Despite being voice roles, it’s doubtless no coincidence that White, Hu and Dacascos are also formidable martial artists in their own right, while Giuntoli is certainly no slouch in on-screen fighting, either, having spent five years as the lead of urban fantasy action series Grimm.
Although the martial arts movies taken as inspiration are frequently the target of satire due to their questionable acting, histrionic plots and hyperkinetic fight scenes, Batman: Soul of the Dragon looks to be playing things utterly straight, and will be all the more enjoyable as a result.