I had been keeping my eye on “Batman Ninja” ever since I saw the completely bonkers trailer for it. “Batman Ninja” is the story of Batman and the other villains and heroes of Gotham City transported by Gorilla Grodd’s time machine into feudal Japan (why the time machine brings them to Japan is never explained, because who cares).
And guys, I gotta tell you, I LOVE these types of concepts – these reimaginings of classic characters in new settings. I loved “Marvel: 1602” (until the ending). I loved “Sherlock” (the first two seasons anyway). And if not for the Injustice Gamer’s poor review, I probably would have picked up “Gotham by Gaslight” (I still intend to read the comic, though). Heck, in “Tales of the Once and Future King” I reimagined the story of King Arthur into a post-apocalyptic Britain that had devolved into a wild west level of technology, and currently have an idea to set a superhero story in the actual American old west. I think this sort of stuff is super cool.
So “Batman Ninja” was right up my alley. But did it live up to its potential?
Let me put it this way: “Batman Ninja” was completely insane, visually stunning, ridiculously over the top and tons of fun, and yet…it didn’t QUITE give me what I was hoping for – because it didn’t take enough risks.
Synopsis: Gorilla Grodd has created a time machine that accidentally goes off at Arkham Asylum and sends Batman, the rest of the Bat family, and virtually his entire rogues gallery back in time into Feudal Japan. Batman is sent back two years after the rest of the group and learns that the villains, lead by the Joker, have taken over the country. In order to get back to the present and prevent them from altering history irrevocably Batman must team up with Gorilla Grodd to take the Joker down and restore order once more.
Review: I wanted to see “Batman Ninja” because I wanted to see Batman fight in…feudal Japan. I wanted bows and arrows, Samurai swords, I wanted the villains adapting their powers in creative ways to match their new environment.
But when we get there, we learn that the Joker has already sparkplugged the Industrial Revolution, so there are guns. In fact there are more than guns – the various Batman villains – who have taken over different swathes of Feudal Japan – have constructed GIANT MECHS!
Which is awesomely over the top (I learned later that the script was by one of the writers of “Gurren Lagann”, which explained a lot), but…why was it set in feudal Japan? This story could just have easily taken place after a villainous coup of Gotham City. I love mechs as much as the next guy, but they’re not necessary for this type of story.
The movie makes a big deal later of Batman being stripped of all of his gadgets – which is more in line of the sort of thing I was looking for…Batman fighting with the tools of Feudal Japan!
But while they toy with this idea – and Batman leading a Ninja clan, which is super cool – it never fully comes to fruition. After all that talk, even the final battle starts off as a final Mech fight, and Deathstroke fights members of the Bat family with…a gun.
Why a gun? Why not use a bow and arrows? How cool would that have been?
In the end the Feudal Japanese setting was for the majority of the movie used for aesthetics…but MAN, it was so cool aesthetically. The movie is absolutely gorgeous, with brilliant character designs and breathtaking settings, and at one point even an art shift into a more surreal style that looks if anything even more beautiful than the rest of the film.
And credit where credit is due. The movie almost makes up entirely for the until-then under use of its setting when we reach the final battle, where Batman and the Joker duke it out with Samurai swords in an all-or-nothing showdown. The fight was spectacular, and lived up to all of the movie’s promise and more! If only the whole movie were like that!
The reimaginings of the characters were exceptional. This version of the Joker particularly was fantastic. He was more over the top than Heath Ledger’s version and more physically dynamic and unhinged than the Animated Series version, while still being an extremely intelligent strategist and even – unusually for the Joker – an excellent fighter, almost a match for the Batman itself.
So the movie is good. In fact, it is REALLY good. It just wasn’t exactly what I hoped it would be – but there’s nothing wrong with what it is.
Is it superversive?: All good Batman stories are, and this is no exception. It’s the classic tale: The Joker tries to goad Batman into breaking his moral code, but ultimately Batman doesn’t budge and saves the day. The plotline is well done…blatantly stealing the ending of “The Dark Knight” notwithstanding.
Overall score: 8 of 10. It really is an excellent film in its own right, and highly entertaining. Just expect more Batman fighting mechs and less Batman fighting ninja and samurai.