Director: Junpei Mizusaki
Cast: Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Fred Tatasciore (VOICES – English Version)
Release Date: May 8, 2018
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 4/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.
Please Note: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
Featuring the Dark Knight like you’ve never seen him before as Japan’s greatest artists reimagine Batman for a new anime feature film; ‘Batman Ninja’ follows Gotham City’s hero as he is mysteriously sent to Feudal Japan along with his greatest adversaries (and fortunately a few allies as well) for the ultimate ancient ninja battle. Absent of the various tools and gadgets he largely relies on in his crime fighting crusade, Batman must study the ways of the ninja and embrace a local legend foretelling his arrival if he hopes to take down the likes of Gorilla Grodd, The Joker, Two-Face and more in this unfamiliar landscape, while somehow also managing to find a way back to his own time and country.
‘Batman Ninja’ offers some remarkable and gorgeous animation, along with some well-crafted fight scenes and a few other positive elements sprinkled throughout, but sadly little else. Unfortunately as a whole, and as a Batman (or DC Comics) animated feature in general it’s a pretty big disappointment and aside from breathtaking animation has little to offer in the story department, instead merging into a jumbled mess of ninja Batman meets Transformers back in time; with the nonsensical story jumping from one element to another with little rhyme or reason. Instead always more concerned with the visual imagery and in that department they certainly did an impressive job to say the least. One can only imagine what might have resulted with the artistry if only complimented by a smart, fleshed out story and at least some attempt to stay true to the various DC characters featured within. I would encourage those not already overly interested not to bother with ‘Batman Ninja’, although hardcore anime fans and many already dead set on checking this one out (even I must admit I was initially wildly excited to see how this would turn out) will probably want to still make a point of giving it a watch when they have the chance in order to make up their own mind. The simple fact that I’m not a very big fan of anime in general will surely result in differing opinions of the movie between me and others that tend to appreciate the anime format, although I would strongly recommend anyone who hasn’t already seen it to try and at least rent this one prior to purchasing a copy just to be safe if at all possible.
Overall, ‘Batman Ninja’ serves up its share of enjoyable fight sequences and stunning animation that nary disappoints, but it fails to capture the overall essence of Batman and the DC Universe. Instead using the characters as little more than a selling point to a nonsensical story and actions that are often so bad it’s almost baffling. While I personally wasn’t a big fan of this one at all, I would still recommend that anime fans in general consider giving ‘Batman Ninja’ a whirl at some point when convenient as an appreciation for the anime formula in general is likely to result in many folks enjoying this one far more than I did, but I would suggest renting a copy or waiting for another convenient opportunity to check it out as opposed to dropping the funds on a blind purchase of the Blu-ray for good measure. Hardcore DC fans similar to me that don’t generally enjoy anime aside from a few exceptions on the other hand may want to just go ahead and skip ‘Batman Ninja’ unless you’re already thoroughly intent on seeing it.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Batman Ninja’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty great as a whole and delivers a fairly sharp, detailed and colorful presentation from start to finish that beautifully captures the rich animation and suffers very few faults along the way. It holds up admirably even during the darkly lit and fast moving sequences, never allowing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a pretty fantastic high definition video presentation that shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack of the English Language version of the film. The release also offers the option of the Original Japanese Audio (and accompanying English Subtitles of course) although the Japanese audio is presented in lossy 640kbps 5.1 channel Dolby Digital. While I usually go with the original audio presentation for most foreign language films, I instead opted for the English Language edition on ‘Batman Ninja’ primarily because of the more familiar and fitting dialogue for the characters after some comparison and of course because of the superior audio presentation it offers. That being said, this lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a clean, fairly aggressive and overall solid audio presentation throughout that often takes advantage of all five available channels in order to send music, action effects and more throughout the various speakers without ever resulting in any conflict with other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously. Overall, this is a great 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that sounds consistently solid and contributes some additional fun to the overall viewing experience.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Batman Ninja’ includes a few Featurettes that explore the process of the collaboration and bringing this film to life and featuring interviews/comments with members of the creative team, plus more. The included Featurettes are ‘East/West Batman’ (running approximately 17 minutes in length), ‘Batman: Made in Japan’ (running approximately 14 minutes) and ‘New York Comic Con Presents Batman Ninja’ (approximately 49 minutes).