Holy Katana Batman, just when you thought you’d seen just about every variation of trouble, trial and misfortune that the Universe could throw at the Dark Knight, the cosmos proves that it still has a few tricks left up its sleeve by unveiling Batman Ninja. Or more accurately, because the galaxy (or any galaxy) isn’t a sentient entity, a hideously talented crew of animators, writers and actors pushed their fevered imaginations and creativity to breaking point and designed, drew and committed to film, the jaw dropping enterprise that is the latest full length animated DC movie to emerge from Warner Brothers. And while Marvel Studios has DC beat hands down when it comes to live action films, DC still has the upper hand, by a large margin, when it comes to animation.
Batman Ninja revolves around fairly simple premise, one in which Batman while battling Gorilla Grodd, is catapulted back in time to medieval Japan by his foes latest dastardly invention. There he discovers that he’s not alone, as all of the major players in the Gotham super criminal underworld have also fallen victim to Grodd’s chronal science and have established themselves as Warlords, all vying for feudal control of their new home. Which means that Batman is forced to not only to stop them, but also defeat them and find a way to bring himself and his deadliest enemies home before the timeline is irreparably damaged and the world and the future that he knows is irreversibly changed. It’s fairly straight forward idea, but one that’s executed with grace, style and an almost incomparable attention to detail, and thanks to the combination of gorgeous traditional and technically exquisite computer animation, is absolutely beautiful to behold from beginning to end.
Following the anime route means that the story, even by four colour standards, is a little more out there and slightly bonkers, but that said, the audaciousness and insanity of the multitude of ideas that the film features adds a whole other level of enjoyment to the finished product. I mean, where else would you see Batman and Joker battling each other, steam-punk style, in giant robots or an army of monkeys drawing on their collective will to form a monstrous simian samurai? While it scores highly on the thrill-o-meter and turns the excitement dials up way past their safety margins, Batman Ninja is far more than just another adrenaline infused superhero flick as it also considers the nature of its protagonist and who he really as he’s forced to question his sense of purpose and identity when removed from his natural environment and pushed into a conflict whose outcome will both the fate of a nation and the future. And by incorporating long established Japanese tropes such as the Ronin challenging and fighting the corrupt Daimyo into the mythology of the Dark Knight, Batman Ninja opens the entrenched canon of Gotham’s favourite son to a myriad of possible avenues, any, and all, of which it may now decide to venture down. It’s Batman, just not as we know it. But, as I’m sure all of you know too well, different is good and Batman Ninja is very, very different… Tim Cundle