Batman Ninja (2018)
Whose afraid of the ancient bat?
Batman. He needs no more introduction than that - everyone knows who Batman is at least at some passing level, even those of us who aren't super-big into comics. We've seen 3 different approaches across numerous movies both serious and batty, There's been more animated movies than I can count, and probably more comics than I could fit on a single shelf. Well, being a fan of some animated movies, and hearing a concept as sensible in name and yet absurd as "Batman Ninja," I couldn't resist. Turn on your bat-lights, we might need some rescue.
The concept is simple. We take Batman, we put Batman in an old feudal Japan where ninjas would be, and we see how things go. At first, it does in fact seem that simple as well - outside of time travel, which is rarely every a simple thing. Heck, even the seeming moral subplot is derivative enough that you groan and you start going "is this just going to be a cool skin on Batman needs to learn to stop relying on technology?" You'd be fair in all of these - and then the movie takes a hard left turn. I'm actually a bit torn about if I should get into that at all, but I can at least mention that the plot line isn't anything blown out as far as Batman goes, and features a good number of heroes and villains to jump across the screen.
Now, one of the main things that drew me to the movie initially was the animation. I guess I should be a bit more specific here - the art. I really liked the look, that sort of cell shaded but mostly computerized clean art. In that regard, the movie really doesn't disappoint. Things constantly look great on screen, with color injected in through the various countrysides of Japan as well amongst the enemies. Even then, just looking at stills is something where your eyes start acting like little kids pestering you to watch it and throwing a hissy fit when they don't get their way. They even find a moment (pretty dang consistently) to call out every main villain and "Batman form" with a fancy gotcha stinger style image that I'm sure plenty of anime fans would appreciate, although I feel like isn't unheard of for the mainstream audience thanks to things like Suicide Squad or other movies where it calls characters out dramatically. At one point, the movie also completely changes it's art style to try and reflect a more time-period painting.
Now, I was careful to specify a moment ago that the art drew me in. The animation is a mixed bag at best. I've had the good living to see myself many an animation style - from stop motion to hand drawn to super-limited frames and flip books all the way on up to those absolute masterpieces that everyone always heralds as the best around. At times, this one works pretty well and relatively fluid - namely on the battle scenes. Other times, it can be pretty jumpy, or feel low-effort. This is most visible in any close-up scene where someone is talking, and although I attribute at least some of it for the potential that perhaps Japanese was what the animators where drawing for and I watched it english dubbed - as that's the default setting thankfully (but I'll get back to that) - but even then a lot of the mouth movements leave some to be desired. It's a bit of a shame when the art looks so nice and the animation leaves you a little wanting - but it's still largely better than some of the things they pulled in the olden days - i mean, the mouths do actually move most the time, and it's not just the same two panels on loop in the background.
Now, I also just said I was thankful for English being the default language. I don't know what it is about this movie, but for some reason on the program I use to watch movies the subtitles were horrible.Big blocky smooshed together letters in Black - pretty dang unreadable. Now, I did try another program and this wasn't this case, so I'm lead to believe it's my main program and I'll have too look into it further. Thankfully, it was never a problem anyways, because you could easily hear what everyone was saying and the audio balance was quite well done. If you like one liners and puns, you'll probably enjoy this movie more than others will in fact. Beyond that, the music - although nothing that's sticking around after the movie - is pretty nice to hear while it's on screen as well.
Actors do a pretty decent job here, as far as voices go. It's a bit hard to sell things really well with just your voice, so I've always figured anything above phoned-in boredom is a plus. Particular standouts are the Joker's actor, who gets some of the better jokes as well as gets to really shine on both fronts of the insanity coin. A couple of deliveries - if not most of the cast of baddies - are pretty hammy, and I'm not entirely positive since I didn't make it but I wouldn't be surprised to find out they did so intentionally banking on some of the more blown-out parts of the moment that seem to be either poking fun at or paying homage to various anime things.
And, because I can't really think of anything in particular to finish this off with, I'm going to drop a little spoiler of sorts, even though it was in the trailer anyways - there's giant robots in this. I mean, Somehow in ancient times Joker makes a castle into a giant robot. The real kicker? Every other one of the bad guys has one too, and they are all different - like plant based for Ivy, or with an army of armored penguins for Penguin. Better than that? One of the robins (the youngest one) has a monkey sidekick. Oh, and there's an entire army of monkeys later on. Crazy enough? I'd say that's crazier than a batmobile that turns into a batwing that turns into a bat cycle that turns into a powered armor batsuit, but hey - maybe I've just not payed enough attention to Batman's wacky non-movie hijincks. Seriously, I've never asked what the heck is going on in a not lost kind of way during any other Batman.
If your looking for a masterpiece, this might not be it. If your looking for some good fun that doesn't need to make perfect sense, you'll have a good time here. The art is good, the voice cast do a fine job, and the animation can be pretty sweet at times. It definitely has points where it stumbles, but it always gets back up. I came for the ninjas, and was treated to something totally different than I had expected. Quite fun for those looking for it.