Batman: Soul of the Dragon is the latest in the DC Animated Originals line of Batman movies—although it’s actually more of a fake Bruce Lee film. As the title suggests, it’s an Enter the Dragon sort of Batman story. It’s much more the story of a character called Richard Dragon, who is clearly and rather unsubtly based on Lee. The teacher who taught both Dragon and Batman martial arts goes missing, and they have to team up to find him. A cursed relic is found, and there’s some supernatural stuff going on.
Richard Dragon is a pre-existing DC Comics character dating back to the 1970s. However, he’s usually depicted as white, but here he is portrayed as Asian. Even back then it was a clear attempt to cash in on Bruce Lee and the kung fu craze.
It’s OK, but they could have paid the Lee estate to just have it be Bruce Lee… the whole premise is kind of lame. There have been better Batman animated films, but sometimes this one is a bit of fun—you could do worse for a kung fu Batman movie. The animation is fine, though it’s not as retro or cool as you might be expecting. It has all this training flashback stuff which is very reminiscent of the scene involving Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins.
It’s not as much of a Batman movie as you would hope—what you might have looked for would be a Black Batman with a big fro kicking ass with kung fu, but that’s not what you get. For fans of the CW show Arrow, Michael Jai White reprises his role as Ben Turner/Bonze Tiger here. Kelly Hu plays Lady Sheba; she is also the voice for that character in the Batman: Arkham Origins videogame. DC has been using a lot of people who are familiar voices from other media products in their animated films.
These animated features are incredibly hit and miss, with Batman: Soul of the Dragon coming in as a middling example—that was a bit of a disappointment, as I was hoping to love it. The disc includes a couple of featurettes, a sneak peek at Justice Society: World War Two (which looks quite promising although give us a DC Bombshells movie!), older DC Animated Originals previews (including for Superman: Red Son, my personal favourite of the recent ones), two Asian-themed episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which will be better that the film because that was an awesome show, and a bunch of trailers for other DC stuff.