Warning: This column incorporates spoilers for the brand new animated movie Batman: Soul Of The Dragon.
A brand new yr has begun, which implies new adventures and alternatives, and Gotham isn’t any exception. And it’s in that spirit, Bat-fans, that we flip our consideration to a fairly completely different model of town. Batman: Soul Of The Dragon is the most recent DC animated film starring the Darkish Knight and no matter if you happen to suppose we get too many or too few films that includes Batman, you’re not going to need to overlook it. (Particularly if, like me, you miss going to the native cinema for action-packed comedian e-book flicks.)
The plot of the movie has Batman teaming up with Bronze Tiger, Woman Shiva and Richard Dragon as they struggle the terrorist group often known as Kobra. Consider it as the right fusion between old style martial arts films and traditional James Bond. I walked away from the movie pondering questions on nature versus nurture and the way it associated to Batman. The film has some nice flashback sequences that present Bruce Wayne coaching beneath O-Sensei. We see O-Sensei train Bruce the character of endurance, acceptance and sacrifice.
I’ve been studying Batman comics since I used to be a younger boy, however I by no means stopped to think about how a lot of who he’s could have been formed by his lecturers. Take into account this: what if Bruce had been taught by somebody apart from O-Sensei? Somebody with out morals, or somebody who lusted for energy. Was Bruce Wayne malleable sufficient that he might’ve been corrupted beneath a instructor like Vandal Savage?
It’s clear that O-Sensei left an impression on Bruce. Probably the most highly effective sequences within the film includes O-Sensei instructing his college students to punch a stone till it breaks. Time passes and one after the other every pupil offers up till solely Bruce stays. Bruce’s knuckles are bloodied, however he by no means stops making an attempt to interrupt the stone. Finally, O-Sensei emerges from the shadows, telling Bruce that the stone couldn’t be damaged, simply as evil would by no means actually disappear. “Settle for what you can not change,” he says and it’s clear Batman took that lesson to coronary heart.
In fact, one might argue that Bruce already got here to O-Sensei with robust convictions. O-Sensei could have helped sharpen Bruce’s expertise, however was he the one who molded him into Batman? We’ve seen variations of Batman’s origin the place violent sociopaths like Ra’s al Ghul or David Cain have skilled him and he’s remained the identical virtuous determine of justice. Take into account the truth that all of O-Sensei’s college students took one thing completely different from his coaching. Actually, when the movie catches up with Woman Shiva, she’s against the law boss who doesn’t suppose twice about homicide. It’s a far cry from her classmate Bruce Wayne, but each of them skilled beneath the identical instructor.
One other scene that stands out is the flashback the place Bruce fights Ben Turner after their pressure reaches a breaking level. Bruce clearly loses the struggle, however he continues to stand up regardless of the percentages being towards him. This transfer earns him Ben’s respect and sums up who Batman is at his core—a pushed particular person who by no means stops. This second foreshadows the film’s ending the place Batman makes the final word sacrifice, and if you happen to’ve seen the movie then you realize precisely what I’m speaking about.
Maybe a superb instructor doesn’t change who you’re at your core, however fairly, makes you one of the best model of your self. It’s an concept that prompted me to take a second take a look at how Batman has mentored his allies like Nightwing, Robin and Batgirl. In fact, we’ve been debating nature versus nurture within the function of human improvement for hundreds of years, so I doubt we’ll land on the final word reply any time quickly. Regardless, it says rather a lot that Batman: Soul Of The Dragon had me questioning facets of Bruce Wayne that no different Batman movie has earlier than.
Whereas we’re speaking in regards to the individuals who formed Batman, let’s flip our consideration in the direction of Denny O’Neil. Soul Of The Dragon ends with a dedication to the celebrated author, who handed away final yr. Like O-Sensei does within the film, O’Neil molded Batman into who he’s at the moment in actual life. After the camp period of the 1960s ended, O’Neil introduced Batman again to his roots, writing the Darkish Knight as a pulp model detective in a sequence of grounded adventures. Gotham turned a grittier place, with an overarching sense of hazard and realism. Should you cherished Batman: The Animated Series, then you’ll be able to thank Denny O’Neil since a lot of the present was modeled after his legendary Batman run.
O’Neil launched followers to Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Leslie Tompkins and lots of others. Actually, O’Neil created a lot of the characters on this movie, together with O-Sensei, Richard Dragon, Woman Shiva and Bronze Tiger. O’Neil’s love for traditional spy flicks and kung fu films was apparent to anyone who learn his work. Batman: Soul Of The Dragon is the final word tribute to his legacy and there’s little question he would’ve been the movie’s largest fan.
O-Sensei formed Batman as a fighter for justice, whereas O’Neil formed Batman as a popular culture legend, and the character is best for it on each counts. Should you haven’t seen Batman: Soul Of The Dragon but, I encourage you to observe it, and if you happen to’ve seen it already, I urge you rewatch it and think about the character versus nurture argument. Evidently after eighty years, the Darkish Knight nonetheless has some new issues left to show us.
Batman: Soul Of The Dragon is now out there on 4K Extremely HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital HD. For extra on the film, together with trailers, clips and interviews with the solid, click here.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, films and comics for DCComics.com, is an everyday contributor to the Sofa Membership and writes our month-to-month Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Comply with him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.