Batman Ninja is one of those films that looks like it’ll be a mindlessly fun film. I thought that for a good while until the reviews came out saying that it was a pretty rough mess. So, I gave it a skip until now… I wish it stayed that way.
I have five pages of notes for this hot mess of a film. I need help.
But to be honest, the last page and a half is just “I don’t know what’s going on anymore.” “This is so stupid.” “Oh, for **** sake, a giant monkey made of monkeys? This is insane.”
Batman, along with a number of his allies and adversaries, finds himself transplanted from modern Gotham City to feudal Japan.
Plot & Writing
Batman Ninja is one of the most directionless yet predictable animated films I’ve seen for a long time. How it manages to be utterly confusing as to what’s going on in almost every scene, but hilariously easy to follow at the same time. I have I no clue, it’s quite a baffling thing to witness.
The plot itself is all over the place, constantly feeling like it’s trying to one-up the previous scene by upping the stakes every time. Becoming harder to believe as you progress through the film. By the start of act 3, I gave up after I saw giant mechs made from wood, a giant monkey made from monkeys and a weird abomination of a Batman made from bats and monkeys. I want to say that I’m making this up, but I’m not. I’m honestly not go and watch it yourself. It’s that bizarre.
I’m going to mention that I watched the English dubbing as I couldn’t find the Japanese one anywhere. So, I’m hoping that the god-awful dialogue is down to bad translation as it genuinely horrific at times. Coming across as cringe inducing and cliché from the opening narration itself.
Characters were all over the place, Batman kept having identity crisis’ because he lost his gadgets and was acting like he didn’t deserve his “World’s greatest detective” title constantly throughout plot by being surprised by several of his foes. The Batfamily were just there, if anything. They didn’t add to the story all the much other than introducing Bruce to the Bat-clan and maybe having their own 15 second fight scene each.
Credit where credit is due, Kazuki Nakashima does do a good job of trying to show us something we haven’t seen before by trying to make Batman an anime. But ends up becoming a huge mess when realised.
Animation and Art
Batman Ninja, has the same problem a lot of new anime’s have, trying to incorporate 3D animation/CGI into the animation. It doesn’t work. From watching the trailer, (link somewhere), it looks like it’ll be a completely CGI film with hints of 2D, which It is to an extent. All the main characters are, except when they aren’t. And background characters, and strangely Bane, for the whole 30 seconds he’s in the film.
Had the film chosen to stick to one animation style, it would’ve worked better as there are some great CGI Japanese Animated film out there. But sadly, they didn’t go all out on their animation and we ended up with, stilted, clunky and low-frame rate animation that really takes you out of the moment. Not to mention that in the English version, the mouth movements aren’t synced correctly. I’m not saying that they don’t match, their voices start before they even open their mouths, Joker is the biggest culprit of this.
Kamikaze Douga, the animation studio for Batman Ninja, known for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, really fails to bring their impressive CGI animation work to the movie. While this may have been due to budget constraints and the fact that almost the entire film is CGI, they missed their mark and produced some sub-par animation.
While it does change art style several times throughout the film, I want to highlight one scene, Red Hood finding Joker and Harley Quinn. This scene was my favourite due to how it completely changed things up for the better. Going from a generic 2D background to a hand-painted environment and hand-drawn animations, as if it was a painting brought to life. Making it the best moment in the movie, even if it was only a moment. If they kept this animation style for the rest of the movie, I think it would’ve made an impressive Avant-garde film. Standing out from Batman’s other films.
Regardless of the complaints I have about the CGI animation, I am impressed with the character designs by Takashi Okazaki. He manages to take established characters and completely reimagine them while keeping their recognisable traits so that they fit within feudal Japan.
You know what? Animation is one of the core aspects of any animated movie, who could guess. But for just five minutes, could they stick to one animation style. Now, this isn’t that big of an issue, but in the post credits scene, showing everyone returned to their normal lives, Catwoman is animated using 2D, while everyone else is still animated using CGI. It threw me off so much, I had to re-watch the scene just to make sure that I saw it correctly the first time around.
I feel sorry for the voice actors, they did their best with what they were given, and It wasn’t much. Roger Craig Smith (Batman), Fred Tatasciore (Gorilla Grodd), Grey Griffin (Catwoman) and Tara Strong (Harley Quinn) all do a wonderful job as their respected characters, even if what they’re saying is mind-dumbing, cringy dialogue.
Yet, on the other hand, Tony Hale, does one of the worst Joker’s I’ve seen. He’s a poor man’s Mark Hamill who’s trying to sound close enough to his rendition, but a flair of mediocrity to make it his own. At first, I thought he was trying to add a hint of a Japanese accent to Joker, seeing as he’d been in feudal Japan for two years, he might’ve developed some of their accent, but no, he just sounds terrible.
The supporting cast and the minor antagonists have some decent voice actors behind them, they just don’t get their time to shine due to lack of lines and what lines they do say, are awful. There is a scene late into the third act, where the minor antagonist say some of the most generic, Power Ranger-esk Megazord lines I’ve ever heard and it just sounds so strange to hear Poison Ivy or Deathstroke say a transformation sequence activator.
If Batman Ninja toned down how over the top the story was and grounded it in believable reality it might have been enjoyable as time-filler. But it’s one of those films that manages to fail at being mindless fun, which is a hard thing to do. Even a ridiculous film like Cockneys vs. Zombies (Check it out, it’s weirdly good) manages to be more enjoyable than this.