Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Tony Hale (American Ultra)
Grey DeLisle (Bolt)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam Croasdell (Reign)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Yuri Lowenthal (Batman: Gotham By Gaslight)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Eric Bauza (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Batman Ninja is an impressive anime spectacle that sends some of DC Comics most iconic characters back in time to feudal Japan. Far from the technical comforts of his Batcave, this take on the Caped Crusader sees Batman trying to find a way to defeat the Joker (Tony Hale), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), and other rogues gallery members without the use of his gadgets after Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine goes haywire in Arkham Asylum.The first thing about Batman Ninja that stands out is the quality of the animation. The movie is simply gorgeous. All the details from the sky and foliage that covers the landscape, to the facial features and costume designs of the heroes and villains are meticulously crafted. It’s no surprise that Takashi Okazaki, the creator of the Afro Samurai manga series, is the lead character designer.That same animated splendor is carried over to the action sequences. Because of the Japanese anime style, Batman and the Joker move in ways never seen before. When Batman confronts the Joker in a wooded area, the two combatants fly through the trees like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There’s a kind of magic to the fight choreography that’s surreal. Sure, there’s no way Bruce Wayne could ever move like this in the “real world,” but in this animated reality, anything is possible. The fact that Batman Ninja leans into that concept elevates this movie beyond even the best recent DC animated films.One of the many aspects about Batman that makes him so compelling is his ability to solve complex problems in stressful situations. Afro Samurai writer Leo Chu’s engaging script provides Batman with the difficult task of trying to defeat Joker and the other Arkham inmates without the gizmos he’s come to rely on over the years. This take on the Dark Knight has to get back to basics and adapt to this brand new environment, and he rises to the occasion. Batman doesn’t dismiss the old ways of combat, but instead embraces them in the hopes that he’ll find a way to save Japan from these 21st century criminals. And let’s face it: it’s just cool to see Batman as a samurai.As for the Joker, turns out he’s also pretty good with a sword. Oh, and did we forget to mention that he has a giant mechanized castle? Yeah, Batman is definitely in over his head on this one, but after decades of seeing these two battle each other in different mediums, it’s refreshing and exciting to see something we haven’t witnessed before. Tony Hale (Arrested Development) voices the character for the English language version of Batman Ninja, giving one of the best performances of the crazed clown since Mark Hamill back in the Batman: The Animated Series days. His chilling, maniacal laugh is frightening, giving him a level of menace that makes him a formidable foe.The other Arkham inmates that traveled back in time include Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Penguin, Two-Face, and of course, Gorilla Grodd. Along with the Joker, their goal is to gain enough power to rule over the feuding Japanese states and change history for their own benefit. While it’s cool to see all of them wearing their new Samurai-inspired costumes, this lineup of Batman rogues serves mostly as a backdrop to the main attraction. Batman Ninja is a Batman and Joker movie through and through, and Chu’s script rightly keeps the focus on them. Even Harley Quinn feels like an afterthought, though Strong’s voice over work is always top-notch.As for the way everything comes together, the final act of the film is breathtaking, making me wish I could pause every frame to take in all of the detail. We won’t go into spoilers here, but let’s just say that my inner 9-year-old self was blown away by what was happening on screen as the final battle took place.
Batman Ninja takes everything great about the masked vigilante and twists it in a way we’ve never seen, creating a visual marvel unlike any other Batman animated movie before it. DC tried something new by bringing in visionary Japanese animators to offer a refreshing take on one of the company’s most beloved characters, and the finished product not only built upon the great adaptations that have come before, but surpassed them.