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DC Universe Animated Original Movies (Part 40): Batman: Soul Of The Dragon

Hello, my friends.  There’s something sinister slithering within our world and it’s going to take a small group of jive turkeys who’re exceptionally skilled in martial arts to stop this potentially world-threatening terror.  On that note, I welcome you all once again to another entry of my signature journey of reviews called…

Once again, the Caped Crusader gets to bask within my critical spotlight.  However, he’s not going to punch, kick and flip into this venture all by himself.  For this particular outing, he’ll have the benefit of a small group of familiar faces who’ve all trained with him under one particular roof that we’ll be discovering along the way.  As such, it’s time for us to disco dance into our featured film known as…

Originally released on January 12, 2021 for Digital Download before ultimately seeing its home media release on January 26, this marks the third entry within this overall series that the Dark Knight has found himself in an R-Rated movie (fourth if you also count the DC Showcase entry of “Batman: Death In The Family”).  So, what kind of evil will our hero and his allies find themselves up against?  Let’s groove onto this dance floor and find out.

We open in (presumably) Monte Carlo as a man has just won a game of poker.  Afterwards, his waiter asks him if he would like to have another drink, to which the guy tells him to “keep them coming” as he hands over his empty glass.  From there, the waiter takes his leave before he discards the tray, pulls out a pocket camera and takes a picture of one particular side of the glass.  Afterwards, he arrives at an elevator where he prints out a copy of the guy’s fingerprint and uses it upon the thumbpad in order to gain access onto the lift.

From there, he discards his waiter outfit and reaches the penthouse suite before he accesses a secret panel within a wall-mounted painting.  With the safe being revealed, he uses a codebreaking device to automatically scan its combination.  As he waits for it to do its job, he takes an apple from a nearby fruit bowl and begins to eat it.  Just then, the safe gets unlocked as he retrieves a file and proceeds to take pictures of its contents.  Suddenly, he notices a picture of an ancient doorway as he instantly recognizes it.

Just then, he’s approached by a small group of hired goons who look to stop him from completing his operation.  After using another apple to disorient one of the thugs, a fight breaks out as he easily disarms the men before taking them all out in an efficient manner.

However, one of the goons attempts to take him down with a grenade.  Thankfully, the fighter notices this as he runs towards a window and kicks the explosive back at the fiend before smashing through the panel.  As the room gets blown up, our main hero proceeds to use a hidden parachute and glide his way down towards a boat that’s occupied by two bikini-clad women.  When one of them asks who he is, the man tells them that he’s Richard Dragon (voiced by Mark Dacascos).

Following the opening title sequence, we then shift over to a mansion upon a secret island as a spectacled-man named Schlangenfaust (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) reaches his master’s bedroom and tells his fellow cohorts that he has some urgent information for their leader.  As such, he walks in as Jeffrey Burr (voiced by Josh Keaton) is in the middle of pleasuring a prostitute.  From there, Schlangenfaust informs him that one of their French bases was compromised and that the intruder was aware of “The Gate”.  Realizing the sudden urgency of their operation, Jeffrey tells him that he knows what must be done before excusing him.  Afterwards, the hooker has gotten dressed as he pays her for her services before showing her the way out.

However, it turns out that she was led into an imprisoning pit.  From there, Jeffrey oversees this from a special room as he tells her to “dance” for him.  With the prostitute rightfully refusing to comply and ordering him to let her out, he uses a switch on his console and unleashes a quiver of poisonous cobras into the pit.  While he takes out a live mouse in order to eat it, the hooker meets her tragic demise at the toxic teeth of those sinister serpents.

We then transition into Gotham City as Richard arrives at a nightclub called Gotham Nights.  Despite mentioning that he’s a friend of the building’s owner, the bouncer tells him to leave before he uses his karate skills on him.  Richard then challenges him to a fight within a nearby alley.  Because the bouncer entered the area first, Richard takes advantage by locking him in before heading inside.

Up in the private penthouse, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Eddie Saville himself, David Giuntoli) is having a conversation with his girlfriend Silver St. Cloud (voiced by Erica Luttrell).  Despite the fact that they’ve been in a relationship with each other for several months, she expresses her concern over the fact that he hasn’t revealed everything about himself to her.  As such, she wants him to share his deepest and darkest secret with her in order for them to properly embrace it as a couple.  However, he’s unable to tell her about his secret identity.  As a result, she gives him his spare key and effectively ends their relationship.  Just as she takes her leave, Richard arrives as he and Bruce rekindle their longtime friendship while Wayne takes out some ice in order to prep their drinks.

From there, we transition into a flashback as a younger Bruce has scaled some Himalayan mountains before arriving at a massive and ancient set of doors.  He then uses one of the chiming door knockers, but doesn’t get a response.  He even calls out for anyone inside, but is only greeted by utter silence.  Just as he begins to angrily leave, he suddenly hears the door become unlocked as he makes his way inside where he’s met upon by O-Sensei (voiced by James Hong).  Shortly afterwards, he guides Bruce into the main area known as Nanda Parbat.  He then tells Wayne that he’ll be “the sixth” student before he presents his fellow sparring mates.

First up, Bruce is introduced to O-Sensei’s “best student” named Shiva (voiced by Kelly Hu) who swiftly slices through a series of bamboo with ease.  Next, Wayne gets informed about Ben Turner (voiced by Spawn, Gambol & Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White), a “strong and fierce” man who came here with the intent of controlling his temper before he smashes through a Wing Chun Dummy.  Afterwards, Bruce is presented to Jade Nguyen (voiced by Jamie Chung).  While she’s hopping around and balancing herself upon a series of posts, O-Sensei tells Wayne that she’s good, but constantly asking questions.

Bruce is then informed about Rip Jagger (voiced by Chris Cox), “a decorated war hero” who’s striving for inner peace.  Wayne then reminds O-Sensei that he’s his sixth student, to which his master realizes it and shows him a particular pupil who’s actually been here for a significant amount of time.  This one turns out to be Richard Dragon as O-Sensei concludes his tour of the overall area.  Just then, Wayne notices a particular door leading into an area separated from the rest of the grounds as he asks about it.  However, he’s able to sidestep the topic and tells Richard to set Bruce up within his personal rest area.  O-Sensei then tells Wayne that this won’t be an easy road for him to travel on, since it could potentially lead him towards utter ruin, to which Bruce tells him that he can’t turn back now.

From there, the flashback ends with him pouring a pair of drinks for himself and Richard before asking his old friend why he’s suddenly in Gotham City.  Dragon tells him that somebody knows about “The Gate” and that he wants Wayne’s help in finding it.  However, Bruce declines on the grounds that this municipality is keeping him very busy and that he’s through with “the other stuff”.  Richard then takes the ice pick and throws it at Bruce, who successfully catches it with precise reflexes.  Wayne asks his friend why he’s come here for his assistance, especially since he’s a “globe-trotting super spy”.  Dragon says that his high-end associates would only want to open the gate for their own means.  He then says that he needs someone whom he trusts and even compliments his friend for being “the most driven man” he’s ever known.  However, Bruce says that he has his “own scene” going on right here.  Richard then calmly pulls on a book that’s actually a hidden switch as a pair of shelves open up to reveal the building’s main security console, complete with a trio of discreet cameras that’re used to pick up any information from the patrons about an upcoming crime.  Dragon then tells Wayne that none of it are as dire as “The Gate” and that they “owe him”.  As such, Bruce ultimately agrees to this venture as Richard begins to inform him about what they’re up against.  It turns out that a terrorist group discovered “The Gate”, only to get killed off a week later.  Wayne realizes that this was a means to axe off any loose end that found out about it and that Dragon is a loose end himself.  Suddenly, the security footage picks up the patrons fleeing over the sight of a looming threat.

From there, they make their way to the main club as a group of blue-clad warriors orders them to hand over “the sword”.  A fight proceeds to break out as Richard manages to fend off the opposing fiends.  Meanwhile, Bruce deals with several of the warriors before he’s thrown into a table as a lit candle falls off of it.

From there, we transition into another flashback where Wayne and his fellow students are given a long-term task by O-Sensei to constantly hit and ultimately (maybe) break their own heated stones.  They’re warned that this task will hurt, but they’ll be strengthened and cleansed by it as a result.  Afterwards, he lets his students begin their assignment.  After a while, Shiva silently stops and takes her leave as Ben thinks that she’s given up on this task.  Jade then quits on this assignment due to Shiva’s sudden departure from it, while the guys stay put and continue with their attempt to smash their rocks.

Time proceeds to pass as Rip has also checked out on this task, while Bruce, Richard and Ben’s constant strikes has left their fists bloodied.  Ultimately, Turner gets frustrated with his inability to break the rock and his hand getting hurt as a result.  As such, he kicks the stone and its grilling platform off before heading out.  Dragon tries to sway him back to his task, but Ben assures him that he’s done with it as he takes his leave.  Richard then begins to agree with him and thinks that it’s time that they should rest up, but Wayne continues to pound away at his rock while he checks out for the night.

With him being the last one standing, Bruce continues to punch away at his stone, but relents for a moment due to the pain within his bloodied fist.  He’s then suddenly met upon by O-Sensei, due to his use of the surrounding darkness, and gets told that he won’t be able to break his rock anytime soon or possibly ever.  He then tells Wayne that he knows what happened to his parents and of his intention to prevent his loss from occurring onto others, but he informs him that “evil is as eternal” as his rock.  Even if Bruce does manages to smash it, it will still remain intact as smaller and finite things, just like evil, which is something that will never change.  From there, he tells Wayne to accept the things that he’s unable to change, since “life is meant to be lived with others” and that it’s “too hard to do it alone”.  After O-Sensei takes his leave, the flashback ends with Bruce continuing with his impossible task of punching his rock.

Back in the present, Wayne punches his adversary into a table before seeing Dragon fending off a group of warriors.  He then runs into the back, with Richard being puzzled for his friend’s action.  Just as he finds himself surrounded, the lights go out as the warriors get taken out one by one.  With a pair of Batarangs disarming the last remaining fiend, Bruce reemerges as Batman and takes the guy out with a diving kick as Richard is amazed by his friend’s secret identity.

Over at Kobra’s secret island mansion, Jeffrey is informed by Lady Eve (voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) about their operations expanding into America thanks to ten new bases.  Afterwards, they get a call from Schlangenfaust as he informs Burr that the hired Axe Gang failed to defeat our heroes, who’re much tougher than what they expected.  As such, Jeffrey tells his right-hand man to let the failed gang know how much “displeasure” they’ve given him.  Schlangefaust assures him that his message has been delivered, since he’s already slayed every last member.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Richard have already driven off in Wayne’s car.  Dragon asks his friend about his costumed identity, to which Bruce assures him that it’s his way of keeping his lives separate.  From there, he gets his friend back on track with their mission and that they must reach “the sword” before their foes do.  They ultimately realize that they must reunite with Shiva as they arrive in Gotham’s Chinatown District.

We then transition into another flashback where O-Sensei reveals the key sword to his students.  This blade, known as “Soul Breaker”, was made centuries ago by Muramasa and because its main metal was folded numerous times over the years, it’s become a weapon that’s both flexible and strong.  However, it’s also been made with dark magic and could be a major factor towards vast life or grim death.  As such, he must assign one of his students to guard it, particularly someone “who chooses life”.  Ultimately, he picks Shiva to take up that role, mainly due to her “focus, strength and integrity”.

However, Jade scoffs at this decision as O-Sensei asks her why she doesn’t approve of his choice.  She tells him that Shiva lacks a “killer instinct” that should be required and that someone like Rip deserves to have it since he’s the longest tenured student.  Ultimately, O-Sensei takes back the blade and asks Jagger if he would be interested in guarding Soul Breaker, to which he exclaims “Yes”.  From there, O-Sensei tells him that he must defeat Shiva in combat in order to acquire the sword.  Not only that, but he tells her that she’s only allowed to use a single finger for the fight.

From there, the duel begins as Ripp attempts to strike her.  However, Shiva manages to dodge his attacks before she grabs his mouth with her finger and slams him onto the ground.  Jagger resumes his assault, but Shiva continues to display her vast skill with a fierce poke at his gut.

Even when he manages to grab her neck and hold her up, she turns the tide and finishes the fight with a precise strike upon his neck.  She then heads over for the final poke before O-Sensei announces that the match has ended.  After he tells Jade to “know” herself before others, the flashback ends with him properly handing over Soul Breaker to Shiva.

Back in the present time, Bruce and Richard enter a souvenir shop before being let into the back room.  As they arrive at her underground ring, Wayne assures Dragon that Shiva has changed a lot since their training days.  Now, she ruthlessly runs all of Gotham’s organized crimes within the Chinatown district.  Fortunately, they notices that she still has possession over Soul Breaker.  When Richard asks him if he’s confronted her as Batman yet, Bruce simply exclaims that he’s “working up to it”.

Meanwhile, the main fight continues as the brawler in the red trunks is defeating his opponent.  However, the white shorts-clad fighter decides to cheat as he grabs a patron’s glass and smashes into his opponent’s face, thus deceitfully gaining the upper hand and beating him up.

Afterwards, Lady Shiva hops into the ring and calls him out for his “dishonorable” victory before challenging him to another fight.  With the man agreeing, the patrons place their bets as the duel gets underway.  After dodging his attacks, she manages to trip the guy before he grabs a bottle, smashes it and heads back in.

However, she simply kicks it out of his hand, catches it and casually discards it.  With the crowd’s laughter bearing down on him, he resumes his assault in anger.  However, Lady Shiva is able to block his strikes and get a few hits in herself.

From there, the fight ends with her blocking other attack, striking him in the chest and then finishing him off for good by plunging her fingers into his neck as he outwardly bleeds and dies.

She then notices Bruce and Richard from afar as she takes out a pair of shurikens and throw them their way, only for her projectiles to actually hit the two Kobra ninjas who were behind them.  From there, Schlangenfaust arrives with several more soldiers and orders his men to take their foes out.  With the patrons fleeing, Wayne, Dragon and Lady Shiva proceed to take on the various ninjas.

During the scuffle, Richard tells Bruce to go “put on that mask”.  Shiva asks him about it, to which Dragon says that Wayne puts it on in order to become “a different person”.  She then realizes that Bruce is Batman, to which he tells his comrades to focus since their foes have come for Soul Breaker.  She then sees Schlangenfaust taking the sword as she goes after him, only for his ninjas to slow her down while he reaches his limo and escapes.

Thankfully, our threesome manage to reach Bruce’s car as a chase ensues.  As they begin to catch up, two opposing ninjas attempt to attack.  Fortunately, Wayne takes one out with some surprise spikes before subduing the other one with a bola net.  As the pursuit enters a tunnel, our heroes soon notice that a group of police officers have joined the chase.  While Schlangenfaust and his fellow ninjas escape by exiting through an on-ramp, our main group continue to get chased down by the cops.

Just as Richard informs Bruce and Shiva that their foes are en route towards the overpass, they suddenly find themselves under fire by the pursuing police who actually attempts to shoot them with shotguns.  With a dead end vastly approaching, Wayne fires a grappling hook in order to swing around and escape via an aqueduct as they also elude the trigger-happy police.

As Shiva sees Schlangenfaust’s limo up on the looming highway, she then notices a big red button.  Against Bruce’s orders, she presses it and discovers that she’s in an ejector seat as she rockets onto the freeway, taking out one of the ninjas in order to continue the pursuit on their motorcycle.

Meanwhile, Wayne and Dragon are forced to drive through the park in order to catch up.  With the highway in sight, Bruce activates his car’s turbo boost as he reaches the freeway and properly rejoins the chase.  Back with Lady Shiva, she takes out the two remaining ninjas in her way by decapitating one and forcing the other foe to slam into another car.  With Schlangenfaust in her sight, the chase makes its way into another tunnel.

By the time that they get to the opposite end however, she notices an approaching helicopter as Lady Eve opens fire on her, forcing her to abandon her motorcycle and continue the pursuit on foot.  Meanwhile, Lady Eve uses the helicopter’s magnet in order to carry the limo to safety while Schlangenfaust casually waves at his foe.

After their adversaries escape, Bruce and Richard catch up to Lady Shiva as Wayne assures her that their enemy will only win if they give up.  When she asks for any suggestions, Dragon tells her that they’ll meet up with Ben as she gets in before they head out to reunite with another fellow fighter.

We then shift into another flashback as O-Sensei and his students are eating their rice.  Jade then asks him about the mysterious door and why it’s off limits to them.  However, he continues to be vague about it as he mentions that it’s “the place where all destinies converge”.

Afterwards, Ben heads over to get some more rice, only to discover that Bruce has taken the remaining batch.  Despite Wayne being willing to share, Turner smacks his bowl away before berating him for not earning his place here, especially given their differences in both race and social class.

After Ben trips up Bruce, Richard tells O-Sensei that they must stop this fight from escalating.  However, he assures Dragon that “they need this”.  From there, they proceed to duke it out as Turner is able to get his immediate hits upon Wayne.

As Bruce manages to get back up, Ben continues to deliver the vicious hits.  Even after Wayne takes a brutal beating and Turner tells him to stay down, Bruce is still able to get on his feet.  Ben admires his determined spirit as he ends the fight and helps Wayne towards some proper medical care.

We then transition towards the ghetto side of Gotham as a young boy runs out of a karate dojo in tears.  He’s soon met upon by his teacher as Turner asks him about what’s bothering him, to which the kid says that he’s not strong enough.  When Ben asks the lad who exactly told him that, the boy says that no one did as Turner reminds him that nobody said those disheartening words to him.  He then tells the boy that when he was younger, he thought that he had to train a lot and act tough in order to feel stronger.  He then tells the kid that martial arts isn’t about perfecting his own offensive strikes, but mastering what’s in his mind and body.  In that vein, the boy would only need to know that the only one who’s capable of stopping him is himself.  With renewed confidence, the kid races back inside to train again.

Suddenly, he’s met upon by Bruce, Richard & Shiva, as they inform him that their foes have discovered the gate and they’ve taken Soul Breaker.  Afterwards, Shiva tosses her recently-acquired blade at Ben as he discovers the Kobra symbol on the underside of its pommel.  As such, he heads inside in order to get properly dressed and help them with their quest.

Once again, we shift into a flashback as O-Sensei’s students debate about what’s behind the mysterious gate.  Jade thinks that their master’s “most secret techniques” are behind it, while Shiva believes that there’s vast riches being stored in there.  Rip thinks that it’s “something powerful” that O-Sensei is “too afraid to use”, while Turner has the hilarious idea that their master has a private whirlpool on the other side of the gates.  When Bruce gets asked about what he thinks is within those mysterious doors, he exclaims that it’s just one big distraction before they all head off to sleep.