A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman: Soul of the Dragon is a 2021 animated movie in which Batman reunites with those he trained with in martial arts to stop a demonic portal from being opened. Expect lots of violence in this stylish homage to the martial arts films of the 1970s. Besides punches and kicks, characters fight with guns, rifles, grenades, axes, knives, stars, and especially swords. Characters are stabbed in the throat and chest with bare hands, killed with blood drawn. In one scene, the main characters are shown in a flashback scene training under their sensei as they repeatedly punch a rock until their fists bleed. Some demonic imagery, including a scene in which demons attack and kill one of the characters. A villain is first heard, and then shown, in bed with a prostitute, before he sends her into a room filled with cobras where she's presumed killed. Kids are shown tied up and held prisoner for a sacrifice. Some profanity throughout, including "bulls--t." Drinking in some scenes -- martinis, wine, cocktails.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON, Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) owns a dance club in 1970s Gotham City. One night, Bruce's old friend from his grueling days of martial arts training in a secret monastery, Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), arrives to tell him that the mysterious gate that took the life of their master O-Sensei is now under the possession of Jeffrey Burr, the sadistic millionaire leader of the evil Kobra Kult. They're soon attacked by an axe-wielding gang hired by Schlangenfaust. During the fight, Richard and Bruce learn that Burr is looking for the sword that will open the gate, the sword that was given to Shiva (Kelly Hu) by O-Sensei. Now, Bruce and Richard must find those still living who also trained under O-Sensei: Shiva, who is now the head of organized crime in Chinatown, and Ben, who now owns and teaches in a dojo for inner-city kids. After Schlangenfaust steals the sword, these four must return to what remains of their secret monastery to stop Burr from reopening the portal and unleashing demonic evil upon the world.
Is it any good?
As DCU movies and stories vary in quality and level of interest to those not already immersed in the DCU, it's refreshing to see a contribution to the franchise that's far above the norm. Indeed, Batman: Soul of the Dragon is an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable homage to the martial arts movies of the 1970s. It captures '70s grit and style without going overboard with it, and the obvious nods to the movies from that time are knowing and playful without coming across as heavy-handed or derivative. It also eschews the "kitchen sink" method of storytelling so often employed in these movies. It's easy to follow, even if you don't know every tiny bit of minutiae about every single character.
There's also a humor at work here that can be just as playful as it is cynical. There's a humorous awareness in O-Senesi's character, for instance, of reining in the dialogue before it gets too pretentiously "mystical." When, during a fight scene, the assailant asks Batman, "What do you have that your comrades do not?" as if the question is some kind of zen koan, Batman answers "A cape!" before smothering him, and it's a nice bit of levity without sacrificing the action of the scene and story. In a DCU franchise overloaded with so many ponderous stories about the gray areas between good and evil, Batman: Soul of the Dragon offers not only an alternative to such redundancy, but also a stylish evocation to the films and styles of the 1970s, without resorting to lazy kitsch or irony.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Batman: Soul of the Dragon is an homage to 1970s martial arts movies. How does this movie evoke the 1970s style?
How does this compare with other movies in the DC Comics universe? How is it similar and different?
How much of the violence seemed necessary to the story, and how much seemed gratuitous?
- On DVD or streaming: January 12, 2021
- Cast: David Giuntoli, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu
- Director: Sam Liu
- Studio: DC Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Superheroes, Book Characters
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Some violence
- Last updated: January 20, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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