Something I’m enjoying seeing lately is animation catching up to the comic book realm when it comes to crossovers. In most instances, we’ve been forced to rely on the latter because it’s really been the only medium to get around red tape separating various franchises. But thanks to some of the top publishers out there, Batman has fought the Predator, Archie has had to survive a Sharknado, and the Ghostbusters will soon meet up with the Transformers.
Now, because of Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the acclaimed miniseries written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Freddie Williams II has been adapted to film. Actually, before either version came along, the only way for these pop culture icons to cross paths was in our imaginations – and maybe sometimes with the help of action figures. Odds are that my six-year-old self probably concocted such a mashup back in the day.
But if I’m to be completely honest here, there’s a big difference in how I favor each part in this equation. While my affinity for Batman is well-documented, my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fandom didn’t follow me into adulthood. Regardless, I really dug the aforementioned comic on which the flick we’re here to discuss is based, so I went into my viewing experience rather excited.
Oddly enough, I wound up walking away with a different sentiment toward DC’s latest home video release. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what it accomplished and don’t think it’s a bad movie by any means – it’s just that this seems like an instance when something worked better on the printed page.
Believe me, even though these concepts have some overlap on the Venn diagram, Batman and TMNT are very different from one another when you get down to it. In fact, the simple idea that they originate from different universes was thrown out the window in the movie, as the Turtles and their foes take a road trip of sorts to Gotham City.
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If I were to describe how this flick is tonally, I’d have to liken it to The Batman animated series that ran from 2004-2008 because it’s somewhat lighter fare to accommodate for the Heroes in a Half-Shelf. But in odd contrast, there are some graphic killings made by the villains. This present dichotomy makes it seem like the filmmakers didn’t know which demographic to target.
Furthermore, this contradictory nature even carries over to some of the character designs. Batman (voiced by Troy Baker) wears a grey and bright blue costume favored by more classic iterations of the Caped Crusader. In my view, it doesn’t gel very well with Baker’s voice, which you may have familiarized yourself with via his great performances in the Telltale games. Why Batman’s Rebirth costume wasn’t carried over from the comic is beyond my grasp, as it would’ve been more befitting.
Maybe it’s just me, but I also wasn’t entirely enthralled by some aspects of the plot. The idea of having Batman’s rogues gallery – and the Foot Clan, for that matter – mutated into human-animal hybrids is a bigger part of the narrative here than it was in the comic. While this appeals to some, I’m seldom on board with a concept like this. Call me crazy, but I can’t even see someone as far gone as the Joker (also played by Troy Baker) willingly turning himself into a snake man.
As for the rest of the basics, the story sees Ra’s al Ghul (Cas Anvar) forming a shaky alliance with Shredder (Andrew Kishino), which is actually the most natural pairing of evildoers from each respective brand. Not only are these fellas highly intelligent masters of martial arts, but they also command a legion of ninjas.
Thanks to this terrifying union, the good guys have ample reason to come together. I’d rather not spoil how things turn out, but I’m certain most of you will appreciate the various interpersonal relationships developed amongst the heroes. When you see how the following pairings play out, you’ll likely walk away with a smile: Batman finds a kindred spirit in Leonardo (Eric Bauza); Batgirl (Rachel Bloom) and Donatello (Baron Vaughn) bond over their love for technology; hotheads Robin (Ben Giroux) and Raphael (Darren Criss) somehow get along; and Alfred (Brian George) nearly escapes the threat of high blood pressure thanks to Michelangelo (Kyle Mooney).
For my money, the best thing this movie has going for it is its action scenes. I swear on a stack of vintage issues of Detective Comics that the choreography is something to behold. Seriously, it’s some of the most impressive stuff you’ll see this side of John Wick in 2019. The martial arts sequences are well thought out and you’ll have to see Batgirl’s motorcycle stunt near the end to believe it.
On that note, you’ll want to check out “Fight Night in Gotham” once you’re ready to digest the bonus features, because it delves into the action element. “Cowabunga Batman! When Comic Book Worlds Collide,” meanwhile, is more about the crossover in general. And for good measure, a sneak peek at the Batman: Hush animated film is also thrown in. Sorry, there are no extra cartoons like we’re used to seeing.
After all that’s been said here, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Yes, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t knock my socks off, but it may do so for a lot of people. The post-credits scene, which you’ll definitely want to stick around for, hints there’s more to come. I won’t tell you how, but you can count me in if a sequel does see the light of day.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may struggle to find the right tone, but it'll more than likely satisfy fans on both sides of the aisle.