Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Batman and Ninja Turtles? No, not those action figure battles you set up yourself in the sand box when you were a kid. Sounds ludicrous at first but as "Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" unfolds, it's more apparent why didn't this happen sooner? A martial arts action adventure that doesn't skimp on the fights, "Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is also a love letter to the histories of Batman and Ninja Turtles across the various storytelling mediums, doesn't take itself too seriously but strikes hard in the drama department at the right times, and gives audiences a timeless lesson about the importance of family.
"Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" takes some inspiration from the first of the recent Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II and co-published between DC Comics and IDW Publishing and follows Batman and the Ninja Turtles crossing paths in Gotham City, both on the trail of Shredder and the Foot Clan who have allied with Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins. The movie in an effort to be more streamlined like the fact that Batman and the Ninja Turtles reside in the same universe, whereas in the comic, the element of traveling between dimensions was utilized. If that takes some air out of the magic of this crossover or not, it's moot. Or don't expect to get bogged down into origin stories about any of the characters. Instead, what you need to know is peppered throughout dialogue or visual.
Ubiquitous with any crossover story or even old school martial arts film, our protagonists Batman and the Turtles butt heads and fight then butt head some more then come to an appreciation for each other. One of the selling points of this movie is the strong character work and playing with inter-dynamics like Batman and Leonardo both being so strict and regimented, Batman and Michelangelo being total opposites, Alfred and Michelangelo, Robin and Raphael both being loners and brawlers annoyed by any and everything, Donatello and Batgirl both loving science, and Shredder and Ra's Al Ghul both used to being #1 but having to work together on equal footing. You've got Leonardo analyzing how Batman analyzed their fighting style, Donatello loving the Batmobile and Batcomputer, Raphael... being Raphael, and Michelangelo acting like a kid in the candy store. A smart move to prevent the crossover from being one-sided is giving Batman the mini-arc of learning that a family is more important that having a team (and he should loosen up a little).
The big Act 2 are heroes being misled into a trap set up at Arkham Asylum and being forced to take on the Batman's mutated rogues gallery in an almost video game -- Game of Death style sequence. While the scale of the battles synchs more towards to the fantastic, it doesn't take itself too serious and there is a lot of unexpected hilarity like Michelangelo tripping on the stairs, Poison Ivy's immobility, Bane hurting his knee, and Batgirl talking a quick selfie with Joker. Although, on the other hand, one could argue that this act goes on a bit too long and steamrolls the pacing of the main story but the mutated characters are clearly ultimate fan-service.
Director Jake Castorena complements the heart and humor of the writing with some amazing coolest action sequences that even onto themselves nods to martial arts cinema like the classic Shaw Brothers or even more recent fares like both Raid movies. We're treated to not just one but two Batman vs. Shredder fights. And the first one just ignites my childhood of seeing the 1990 TMNT movie in theaters. That visual of Shredder landing inside Wayne Enterprises is straight out of the roof top battle!
The characters designs for "Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" are no different than the multitude of references in the movie. Both properties utilize and incorporate from just about any decade. There's the blue and gray 80's Batman but if you look at his costume case in the Batcave, there's suits from the Adam West '66 TV series, the original Bob Kane concept, and the original look in his first comic book appearance. Contrast that to the Damian Wayne Robin suit of the 2000s and the present day "Burnside" Batgirl suit. Even with the Turtles, they've definitely got some of the traits of the IDW series thanks to Andy Kuhn's contribution to their designs, the Foot look more like their robotic counterparts from the 80s animated series, and Shredder is a mix of eras even bearing the Foot logo from the Goldfine's 4Kids 2000s animated series.
Troy Baker voices both Batman and The Joker, the former comes off more as the stern taskmaster and the latter, well definitely Joker. Ben Giroux totally gives us the bratty, impudent, and high brow Damian from the comics. Eric Bauza, Darren Criss, Kyle Mooney, and Baron Vaughn had a tall task as being the latest quartet to voice the beloved Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello respectively but they definitely earned their keep. Mooney steals the scenes much like Michelangelo typically does and I admit I came in a bit skeptical just from watching him perform on Saturday Night Live. But I'm happy with being proven wrong. The casting of Criss came as a surprise, seemed like a total night and day mismatch to me but again, happy to be wrong. He brings Raphael to life as the gruff, hot headed street brawler we all come to love. Baron Vaughn was a dark horse for me among the four, I wasn't familiar at all with the actor but he completely inhabited Donnie. Bauza, a recurring voice actor in DC animation, finds the right tone as the young leader with the world on his shoulders. Rachael Bloom brings out the carefree aspect of Batgirl who's loving every second of being in costume. Andrew Kishino was another standout as Shredder and brings the menace but clearly a guy who's learned English but still has the accent.
A second and third viewing is probably a good idea just so you can look for all the references and easter eggs. The re-playability of the movie is that you'll see or hear something new every time. They're as subtle as Ra's alluding to the late Jason Todd, Shredder's Sato Oshi move being named after the Foot Clan's two founders, or the Turtles' calendar in Shellraiser being set to April or as in your face as Batman drinking from a Superman mug, the man hole cover shooting up into the sky like in the cartoons, Penguin's henchman looking like Kraang's exosuit, or Raphael's motorcycle based on Metalhead. The chuckle/groan goes to Michelangelo's "not aliens" quip, a nod to y'know, that movie from Michael Bay. The movie's end credits present one more wealth of easter eggs. A moving gallery of famous Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book covers reworked to include elements of the other character. My personal favorite had to be the TMNT #2 Mouser cover. If there's any definitive proof this crew loves their source material, it's these covers.
"Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" does have its quibbles. As mentioned before, Act 2 had a moot pacing issue in that it pumped the brakes on the main story. After awhile, you do tend to forget what the villains want again. Like what did Ra's want? Then by the end, you're reminded, 'Oh, yeah, he wants to purify Gotham and take over.' The elements of the crossover are also debatable. Instead of living in two different dimensions, they live in the same one. And both being on the east coast, they really never heard of each other or their adversaries seems to push the lines of believability. Some of the violence and blood can be sudden and off putting like the throwing stars to the head, Raphael demolishing the goon's face with this knee, or the decapitation. And two cringe worthy moments were Batman acts a bit misogynistic towards Batgirl in the 24 minute mark before the Turtles find the Batcave and even Joker calling Harley a nurse at first than acknowledge her doctorate.
"Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comes with two major featurettes that are essentially an insightful commentary on the making the movie. "Cowabunga, Batman! When Comic Worlds Collide," clocks in at 12 minutes, 31 seconds and features the production crew talking about their love for Batman and the Ninja Turtles."Fight Night in Gotham" is 18 minutes and change and breaks down the fight scenes in the movie, analyzing the choreography developed for characters and the inspiration the crew took from. The non-exclusive special features is the Sneak Peak at "Batman: Hush" out late this summer trailers for "Detective Pikachu," "Shazam!," "Reign of the Supermen" and "Justice League vs. The Fatal Five." The movie released on May 14, 2019 in Digital and June 4, 2019 with a 4K/Blu-ray/Digital or Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo sets. Also worth mentioning, during San Diego Comic Con 2019 in July, there will be exclusive figure of Michelangelo dressed as Batman for sale. Accessories include a sewer lid, pizza and extra sets of hands. This figure is limited to 10,000 pieces and will cost $30.00.
"Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is the perfect mind meld of two powerhouse franchises in a entertaining fight fest laced with heart, humor, and heroism. It is undoubtedly a love letter to fans by fans. The action is intense and the attention to detail is amazing, the story is a solid 3 act, and DR Movie gives us another animation masterpiece. There are some minor issues with pacing and content but not enough to sink the likeability of the movie. The movie is a childhood fantasy finally come true and is a recommended purchase.
Main Feature: 3 out of 5
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5