In Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, viewers get a fun movie with plenty of action.
A middle-aged Batman fan and two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans (one a tween and the other a teen) watched the new animated movie Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Only one had read the DC/IDW comic book on which the movie is based.
Expectations were simple. We wanted to see a Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle team-up. There needed to be cool gadgets, some good-natured eye rolling from both sides about the oddities of the other group, and some really cool action which acknowledged the regard these characters are held in their respective universes. In other words, we wanted our fandom acknowledged and respected, but if someone poked some fun at it, that would be all right.
All left happy.
The movie, available digitally now, is available on Blu-Ray/DVD on June 4. Based (with some differences) on the well-received crossover comic from James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II, this PG-13 film delivers for fans who want something fun to watch. It is a solid summer film, designed to be viewed while sitting on the coach to avoid the afternoon heat.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chasing Shredder and the Foot Clan, find themselves in Gotham, where they must team up with Batman, Batgirl, and Robin (Damian Wayne) to defeat their enemies and protect the city.
It really is that simple. But the creators knew viewers watch for the interaction between all the characters, so as the heroes work to achieve their goal, they travel to the Batcave, Arkham Asylum and Ace Chemical Plant, thus maximizing the number of characters who get screen time. Because who doesn’t want to see Shredder (voiced by Andrew Kishino) and Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by Cas Anvar) casually insult each other?
So What Works
The tone is what works. And although who exactly the movie thinks its audience is a bit unclear, this movie has a strong idea of what they have come to see.
Batman is a little lighter than he is sometimes (think Justice League Unlimited) and the Turtles are a little more serious than they are sometimes portrayed (do not think Rise of the Teenage Mutant Turtles). It is easy to believe these two teams would get along, which is good because the movie does not spend nearly as much time as the comic book allowing these two teams to work out their issues and differences. Some time is spent on how the turtles need to focus and, yes, time is spent on how Batman needs to build families instead of teams, but those issues are so well-examined in other formats for those characters, they are mostly glossed over in this movie. Because time needs to be made for the more important things.
Want to see Batman fight the Turtles? Of course, it is in the title.
Want to see Batman versus Shredder? Good, because it is here.
What about the Turtles and the Bat family versus mutated Batman villains? Yup, that too.
The voice casting also works. Troy Baker (who voices Batman in Batman: Arkham Origins) plays both Batman and the Joker, which according to Syfy, makes him the first person to ever do that in the same production. He does a great job – evoking tones of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in his work. Among the turtles, Darren Criss play Raphael, Eric Bauza is Leonardo, Kyle Mooney as Michelangelo, and Baron Vaughn is Donatello.
The interactions between the two teams work as well. The similarities and differences between the teams are highlighted enough that the youngest member of our watch group understood it, but not so much that the oldest member felt it was overdone.
At one point, they split into groups. Batgirl and Donatello are one team, Robin, Michelangelo, and Raphael are one team, and Batman and Leonardo are one team. This works really well. Batgirl and Donatello work together on a couple of medical projects, with a subtle nod that, of course, Donatello is hanging out with a red-head. Robin splits the difference between Michelangelo’s goofiness and Raphael’s intensity. Batman and Leo treat each other as fellow leaders and focus on getting the job done.
There are several times Robin and Michelangelo play off one another. Robin is the one who firsts discovers the turtles in the Batcave and confronts Michelangelo wearing one of Batman’s cowls and riding the T. Rex. Most of the rest of the time, Robin appears somewhat envious of Michelango’s juvenile ways, behavior which Robin does not get to indulge in.
And What Does Not Work
The movie, in several places, threads the needle very well. It respects both fans, with the understanding that no one would watch this without an appreciation for both universes. Sometimes, however, the thread misses the needle a bit.
While there was a lot of 90s nostalgia. Gotham is mostly the city seen in Batman: The Animated Series, complete with, as Michelango puts it, “blimps flying around for no reason.” Batman however, sounds like Conroy but wears a suit with colors similar to the Adam West Batman. The turtles, in an effort to fit in with the humans, have flatter faces than any of the recent Nickelodeon shows which was strange at times.
And the Nickelodeon TMNT fans may be a bit young for this movie. At one point, the teen said “ah, I thought Team Batman didn’t kill people, but I think Batgirl just did.” There is some ambiguity on the violence. There is some debate over what happened to Mr. Freeze. For every time the tween cheered (the loudest was when a vial of TCRI appeared on screen), there was also an “ugh.” Now, he is eleven and it is a PG-13 movie, but he watched the 2012 TMNT without any problems.
Final Thoughts on Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This is a popcorn movie, in the most flattering sense of the world. Fans of both groups will find references amusing. The tween liked it a lot, especially anything Michelangelo did. The teen like it more than he thought he would. His favorite character was Donatello. The middle-aged viewer had a good time watching Batman with my kids, even if it became clear I have failed them in their Batman villain education. My favorite character was Batman.
All of us are hoping there may be a sequel.
Beth Keithly is a graduate from The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and works on grant development at a North Texas university. She is a fan of most science fiction and fantasy, especially Star Wars, Star Trek, Supernatural, DC comics and the Arrowverse, and the Marvel movieverse. When she is not teaching her children about her fandoms and the importance of a quality pen, she is reading, running or discussing fictional universes and their impacts on reality with her husband. She is @beth_keithly on Twitter.