I can’t say I had high expectations for Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’d call myself a fan of both, but it’s very rare when crossovers succeed beyond achieving a mild level of enjoyment. DC Animated fare is often hit and miss, as well, with every Batman: Under the Red Hood followed by a Son of Batman or The Killing Joke. I was curious about how Nickelodeon’s involvement would change things, and whether it’s because of them or not, I can say the film has a higher production-value and attention to detail than the average DC fare, which is usually aesthetically appealing but has limitations with certain aspects like character movement and often has trouble with how stilted or stiff characters come off. That, and the warm critical reception from critics and audiences alike helped my enthusiasm. I always intended to watch it, but I soon let myself actively become interested. Does Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles provide the cross-over fans deserve, or is it a cash-in with little to say for itself? Here are my thoughts …
Something I hadn’t expected early-on is how many times I smiled or even laughed while I watched. I mean, if I had to absolutely be a stickler, I’d say Michelangelo jumps-the-shark once or twice, but, for the most part, I enjoyed the zaniness and how humorous he was. I don’t think I can think of any other film in DC’s animated catalogue I’d describe as a “successful comedy,” instead, I usually find enjoyment through the animation and narrative depth. This film, however, blends it well throughout.
The fight-scenes are enjoyable as well. I think the film feels consistent to its own world, which has been a difficult task for a lot of films when they try to blend comedy and any level of dramatic depth. One scene involving Scarecrow and one of the Turtles in-particular stuck out as having a certain depth I hadn’t anticipated. Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might have involvement from Nickelodeon, but it isn’t the type of film you’d ever see shown on their channel. If you’ve watched DC’s later movies like Batman: The Killing Joke or Batman: Assault on Arkham, you’ve seen how they’ve begun allowing darker, more mature themes to bleed into their animated features (often, literally). This film sees a certain uptick in violence and word-choice, but it isn’t as gratuitous as what we’ve seen. I don’t have an issue with either violence or profanity, but I find that it can often be used as a crutch or the fact the movie-company is trying to be “hip, cool, and edgy,” becomes transparent. This film, it feels more natural than that, and, like I said, feels consistent with what the film is.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t a high-brow film by anyone’s imagination, nor does it reinvent the wheel. Instead, it’s exactly what you (or, “I,” at least) would want from a film seeing the Turtles and Batman cross-over. It’s a film that doesn’t attempt grandiose, epic-scale depth, but also doesn’t coast off fan-service and its own novelty, willing to deliver a film that’s fun and adventurous for its own sake. It’s one of my favorite DC animated features, and I’d recommend it.