Movie Review: “Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

   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 … 

   As I think everyone would anticipate, the animated film has a simple, straightforward narrative that mixes up characters from Batman and the Turtles’ rogues-gallery. Shredder and the Foot Clan align with Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins to bringdown Gotham City, other notable villains who appear include Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bane, Mr. Freeze and The Joker. In other words, they don’t shy away from stuffing the film with as many baddies as they can. The Turtles arrive in Gotham City and shortly find themselves thrown into the mix. Likewise, the film sees a lot of heroes brought in for the occasion, including Damien Wayne’s Robin, Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl, and, of course, our caped crusaderTroy Baker has become a mainstay for the Batman series, in Arkham City, he voiced Two-Face, in Arkham Origins, he voiced The Joker, then, in Batman: The Telltale Series, he took up the voice-role of Batman, in this film, Troy Baker does his best impression of Kevin Conroy’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s The Joker, and, although it might feel like an insult to call it an impression, he does both of them very well; it’s uncanny, really. Other familiar voice-actors include John DiMaggio (Gears of War, Bender from Futurama), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), and Tara Strong (everything), and together, all of them deliver admirable contributions.

   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 t
rying 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.

Rating: – 3.0 out of 5.0