It’s that time of year again, where I pay lip service to getting back into a shape, any shape, really, and I try really hard for a few weeks. By ‘trying really hard,’ I mean dusting off the ole’ elliptical machine and taking her for a ride every other day, much to the chagrin of the Mrs. who gets stuck corralling the kiddos by her lonesome. What does that mean for this article? It means I’ve been watching shows on the iPad!
Up first is an animated collaboration between DC and Nickelodeon: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Released in 2019, this full-length (1 hr. 27 minutes) PG-13 feature teams Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul and Shredder against the Batfamily and everybody’s favorite fighting turtles. It features the New-52 era Batman, Damian Wayne Robin, and Batgirl in her Burnside-era outfit, and is based on a crossover series from James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. I skipped that particular miniseries, but there are several minis teaming up Bats and Turtles and they’re all decent from what I’ve heard.
I won’t give too much away in case you want to check this one out, but it also involves a breakout in Arkham, as is tradition in Bat-movies today, and the ooze-ification of your favorite Batman baddies like Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, etc.
I will say this movie hits the sweet spot for fans of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman: The Animated Series.
Both cartoons aired at overlapping periods back in the early 90’s, but I don’t recall them ever teaming up for a crossover on screen before. It’s a perfect match, and the character pairings work really well as presented. Enough has changed in both franchises in the 30 years since that changes are recognizable, and the edges have been hardened a little bit, but this movie finds what works for both universes and plays it up.
Michaelangelo’s wide eyed niavette plays wonderfully off of Robin’s youthful but very serious worldview.
Mikey’s the character that gets to have the fun that Damian Wayne only wishes he could have. Mikey also serves to call out the absolute ridiculousness and absurdity of the Bat-Universe. Why do they have blimps in Gotham? This movie embraces the quirks and calls back to what fans loved about these characters back in the day. Batman plays the straight man and grown-up of this mash-up, frequently reminding the other characters that things should be done his way or not at all. When he does have those moments of leniency, you get why the whole Bat-family concept works. Leonardo and Raph take turns appealing to Batman’s’ disciplined warrior and tough-guy bravado. Batgirl and Donny work well together as the scientific-minded brains, too. And Alfred, oh dear Alfred, has to deal with all of them. I could watch an entire series of these two groups smashed together.
But we don’t have an entire series, just this one movie, so the folks at DC and Nick make this one count.
(Minor spoilers ahead.)
Bane, Penguin, Joker, Harley, Ivy, Scarecrow, Baxter Stockman, Mr. Freeze all come along for the ride in addition to the two big bads Shredder and Ra’s.
Their inclusion felt like one of the turtle spin-off toy lines they used to produce so readily. Those were always the best. The Turtles franchise had a knack for not taking itself too seriously, but also finding ideas that were super exciting! C’mon, Mr. Freeze turns into a giant polar bear!!! You know you want to see that. Two Face gets two heads! And Batman turns into Manba…I mean a bat, man! The whole thing is great fun and ridiculousness.
It also manages to highlight why both franchises ultimately work.
If I were to offer a critical mark against Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it would be that it lives too close to the harder edge of PG-13.
This is a movie my 8 year old would love, but I won’t show him because the violence is ratcheted up just a bit too much. There are bones crunched and blood spray that you might find in later Mortal Kombat finishers, and I really wish there weren’t. I recognize that’s just me being a fuddy dutty, but this movie could have been just as effective and enjoyable if they had tamped those over-the-top moments back. DC in general seems to live a lot in that “this is violent, so it’s cool” vein that appeals to young dudes, I guess. Similar to the “F Batman” line in their Titans series to launch the DC Universe streaming service, that’s just not for me. I don’t need curse words or exposed bones to enjoy a story, and personally, I’d rather they’re not there so I can share them with more people. That’s not to say there’s not a place for those more mature stories—I get the value of those types of tales—but if a tale like this one doesn’t need to be cranked up to that level, why bother? Why not make a movie you could target at the kids who also like stuff like Batman or Ninja Turtles? Whatevs. I guess it’ll be there when they get old enough to appreciate it.
Overall, even with the unnecessary excess, or maybe because of the silly fun to counterbalance the excess, I’d give this one an A-.
I’m more harsh than Rotten Tomatoes, apparently.
It’s an energetic romp that reminds audiences what makes both the Turtles and Bat franchises great. It’s action-packed while not taking itself so seriously—it truly embraces those ridiculous elements that fans have grown to love. Mikey’s traditionally not my favorite Turtle, but he is here because he calls all those elements out! And he rides a dinosaur in a Batmask. I would do the same! If you watched cartoons in the 90’s, this crossover is worth your time. Not your young kids’ time, mind you, but maybe later once they grow up a bit they can enjoy it, too.
So if you’re a DC fan and you’ve been checking out their animated offerings, let me know what you think. Are there any other shows I should be watching instead?
Until next time, I’ll probably be defaulting back to the original Batman: the Animated series because that’s all I’m really chasing anyway. I just don’t want to admit it.