Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is based on the comic book mini-series Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When the trailer for this movie first appeared, it immediately piqued my interest. A Batman/TMNT crossover movie ? What’s not to like about that ? The very concept itself has ‘Cool’ written all over it.
Both these juggernaut franchises have seen various animated incarnations over the years; most of which have been very successful. An interesting point to note here is that both these franchises really took off in their animated forms at around the same time in the late 80s and early 90s. Both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 & Batman: The Animated Series were pioneers of their franchises. While TMNT was an absolute pop-cultural phenomenon at the time, Batman: The Animated Series completely revolutionized and re-envisioned the way animated cartoons would be viewed (A topic for another day). The effects of both these cartoons can still be felt in the subsequent incarnations that have come out since.
Interestingly enough, there have been several crossovers between the two franchises in the comics over several decades; a fact that I was unaware of until the end-credits of this movie rolled in. Hence, it is only natural that these two properties should cross-over at some point in animated form.
The premise of the movie is fairly straightforward. The Shredder and the Foot Clan are working with Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins. They are building a machine that is capable of transforming Gotham City into insane mutants with the help of a mutagen (Made in the infamous TCRI) and joker venom. This will be traded with Ra’s Al Ghul for the famous life rejuvenating Lazarus pit.
Two Tones are Well-Balanced
One of the major concerns for any fan going into this movie would be the potential clashing of tones. While most incarnated versions of Batman have been typically dark, TMNT typically shines with its brand of action mixed with cheesy/goofy humour (The original TMNT comics though are very edgy which is in stark contrast to its animated counterparts). That said, this movie balanced both the tones very well. It is to the credit of the movie’s creators that this is actually where the movie really shines.
There is surprisingly some violence thrown into this movie for a team-up that should produce more laughs than serious moments (Yes, people die in this movie and some heads do fall off !!). However, the creators don’t overdo this and this works to the advantage of the movie. This aspect of the film is well balanced out with the general tone of the movie. While the movie does enough to make you take villains such as Ra’s Al Ghul, The Joker and The Shredder seriously, the funnier moments between the turtles ensures that the overall tone of the movie isn’t particularly dark.
The Good Guys & The Rogues Gallery
Also, the way the turtles and the bat-family play off each other, moves the story along at a nice pace. While Batman is his typical stoic self, Robin and Bat-Girl are portrayed as sassy characters who indulge in a lot of modern-day internet lingo. Its interesting to note that over the years, Batman’s portrayal has more or less remained the same in most animated incarnations. However, Robin and Bat-Girl’s portrayals have become increasingly angsty, rebellious and sassy. As is to be expected from a movie like this, the turtles and the Bat-Family initially clash before teaming up together and this makes for some interesting character moments. The turtles have been characterized well with the personalities of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo staying true to their usual depictions.
As well as the good guys have been portrayed, the rogues gallery of Batman are fairly well represented in this movie with appearances from the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. In contrast, there aren’t too many characters from the TMNT rogues gallery with Baxter Stockman being the only major character aside from Shredder to make an appearance. Once again, this works well and is justified as the movie is set in Gotham City and not New York City (The movie clearly distinguishes the two cities even though they are the same city in real life). The Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul are the major villains of the film and the uneasy alliance between the two adds an interesting layer to the overall feel of the story.
Music, Voice Acting & More Good Stuff
The music in the movie is done by Kevin Riepl and has a very 80s style electronic vibe to it. Perhaps this was done to allude to the phase when the TMNT mania was at its height. Interestingly enough, Kevin Riepl started his career as a co-assistant of the legendary Kevin Manthei (Too many animated series to name) & then went on to create music for famous game series such as Unreal and Gears of War.
The voice acting in the movie is as strong as ever with a cast boasting the likes of Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, John Di Maggio, Eric Bauza etc. A clear stand-out is the voice acting of Troy Baker who voices both Batman and Joker in the same movie. This is actually the first time that both characters have been voiced by the same person; and boy does Baker do a great Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill impersonation.
The movie contains a lot of references to both franchises and Easter eggs as well. So, this will definitely please fans. Possibly, the only real blot on this movie is the uneven character designs. While some characters such as the Shredder and Ra’s have been given very detailed designs, certain other characters leave something to be desired. That said, this doesn’t really detract from the overall viewing experience.
Overall, this is definitely a fun-watch and not one that fans of Batman and TMNT would want to miss out on. Kudos to both Nickelodeon and Warner Bros for doing a great job on this collaboration. The movie also does enough to explore the possibilities of future team-ups or maybe even sequels !!
DC’s next animated movie in its line-up of original stand-alone move is Batman: Hush and that’s something that I can’t wait for. The movie is slated for a July release and if the trailers are anything to go by, it promises to be intense.
Until then….Cowabunga !!!