Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2019
I’ve seen every animated Batman movie that they’ve made so far and I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and live action movies. And while I haven’t followed up with many of the later series, the original Turtles cartoon still has a place in my heart and plenty of others so that the references often feel like they’re coming from the original rather than the later iterations. And while I was expecting this to be more of a younger skewed film where the Turtles would kid up the Batman, instead it actually seemed to go the other direction where Batman made the Turtles story a bit darker than usual. There was still a bit of meeting in the middle where the teenage comedy of the Turtles lightened up the Batman story and villains and made this an overall enjoyable watch. And as this is still a relatively new release, there will be spoilers from here on out so be warned.
Like many of these crossover events, they start off very similar with the two heroes from the different properties meet under unknown circumstances and think they are enemies before eventually teaming up to fight a common enemy. This time around it’s the Turtles’ Shredder teaming up with Batman’s Ra’s Al Ghul, which does make sense as they both command an army of ninjas and they each have something the other wants. Shredder has access to the mutagenic Ooze while Al Ghul has access to his immortality granting Lazarus pit. As a fan of the animated series, it’s also interesting to note that different characters pronounced “Ra’s” a few different ways, both the way it was pronounced in the 90’s animated series as well as how it was pronounced in the Nolan trilogy.
What this movie really gets right is the characterization of the Turtles themselves, especially Michelangelo. He’s frequently making jokes and they are the right kind of jokes that both comment on some of the absurdities of the Batman universe while still holding true to the Turtles sensibilities. It was an interesting choice to include both Damien Wayne and Batgirl on the Batman side of things and even Alfred had a few fun moments of interactions with the Turtles. It worked well to see the different types of more serious younger characters like Batgirl and Robin when contrasted by the nearly constant frivolity of the various Turtles. But at the same time, the Turtles are never treated as a mere joke, they are ninjas in their own right and can hold their own with Batman when they put their minds to it.
The one downside about this collaboration was that the rest of the Batman rogues gallery felt a little forced into the story. The Ooze turns them all into mutated animal versions of themselves, and of course the animal they turn into is based on their powers and/or personality. Harley Quinn turns into a Hyena, Freeze turns into a polar bear, and Joker turns into a giant cobra, along with a few others. The Ooze mechanic was interesting, but it felt like they just threw it in for a miscellaneous distraction which was exactly what it was within the story as well. It didn’t really serve a purpose except for the joke of seeing what animal each Batman villain would turn into and most of them were pretty obvious. But what worked better was the amount of weight given to both Shredder and Ra’s Al Ghul, especially how dark they went with some of their fights. Another highlight was the use of fly guy Baxter Stockman who had some of the best moments of humor besides Mikey.
As far as the animation style, it was a little different from the typical Warner animation. It seemed a little more simplified and potentially younger skewed despite some of the darker moments within the movie. The Turtles themselves also felt a little off with simplified heads and beady eyes, but the vocal performances really helped make up for the visual shift. All in all it was a fun ride with plenty of references to the classic Turtles cartoon like a henchmen that looked very much like the classic Krang robotic person suit and Batgirl showing up in the cold open dressed very much like April O’Neal. It was a nice change of pace to see one of these Batman animated movies lighten up quite a bit without going full on to cater to the younger audience. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.