From the opening scene to the final credits, Batman vs the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an insane crossover that delivers in nearly every aspect to both fandoms.
We get to see Gotham city through a new set of eyes. The turtles, specifically Michelangelo, comment on the insanity that Batman accepts as his normal. There’s no doubt that we are in Gotham. The dirty city and rogues gallery makes that clear. There were obvious nods to Batman: The Animated Series, most notable are the blimps that plague the skies. But everything gains a new level of excitement as the Ninja Turtles encounter this new city. Batman is a character who’s been around for over 80 years, I think we’ve all grown a bit “hard to surprise” in his long tenure. But throwing the brothers in to this world they’ve never seen allows the viewer to re-experience Gotham, all over again.
I think we’ve started to take for granted just how awesome Batman’s world is. Michelangelo is our guide as a reminder. He calls out the things we’ve grown to accept. Yes, it’s very weird to have that many blimps in the sky. Right, the Batmobile is one of the coolest cars ever. Watching Michelangelo try on the cowl is a moment of pure joy that reminds you of being a kid and getting to experience Batman for the first time.
And while Gotham is a great backdrop for this story, the Ninja Turtles shine brighter than ever.
Each turtle is quickly and easily fleshed out to show their classic personalities in new ways. Donatello still builds machines, but nerds are cool now. So now Donnie feels like he’d correct your grammar, Leo and Raphael clash over strategy and Mikey is our loveable goofball.
The story intertwines both worlds flawlessly. The turtles come to Gotham looking for their old foe, the Shredder. Taking out the Foot Clan along the way, Batman is uneasy about these new “Metahumans.” He vows to take out the turtles and find out what they’re up to. As with most comic crossovers, they just couldn’t get along. After a battle between the turtles and Batman I never knew I needed, the teams join forces. Also joining forces are the Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul. Another team-up that works in new, great ways from each character.
We see the Shredder get berated by Ra’s at every turn, yet is such a powerful force that he’s able to accomplish things Ra’s wishes were possible. These two are the main villains here, but they set up a larger story. Batman’s rogues gallery is right in the middle of a Ninja Turtles story. Ra’s and Shredder break Joker out out of Arkham, and gift him a canister of TCRI to boot. Watching the hoards of anonymous Foot Clan and League of Assassins mutate in to psychotic animal ninjas is tons of fun, but the truly bonkers part is watching Batman’s main villains mutate in to insanity.
Bane as a cheetah. Mr. Freeze as a polar pear. And Poison Ivy proves that what you want the most, might not be the best thing sometimes. There’s so much in this crossover that sounds nuts as I type it, yet the story is completely grounded and makes sense.
The crossover, as outlandish as it sounds, makes complete sense of the whole story.
Maybe because the history of the characters is so grained in to our culture that we just accept it. Sure, Donnie kind of explains what ooze is, but if you’re watching the movie you already knew. The story is fun, but the real fun is watching these classic characters team up. Some are natural. Batman and Leonardo become fast friends and grow to learn from each other. Donatello and Batgirl bond over science. Raphael loves how much of a hothead Damien is. And other pairings make use of the “odd couple formula” by teaming up characters who probably wouldn’t get together outside of work. Batman and Michelangelo. Alfred and Michelangelo. Gotham and Michelangelo. Every strange pair only adds to how much fun this adventure is.
The voice cast is incredible. Troy Baker being the first person to play both Batman and the Joker is a feat that deserves recognition, let alone doing it well. Each actor nails the part and adds a new take on iconic characters. Rachel Bloom adds a spark to Batgirl and Kyle Mooney as Michelangelo might be my favorite take on the role.
Through all the fun of the character interactions, the movie shockingly earns it’s PG-13. It’s rare seeing blood in a TMNT cartoon. Even more rare to see that blood come from a Foot ninjas skull after being diced with a ninja star. Overall the tone is much more adult. In tone and Easter eggs. There are so many Easter eggs scattered across the movie, I’ll probably need to write a second article only covering those. But the secrets from both franchises test the limits of character knowledge in some cases, leaving you to search online looking for more. Even the music sounds like a mix between the original 1990 TMNT movie and Batman: The Animated Series.
The entire movie is a love letter to fans of the franchises.
And even if you only like 1 or neither franchise, you’ll probably think this is at least a fun rise. This could be one of the best animated DC movies, and best animated version of the turtles as well. If anything, I wish we got a bit more time in each segment. The story went so fast, I want more mutated rogues. While there’s so much more to explore in this new crossover series, I almost wish some of it took a breather. Truly, the only thing that bothered me was the initial logic of Batman. The turtles took out the foot and saved Batgirl! So why did he want to take them out? It seems like the turtles gave him a favor?
The end credits are a blast to dissect, and by how the end credit scene plays out, it looks like we can look for more of this great crossover in the future. Given the deep worlds each franchise has established, I hope this team-up comes back to show us a new world we’ve seen a hundred times.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now available on Digital. It arrives on Blu-Ray/DVD June 4th via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.