The summer of 1994, I too was a turtle. I wasn't a teenager... or a mutant... or a ninja... I just chilled in my shell a lot.
My Childhood Here
Truth be told, this movie basically contains the culmination of a major sum from my childhood. At an early age, even now, I’m a huge fan of media pertaining to Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For me, Batman represented the more adult themed and darkly written material that would more or less shape my perception on right and wrong while providing some kickass entertainment usually. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was mostly the kickass entertainment with colorful characters that were instantaneously lovable and hilarious. I loved and continue to love watching a lot of the movies and television shows that these properties have to offer. I wouldn’t say that everything under these titles is a guaranteed winner, I mean… I’ve seen Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin… I’ve seen 2016’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows… It gets pretty damn bad within these franchises. Majority of the time, however, I tend to have a decent experience seeing these characters pop up again.
When I heard about a Batman vs TMNT animated flick, my thoughts were mostly, “Well that sounds silly, but I think that could be pretty fun”. Seeing a trailer basically confirmed my initial response to the whole idea. Now after checking out the flick, I have to say, I enjoyed the hell out of Batman vs TMNT. Is the premise silly? Yes, but somehow the combination of both these worlds oddly compliments each other in a way that is funny yet stays true to the spirit of these characters. It was rather surprising how well this team-up of comic book characters actually functioned so terrifically together. At the same time, it strangely makes sense to me how Batman and the Ninja Turtles would maintain a consistent amount of entertainment value within their onscreen chemistry. Personally, I had a total blast with this flick and honestly kind of want to watch it again.
It seems that a new threat has entered the streets of Gotham when the Shredder (Andrew Kishino) forms an alliance with Ra’s Al Ghul (Cas Anvar) in order to take down Batman’s beloved city. Once word hit the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that their ultimate sworn enemy was up to no good, they quickly head to Gotham and begin investigating the matter. The two paths of Batman (Troy Baker) and the Ninja Turtles cross and they soon realize that the only way to resolve the matter of their diabolical enemies’ plans are by joining forces in taking them down.
The Story & Tone
What I particularly enjoyed about this movie is the fact that it somewhat feels like an extended episode of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series; a narrative that revolves around a mystery that our protagonists must solve in a reasonably intelligent yet fun way, the tone feels rather mature for a youth’s animated feature yet doesn’t forget to inject life into its gothic setting, the characters are genuine and dignified representations instead of watered down for a younger audience, and the threat that the comes from the antagonists are portrayed as legitimate danger and not ever really shying away from the violence too drastically.
The film does a great job in maintaining respect for these characters, portraying what comes across as a faithful merging of these separate adaptations, while also acknowledging the ludicrous nature of this world that inhabits humanoid karate chopping turtles and short fat men with funky umbrellas that contain a zillion gadgets inside them. Batman here feels like Batman, the Turtles are true to their distinct personalities, and the Joker is the Joker. Some readers may be wondering, “What does that mean? Of course the characters are themselves, right?” Not necessarily. When it comes to certain adaptations, specifically for younger audiences, the well established characters can sometimes turn into a shadow of their former selves in a way that feels cynically underwhelming. Not all the time by any means, but there have been past examples that take fan favorite characters and turn them into something generic and unrecognizable. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. Even though these are faithful character adaptations, they still realize that the scenario that they find themselves in is most definitely absurd and that feeds into the grounded yet very humorous tone that the movie achieves.
Troy Baker, as some may know, is a phenomenally talented voice actor that has worked on projects such as The Last of Us, the Batman: Arkham series, BioShock Infinite, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and he will be in next year’s video game Marvel’s Avengers. A couple of my absolute favorite performances of Baker’s is that of his Batman voice work in Telltale’s Batman series, as well as his Joker from Batman: Arkham Origins. In Batman vs TMNT, Baker gets the chance to reprise both Batman and the Joker, which for me was a bit of a treat. Going into this movie, I had no idea that he was even cast as Batman or Joker, when I heard his vocal work though I almost instantly knew who it was and I became overly delighted.
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There’s something about his interpretations of these two characters that I thoroughly enjoy every time I have the opportunity to hear them. Granted, I do understand the possible criticism that Troy Baker’s Joker is mainly a recreation of Mark Hamill’s iconic voice as the same character. In my opinion though, even they really do sound alike, there’s just something about Baker’s performance that injects its own energy that makes me feel like I’m not simply listening to someone doing an impersonation of Hamill. When Troy Baker’s Joker pops up in a scene, I never think to myself, “It’s Mark Hamill’s vocal stunt double”; I always think, “This is Troy Baker’s Joker”. If a casual viewer were to watch, they may not notice any difference between the two actors’ interpretations. Understandable. In my opinion though, they are similar, but still unique to both performers in their own special ways.
I Laughed A Lot
When it comes to the comedy here, I must say, I had some major laughs out of this. I really did. How these characters bounced off one another in their dialog was magic in its extraordinary execution. Some of the biggest laughs I got out of the picture probably came from Michelangelo, possibly my favorite Ninja Turtle, and Robin. Those two had some of the best comebacks and one-liners that got me every time. Unfortunately repeating the jokes or the colorful lines wouldn’t do them justice here, they have to be seen and heard to get the full effect and trust me it’s pretty frikkin’ worth it. Even some of the lines from background characters got a solid laugh out of me. Although in terms of the secondary characters, the scientist fly dude had some of my favorite moments as well and I have to say that I truly loved the comedy presented throughout the runtime; there wasn’t a scene that I didn’t at least get a chuckle out of.
Honestly, this isn’t close to all the funniest moments as there are even more in the rest of the movie. I suggest that you see the rest of the hilarity for yourselves.
When it comes to 2D animation, I won’t lie that I have a significant soft spot in my heart for the medium. Growing up on a lot of traditionally animated features that I still adore to this day. So when it came to seeing this movie, I found it refreshing to see this style again. Sadly, 2D animation is becoming somewhat of a dying artform. Hell, there hasn’t been an 2D animated flick to reach cinemas in a wide release this decade. Sometimes I wish I could see more pictures like this projected on the big screen as the animation is quite proficient and beautifully drawn. Admittedly, I will say that the budget constraints occasionally shine through in its animation as some of the camera shots were noticeably standard and simple as though the animators were presented with enough time or funds in order to spruce them up more. However, with that said, those segments were fairly rare and never distracted me from the fun I was having. Maybe it would have bothered me more if I had seen this on the big screen instead, but I’m sure that if the budget was a tad bit higher then this likely would have looked more cinematic anyhow. As it is, the craftsmanship put into the animation and art direction did a perfectly decent job. Especially when it came to the action sequences, which I was rather fond of the fact that this movie had a little bit of blood and a whole lot of casualties. I’m a sick, twisted bastard. Apologies.
My One Little Nitpick
This is definitely a nitpick that I am about to discuss, it really wasn’t an ongoing issue or even retained all that long of a presence in the screenplay. However, it was a scene that kind of took me out of the movie and momentarily distracted me from my overall enjoyment. There’s a scene in the third act after this big battle goes down and it is essentially the third act breakup where there was some sort of misunderstanding between the heroes that leads them to briefly split up. I’m not a fan of that cliché already, in this though it felt fairly forced and out of place. Not to mentioned extremely rushed since it’s over and done with in literally a couple minutes before they’re all back working together on taking down the baddies. I don’t know why this scene was there or why the filmmakers thought it to be necessary; it doesn’t evoke any sort of drama, more so melodrama for all of maybe two minutes and then it’s finished with so quickly it’s as though that it never mattered at all. Like I said, a nitpick, but it bugged me so I had to bring it up.
Fun. That’s it. That’s all I need to say. Batman vs TMNT is fun. Is it a masterpiece or any work of genius? No. It’s fun, I don’t need it to be more than that. Fun. I needed fun after seeing Men in Black: International, Escape Plan: The Extractors, the Hellboy reboot, and Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake. I. Needed. This. To. Be. Fun. Seriously, if I saw one more disappointing mediocre garbage fest then I think I would have lost my God damn mind. So thank you, Batman vs TMNT, thank you. You’re exactly what I needed in these trying times of bland entertainment. Yes, I am talking to a movie right now. Stop judging me.
If I’m speaking frankly, I’d say that a couple of those summer blockbusters that I just listed off could actually take a note out of this modest direct-to-video animation. MIB: International and Hellboy were products that were more preoccupied with hitting the fast-forward button on pushing a cinematic franchise rather than supplying some quality entertainment. There was very little in the way of a true soul to their screenplays, they were hallow shells made to strictly bring in a profit. Batman vs TMNT held a sense of optimism and genuine excitement about its premise that shined through its writing. There is a soul to this cartoon, far more so than some of the things that are released theatrically nowadays. Sadly.
I’d say that the material is fine for children; at least, when I was a kid I grew up with more adult oriented writing and visuals that surpassed anything in this movie. Although, I believe it also depends on the child. Be a responsible parent and gage for yourself whether or not this is acceptable enough for viewing at certain young ages. As a kid, I watched 1987’s RoboCop on repeat, so my perception may be slightly different on this than others. Regardless, there’s definitely nothing remotely harmful here for a younger audience to witness if they so happen to come across this title.
The Bat or the Turtles?
That’s All Folks!
Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that’s one wacky title for sure. What did you think of it though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Counting your chickens that maybe someday Michael Keaton will reprise the role of Batman? I am. Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading, have yourselves a radically tubular day… I’m sorry, when I think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I mainly think of popular terms of the 1990s… Cowabunga dude?!
© 2019 John Plocar