Recommendation: Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’ve written a review of this movie, but I feel the need to gush about how much I love it.

I think what I really like about it is how respectful it is to both franchises. Too often in crossovers, one or the other side is neglected or made to look less competent or less important. This is especially a danger when one of the sides is known for being superhumanly awesome, like Batman.

But I felt like this movie highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of both the Bat-Family and the Ninja Turtles. Obviously they’re very different; Batman is measured and plans out things far in advance, while the Turtles tend to fly by the seat of their nonexistent pants. And this does cause conflict between them as the story unfolds, since Batman is used to people following his lead, and he gets kind of pissy when the Turtles just dash into the conflict. However, it is also shown that there are downsides to Batman’s approach as well, since he’s easily distracted from the main scheme of Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul by a mass breakout and mutation at Arkham Asylum. The Turtles are, in a sense, more focused than Batman because they are fixated on Shredder and his plan, and don’t really want to get involved in all the other criminals running amok in Gotham.

And this can be seen in the villains. Ra’s al Ghul knows exactly how to distract Batman long enough to get the cloud-seeder he wants. But Shredder doesn’t know why the hell Ra’s is doing this, because his enemies probably wouldn’t stray off the path of hunting him just because a mental asylum went boobies-up for the sixth time this month.

So I really like that both the Turtles and Batman have weaknesses and strengths, and Batman’s awesomeness (expertly outlined by Michelangelo) is balanced out by the Turtles’ varied gifts working in tandem. And it works especially well because the different Turtles are paired with different members of the Bat-Family, sometimes because they are similar and sometimes because they are wildly different.

And while all four of the Turtles are wonderfully characterized, I especially loved Michelangelo in this movie. Obviously, the characterization of Michelangelo over the years has really varied – he’s been a surfer dude, a tease and agitator, a space-case flake, and so on. But he’s always had a sweetness and an open-heartedness as a part of his character, which is best seen in the IDW comic book series, where he’s the most sensitive and childlike of the Turtles.

And he isn’t that different in this version. But in this one, he’s the enthusiastic one – he thinks Gotham is the coolest place he’s ever seen, and he loves every strange wacky detail about the place. His brothers are a little more laid-back about Gotham, its dangers and its oddities, but Michelangelo is delighted by gunbrellas to the point of ignoring his own safety. His enthusiasm is clearly the enthusiasm of the makers of this movie, and sometimes it feels like the audience is being carried along by his joy over polar bears with ice guns and police zeppelins.

“Does New York have mad blimps flying around for no reason? I mean, what are they for? I love ’em!”

Michelangelo, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

And I think his enthusiasm is integral to emphasizing how much the people who made this movie loved the franchises: by having a character whose defining trait is how much he loves everything he comes across.

I also love his relationship with Alfred. Obviously it’s played for laughs, with the most rambunctious of the Ninja Turtles bumping up against Batman’s prim butler, who doesn’t understand Michelangelo’s love of skateboards and “greasy cheese bread.” But I enjoy the fact that neither one of them is acting in a way that is illogical to his character.

Michelangelo skateboarding through stately Wayne Manor and crashing into Alfred might seem like he’s being an asshole, but stop and think about it: not only is he a teenager, with all the dumb moments that come with a developing brain, but he’s literally been raised in a sewer. He’s probably not used to being able to skateboard wherever he pleases, and so Wayne Manor just seems like a giant empty space full of awesome curves and obstacles to him.

Obviously he figures out that Alfred doesn’t like this by the end, but it’s clear that he never skateboarded with malicious intent.

Alfred, for his part, is clearly not used to normal teenagers – insofar as you can call the Turtles “normal,” they are at least more normal than Bruce presumably was at the same age. And when you consider the Robins he’s dealt with over the years, usually scarred orphans or Damian Wayne… Alfred probably has no idea what a normal teenage boy is like, with bad table manners and dumb stunts on the stairs.

So that’s my thoughts for the time being on Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Possibly more later. If you’re one of the two-and-a-half people reading this blog, absolutely check out the movie.

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