Review: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries is one of my favorite comic books of all time, so you can imagine how loudly I yelled when news of an animated adaptation hit the Internet.

And though it deviates from the comics in some substantial ways (for instance, the idea of Batman and the Turtles coming from different dimensions is completely dispensed with), Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a prime example of a fun romp. It’s heavy on memorable fight scenes, colorful transformations, and some gentle ribbing on both the franchises, and a great crossover that allows both Batman and the Turtles to shine in equal measure. Just don’t expect the “versus” to last very long.

When an experimental generator is stolen, Batgirl (Rachel Bloom) has a very strange account of events – how enemy ninjas invaded the laboratory, and fought four “lizard-men.” Batman (Troy Baker) vows to stop them from stealing more equipment, and soon discovers that the enemy ninjas are led by the masked, bladed Shredder (Andrew Kishino). He also encounters four mutant Turtles who are attempting to stop Shredder, brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo (Eric Bauza, Darren Criss, Baron Vaughn and Kyle Mooney). And after some initial misunderstandings, the two families join forces.

And thanks to Robin (Ben Giroux), they soon get a picture of what Shredder is planning to do – he’s joined forces with the malevolent Ra’s al Ghul, and is building a machine that could potentially mutate all of Gotham. But first, they’re going to mutate the residents of Arkham Asylum, unleashing a terrifying band of mutants who might just be able to take down Batman and the Turtles. And even if the heroes survive the encounter, they still have two armies of evil ninja waiting to cause mass mayhem.

There isn’t a lot of actual “versus” in Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (they get over their antagonism pretty fast), but this little crossover knows why you’re here – to see Batman hang out with everybody’s favorite mutant reptiles, combining the dark brooding seriousness of Gotham with the lighter but still action-packed Turtle aesthetic. Batman’s world brings some darkness to the Turtles (mutated Harley Quinn is strangely nightmarish), while the Turtles bring some fun to Batman (Michelangelo dressing up in Batman’s cowl and riding his T-Rex).

And, of course, to see awesome fight scenes such as Shredder going toe-to-toe with Batman, which is a fight that you probably never knew you needed desperately to see. In fact, the movie is packed with such action – dodging Mr. Freeze’s blasts of ice, a frenzied vehicular battle against the Foot Clan, attacks from mutated ninja, and of course some nasty battles in Arkham. They’re not bloodless either – we get shuriken in the head, broken teeth, and quite a few people are killed in rather messy ways, ranging from arrows to explosions.

And of course, the movie seems very aware of how awesome this team-up is, and never hesitates to trot out the stuff that will make your inner eight-year-old cheer (the long chase involving the Turtle Van and a certain giant mutant). Perhaps the biggest stumble is the decision to have Batman and the Turtles as natives of the same universe, rather than from parallel Earths – it’s hard to believe that people in the far-off land of New York would think that Batman, one of the greatest superheroes of all time and a well-documented presence, is just an urban legend.

The voice acting is pretty strong here, especially for Batman, the Turtles, Ra’s al Ghul and Robin. The characters are also given a fair amount of fleshing out, considering the action-heavy storyline. They’re all familiar forms of the characters we know and love (Raphael is a rebel who clashes with Leonardo over how to treat bad guys, Batman is a brooding loner, Michelangelo is the fun-loving one who squees over cool stuff), but we have some nice moments such as Leonardo struggling through a nightmare of his brothers’ gruesome deaths, and his feelings of guilt.

For anyone familiar with either franchise – or both, preferably – Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun rollercoaster ride of mildly bloody action, awesome battles, and the best crossover team-up that every geek has ever wanted to see. It has a few adaptational flaws, but taken on its own merits, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

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