Thanks to the runaway success of the Batman/TMNT comic books by James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams II, Warner Bros. Animation and Nickelodeon have just released Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles across all digital platforms (with a physical edition coming on June 4th).
Based on the 2015 comic book miniseries from DC Comics and IDW Publishing, Batman v TMNT shows Batman investigating a series of robberies involving many research-based laboratories between Gotham and Metropolis. As Batman closes in on who is behind the crimes involving ninjas and assassins, he stumbles across four mysterious amphibians that are skilled in the same types of weaponry used in the robberies. Who is on who’s side and what is really going on in Gotham?
The real fun of this film is just how spot-on the characterization of the Turtles and Batman were. Leonardo is a great field leader, Raphael is brash and hot-headed, Donatello over-analyses everything and Michelangelo is the biggest kid you’re ever going to meet. Batman on the other hand is seemingly an amalgamation of all the best versions of Batman we’ve seen over the last decade or so. He’s smart and analytical, strong, stoic and not willing to admit how much he depends on those around him. Add to that a hilarious and relatable Batgirl and perhaps the most likeable version of Damian Wayne/Robin we’ve ever seen, and you’ve got a cast of characters that we actually want to see go out and take on the cowardly and superstitious lot of Gotham and beyond.
The art style of this film is unique among the DC animated films, or at least the ones I’ve seen. With each entry in the DC animated library, specifically films that adapt a certain storyline, each entry makes an attempt to adhere to the style of each comic book story. Think Justice League: New Frontier or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and you’ll see where I’m going with this. But with Batman/TMNT, Warner Bros. Animation seemed to try and go their own way with the art style, Character designer Steven Choi seemed more inspired by Mike Mignola than Freddie E. Williams. This is a nice change seeing Warners wanting to branch out beyond the style they’ve stuck with since 2014’s Justice League War, even if I do miss Williams’s approach to the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half-Shell.
Perhaps the most surprising element of this film is the fight scenes. The artists really flexed their creative muscles here and delivered fights that can rival anything seen in a theatrically released picture. With Warner Bros. Animation, you pretty much know the kind of fights you’re going to get, at least in a Batman film. They’re generally slow, plodding fights that are peppered with small moments of quick intensity that usually result in an elbow being dislocated or someone being shot/stabbed repeatedly. But here, the camera really takes time to stand still and focus on the characters trading blows and adapting to the other’s fighting style. There’s a moment in the film where Leonardo says that Batman fights like a detective, analyzing everything and finding a way to counter while not being lethal. This line may be a bit over the top at first blush, but the fight choreography found within backs this up.
Also, the Turtles fighting is a pleasure to see as each Turtle uses the same base fighting style and finds ways to implement their own personality. Resulting in four characters seemingly fighting the same way, but the visuals are almost completely different. Plus, the eventual clash between Batman and Shredder is not a one-sided affair resulting in Batman owning yet another costumed criminal. You really feel that Batman could lose a fight with the Shredder even though Bats’s name is in the title. It’s great seeing Batman pushed to his physical limits by a seemingly normal looking person despite all the blades and whatnot.
Don’t let the title of this movie mislead you dear reader, this is all about a totally awesome team-up that works as both a Batman film as well as probably the best Turtles movie we’ve seen since, well, ever. There is one minor nitpick I have. This isn’t a spoiler but, in the comic, the Turtles and Batman are separated across dimensions (IDW/DC), but here, it’s explained that Gotham is quite literally down the road from New York city. I mean, I’m not going to get too bent out of shape over this because the movie is called Batman vs TMNT and it should be treated as such. But there is a notable absence of the Turtles father, Splinter. I really miss Splinter’s impact upon Batman found in the comics, but this movie has so many characters for the creators to keep track of that I can understand where and why cuts had to be made.
With that being said, Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great time for fans of both Batman and TMNT, both young and old. It respects the source material and the people who love it. Parent be cautioned though, this film is rated PG-13 and it really pushes the limits of that rating in terms of violence. I watched this movie with my kids and I didn’t think this was too much for them, but to each their own.
As I said before, this movie is available digitally across all platforms, but if you’re like me, you’re going to want a physical edition as well, and you can pre-order the Blu-ray here.
Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stars Troy Baker, Tara Strong, Rachel Bloom, Kyle Mooney and Darren Criss.