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Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Animated Feature Review

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: May 14, 2019 – Digital; June 4, 2019 – 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD

Synopsis: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles finds Gotham City reaching new levels of danger when Shredder joins forces with Ra’s al Ghul to enact a nefarious plan – leading to the team-up of the Dark Knight and the Turtles to combat the combined might of the Foot Clan and League of Assassins!

The Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all-star cast is led by Troy Baker as the voice of both Batman and the Joker – making Baker the first actor to ever play both roles in the same film. Opposite Baker are the Ninja Turtles themselves – Emmy Award/Golden Globe Award/SAG Award winner Darren Criss as Raphael, Kyle Mooney as Michelangelo, Baron Vaughn as Donatello, and Eric Bauza as Leonardo. Other key members of the voice cast include Rachel Bloom as Batgirl, John DiMaggio as Mr. Freeze, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy, Tom Kenny as Penguin, Carlos Alazraqui as Bane, Cas Anvar as Ra’s al Ghul, Keith Ferguson as Baxter Stockman & Two-Face, Brian George as Alfred, Ben Giroux as Robin, Andrew Kishino as Shredder, and Jim Meskimen as Commissioner Gordon & Scarecrow.

Jake Castorena directs Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from a script by Marly Halpern-Graser. The film is inspired by the comic book series “Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II (published by DC Comics and IDW Publishing) and is based on characters from DC and Nickelodeon. Ben Jones is producer. Executive producers are Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan. Sam Register and Chris Viscardi are executive producers.

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Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated Feature Review
By James Harvey

Bringing together the worlds of The Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half-Shell, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun, action-packed adventure that pays loving tribute to these beloved characters while never forgetting what fans want to see – bat-people and turtle ninjas taking down the bad guys! Basically, this is the crossover we’ve all been waiting since childhood to see! Not only is it incredible to see these two properties starring in the same animated movie, especially in today’s media landscape, but the worlds are brought together in such a satisfying way. Add in some gorgeous animation, a solid story, great voice work and fantastic choreography and it all adds up to something that shouldn’t be missed.

Streamlining things down from the source material – the first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-published between DC Comics and IDW Publishing – the Ninja Turtles find themselves in Gotham City to discover the identity of Shredder’s mysterious partner and put a stop to his evil machinations. This brings the Turtles on a collision course with Batman, Batgirl and Robin, who all soon discover that the Turtle’s arch-nemesis is working with Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins. Our heroes soon find themselves racing to stop their respective foes from bringing an end to Gotham City and possibly the world.

As always, this review will be as spoiler-free as possible.

Suffice it to say, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits the ground running and never really stops. Whether it’s the great set pieces, the abundance of excellent character beats or the clear love for both the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles properties, there is plenty here for fans to soak in. More importantly, the thrilling story by Marly Halpern-Graser neatly ties both worlds together while also making sure that everything fits as it should. The animated movie does take a couple shortcuts, including having both Batman and the Ninja Turtles reside in the same universe, but it’s all smart choices that keep the film from getting too bogged down.

As with most superhero crossovers, Batman and the Ninja Turtles do initially butt heads, but once that little misunderstanding is cleared up, they immediately start working together and, frankly, it’s a total joy to see these two teams come together. Both sides are equally fascinated with another, resulting in some great character building moments and genuine laughs. The relationship between Batman and Leonardo is handled especially well, as Leonardo finds a new mentor to learn from while Batman finds himself intrigued by the skills of him and his brothers. Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo also find themselves taken in by Gotham City and its protectors. Donatello is taken aback by Batman’s tech, Raphael finds himself intrigued by these skilled vigilantes and Michelangelo just seems to love … well, everything. It’s a fun, refreshing spin on the standard ‘hero meets hero’ trope that keeps the movie from getting stale.

The movie also makes sure every major character brings something to the table, even if some of them have a smaller role to play than the others. Aside from a few short cameos, there’s not a single wasted character, which is pretty remarkable considering just how big of a cast the movie juggles.

Director Jake Castorena nicely balances the character and story beats with easily some of the sharpest, coolest action sequences to grace a DC Comics-based animated movie. We get a tease of just how big these set pieces will be in the film’s cold open, and then things just escalate from there and get absolutely nuts. You want Batman vs. Shredder? You get it, and it’s amazing. Every punch thrown, every move blocked, every landed blow feels as epic as it should. Even though we know our heroes will win in the end, Castorena still manages to keep each action scene tense and absolutely riveting. It’s incredible what he’s able to pull off here.

There’s a huge set piece in Arkham Asylum where our heroes face off against a host of mutated foes that easily could’ve been a confused, jumbled mess, but Castorena makes the entire thing flow, which is especially remarkable given the scope of the participants involved here. Lots of characters – both good and bad – are thrown into the mix and not once does it feel like it’s too much or that some characters are getting shafted. He juggles it all masterfully. The storyboard work, both for this scene and overall, is staggering.

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The characters designs for Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also deserve a hefty shout-out. Both properties are blended together seamlessly without losing any of the unique qualities of either. Batman and his supporting cast have a nice mix of both classic and modern sensibilities (a 1980’s inspired Batman and the modern “Burnside” design of Batgirl, for example) while the Turtles themselves look like they’re ripped straight from the current IDW series. That’s likely at least partially thanks to Andy Kuhn, both a character designer for this movie and regular contributor to the aforementioned IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic titles.

Continuing, the character designs also gets a boost from the movie’s fantastic animation. Character movements are smooth with the exception of the rare stumble here and there. The film definitely had a solid budget to work with and it shows in nearly every frame, be it during the action sequences or even in the quieter moments when the screen is absolutely jam-packed with characters.

Troy Baker leads the impressive cast lending their talents to Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, providing the voice of both Batman and The Joker (the first time one actor has portrayed both characters in the same project, by the way). Baker’s portrayal of Batman, aided by the script, plays him as stern and authoritative, which plays perfectly into his role as a mentor to Leonardo, but also a caring parental figure to his young sidekicks and the teenaged turtles. It’s a welcome take on the character, one we don’t see often enough anymore in current media. Baker’s take on the Joker leans more into the deadly trickster clown aspect of the character, but he brings just enough menace to the role to keep The Clown Prince from being one-note.

The casting for the Ninja Turtles is spot on, too. Eric Bauza as Leonardo and Darren Criss as Raphael are the stand-outs, though Kyle Mooney as Michelangelo and Baron Vaughn as Donatello shine in their respective roles. Bauza absolutely nails the conflict Leo deals with as he strives to be the leader he believes he should be while keeping his brothers in check, while Criss adds the necessary gruff and heart (yeah, it’s in there) to the brash, hot-headed Raph. Mooney and Vaughn are also clearly having a blast playing the party animal and tech nerd, respectively. Honestly, every member of the cast give it their all here, and it shows in each performance. Be it Batgirl, Robin, Alfred, Shredder, Ra’s, the incarcerated villains in Arkham, and so on, the cast is definitely having a great time and it shows. Wes Gleason once again shows his skills as a voice director, bringing out some absolutely fantastic performances from the cast.

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is packed not only with moments ripped straight from the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic title (though the touching moment between Batman and Raphael in Crime Alley from the source material unfortunately didn’t make the cut here), but with a wealth of callbacks and homages from both properties’ storied history. There are countless nods to the classic 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, the live-action movies, artist Greg Capullo’s run on Batman, heck, even Pink Floyd! And that’s just scratching the service. Even the movie’s score gets in on the fun! Seriously, the movie is absolutely bursting with them. Also, make sure to stick around for the film’s end credits to see a gallery of amazing artwork mashing up famous Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book covers. There’s some legitimately beautiful pieces of work in here that would make for some amazing merch. And yes, there is an after-credit scene.

As enjoyable as Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, it does have a very minor pacing issue. There are maybe a handful of fights scenes that last a shade longer than they should, though thankfully by the time the scene starts to feel a little long the script steps in to push the plot along. It’s also worth noting that the action does tends to get a little more intense than expected for the movie’s all-ages tone. It’s not gratuitous by any means, but some viewers might be turned off by the amount of blood and on-screen deaths. The movie definitely earns its PG-13 rating.

Overall, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an absolute blast which brings the two franchises together in an fun, fresh way. Both are treated here with the utmost respect by the cast and crew, resulting in a movie that will unquestionably entertain fans of either property. The action is intense and eye-popping, the story solid and the animation top-notch. Once again, Warner Bros. Animation shows why they’re one of the best in the business. Any issues with the film are minor at best and it don’t take away from just how much of a great time the movie is. In fact, it’s still a little mind-blowing to not only see this crossover actually happen, but for it to be so … radical! It’s a literal childhood dream come true! Like the source material, it’s impressive how the creative team is able to blend these two worlds together so seamlessly, and with a bit of luck, this won’t be the last time Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles headline an animated movie together. Highly Recommended!

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