It’s funny that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, known as much for their comedic traits as their fighting prowess, started out as parodies of serious 1980’s material like Frank Miller’s graphic novel Ronin or the Daredevil comics of the time. Yet, it somehow seems more appropriate that from 2015 to 2016, a comic book miniseries ran that saw them team-up woith another dark, ninja-like character…Batman. Juxtaposition these two brands against each other and you have a recipe for intrigue. Something that the direct-to-video adaptation released this year, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, manages to mostly do by finding connections between these two worlds.
Shredder and the Foot clan have come to Gotham City, breaking into various large corporations and stealing various items for a plan that no one is excited for. Naturally, the heroes in a half shell show up in hopes of stopping them. And in the process, they come to face-to-face with Batman (Voiced by Troy Baker) along with Robin and Batgirl. At first, they conceive each other as enemies (One looks like a bat, the other is a bunch of mutated reptiles…fair assumption honestly), believing the other is working with Shredder.
As that breaks down, and even before, the film does a good job of contrasting the light-hearted turtles with the self-serious caped crusader. Jokes are thrown around, objectives and principles butt heads, and all the while the two forces of good realize why they are on the same side. Whether it’s the ninja background of both (Batman did train with the League of Assassins, remember?) or their desire to stop dark forces, screenwriter Marly Halpern-Graser makes sure to let both franchises clash while progressing the plot forward. The plot is without a doubt simple, perhaps lazy at times though as it essentially just takes two very well-known aspects of both brands and literally mixes them together.
It’s the well-done voice work and character depth that saves the film’s ironic light plot (Get it…DARK Knight…okay then). Baker, who always seems to stand in for Batman when Kevin Conroy is unavailable, offers a slightly less brooding take the character, thus allowing him to better mix with the more colorful personalities of Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello (Voiced by Darren Criss, Eric Bauza, Kyle Mooney, and Baron Vaughn, respectively). Batman faces his usual issue of trusting people while the Turtles, brothers mind you, are all for a team-up. The conclusion for such a light-hearted story is inevitable as pizza is exchanged and quips thrown. The animation also helps, in many ways letting the color help project the personalities.
Despite the film’s lazy story, what is given here is admirably guided by director Jake Castorena who never loses sight of any of the components he’s put in place. Pacing is kept well, the dialogue and exposition never overstays it’s welcome, and you overall get a brisk and pleasant film to wash, with little pressure of feeling you are watching the be-all, end-all of comic book film adaptations. Not a bad hour and a half to spend I’d say. And yes, make sure you order pizza while you watch it.
- Voice work.
- Character dynamics.
- Story is very lazy in how it melds the two franchises together, saved by the character work that keeps it interesting when the story can’t.