Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

4 out of 5

Directed by: Jake Castorena

The comic was a hit, and a surprise joy.  It of course shouldn’t be so weird to see something successful in one format to be turned into another, but that didn’t distill the utter repeat of that joy at seeing Batman / TMNT adapted into an animated feature.  And does it translate well?  Heck yes.  But primarily because they just took the idea and went in their own direction with it.  It’s a stretch to fill out a full ninety minutes, but the movie version of this meetup corrects what started to tank the comic followups: screw trying to make this a multi-dimension story – the Turtles are chasing Shredder and followed him to Gotham.  Gotham and New York coexist.  The Batman and Turtles coexist.  Done and done.  This is distilled even further on the brief making of doc on the bluray: it’s stated that there was a purposefulness in not over-thinking this: Bats confronts plenty of weirdos day to day; four mutant turtles ain’t no thang.  There’s a brilliant simplicity to this approach.

And so we can skip allll of the time wasting fish-out-of-water stuff that normally comes with these crossover setups – excepting a requisite friend or foe battle between our heroes, which is awesomely choreographed – and just get down to the team-up business, which writer Marly Halpern-Graser splits right down the middle, logistically, with Shredder needing something from Ra’s Al Ghul, and the latter needing something from the former, both with goals that makes sense for each character, within their respective universes.  Again: brilliant simplicity.  But we do need a significant amount of roadblocks along the way to make that 90 minute mark, and though the fisticuffs are well animated and packed with good one-liners and action, it definitely starts to feel like we’re stretching things out, rolling in every notable Bat villain and giving ’em a TMNT twist, and making sure that every single teammate – every Turtle, Robin, Batgirl – has an arc and something to do.

To keep things lively, we’re given a boatload of great references to various TMNT incarnations and Batman: The Animated Series, as well as a… Pink Floyd reference, I think?  The animation style also landed well with me, pitching the Bat team into the Teen Titans-y mold, and the TMNT into the grown-up, bulky 4Kids model, of which I totally approve.  Matching the faces to their Rise! counterparts is a little funky, but overall, I think a good compromise of styles was used, and it lent itself to some legit blood and blows worthy of the PG-13 rating.

The comic book series has stretched into four installments so far.  While it’s sort of been diminishing returns, I feel like this movie version kicked off with a much smarter setup that should allow for great sequels, should they occur.  And I hope they do.