80 Years of The Bat is a column created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of one of the most beloved characters ever created, Batman. Since his creation in 1939, Batman has managed to transcend his native medium of comic books. Eight decades later, the character has a presence in every area of entertainment. Over that time, Batman has garnered generations of fans; thus, always remaining relevant. Throughout the remainder of 2019, 80 Years of The Bat will examine decades worth of Batman material from every medium. In this installment, I’ll look an example of childhood imagination becoming a reality in the new animated feature, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Hands-down, my two favorite cartoons when I was a kid were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996) and Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995). As such, I always dreamed that Batman and the Turtles might end up in a cartoon together. Alas, that flight of fancy didn’t last long as I quickly gained an understanding of and brief fascination with intellectual property rights. I understood that these favorite characters of mine are owned by different companies; for that reason, an animated team-up would never happen. Such a cold, hard fact bugged young me briefly before I simply made the leather wings and turtle shell team-up happen on the floor with my action figures.
Little did I know that a mere twenty-five years later that animated dream would finally come true. Following the success the DC Comics/IDW crossover series, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams II, the sewers of Gotham City soon had more occupants than that pervy incarnation of The Penguin from Batman Returns (1992). DC and IDW, in collaboration with Nickelodeon, promptly published a more kid-friendly spinoff series, Batman/TMNT Adventures (2016-2017) by Matthew K. Manning and Jon Sommariva. This spinoff also proved to be a success despite its short run. I should have seen the obvious, coming. However, I was still shell-shocked with excitement when it was announced that WB/DC Animation and Nickelodeon would be making an animated adaptation of Tynion IV and Williams II’s Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1, albeit with a slight title change.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows the first six issues of the comic book series quite closely. This animated feature finds ninja turtles: Leonardo (Erica Bauza), Michaelangelo (Kyle Mooney), Donatello (Baron Vaughn), and Raphael (Darren Criss) in Gotham, on the trail of their archenemy, The Shredder (Andrew Kishino). As you would expect, the heroes in a half-shell soon cross paths with Batman (Troy Baker). Before long, the heroes from different universes ally themselves as they find they have common enemies. Together, the turtles, along with Batman, Batgirl (Rachel Bloom), and Robin (Ben Giroux) team-up to defend the city from Shredder, as well as Ra’s al Ghul (Cas Anvar) and The League of Shadows!
I’ll just cut through all the TCRI-branded ooze and get right to it. Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is absolutely everything you want it to be. The film provides a little something for fans of shells, capes, or both; not to mention readers of the comic on which this adaptation is based. I believe this animated flick improves upon the narrative of the comic by compressing and simplifying some aspects of it. Beyond the improved the story, the animation style here is a visual treat and is my favorite of any WB/DC Animation project thus far. Granted, I may be biased as I’m partial to the more traditional Nickelodeon-based animation on display. Last but not least, the story and animation are further enhanced by an excellent voice-cast across the board.
I can easily say that the movie in review is one of the more fun flicks, I’ve seen thus far this year; certainly the best direct-to-video release. However, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t quite the perfect picture as it has similar issues to most team-up tales. There are moments where this film feels more like an animated series pilot than it does a feature. On a related note, the movie’s pacing drags a bit toward the end of the second act. Thus, making that portion of the picture feels almost like a break between three episodes.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an immensely enjoyable experience for me. It was a nostalgia trip, as well as a childhood dream come true. Being the nostalgic mark that I am, I’m sure I’ll revisit this movie many times in the future. In closing, I would like to voice one caution. If you’re a parent of a young child, be aware that Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earns its PG-13 rating in regards to violence. Aside from that, this film is a blast for anyone who might be inclined to watch it!
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