For some reason, DC’s DTV animated movies exist in two tiers. There’s the A tier which includes their big hyped films like the movies set in their shared universe or that adapt A-list comics or both as the upcoming Batman Hush will. These are given hype at the cons, talked about years in advance, and treated as events. These films often decently crossover to mainstream fans and they should as they are often great.
Then there’s the B-tier. These are announced a couple of months earlier. They’re not by the big names as the A-tier movies often come from well known writers with a-list casts. They’re spat out, usually for kids. This is where you find the Lego movies, the Batman/Scooby Doo movie, and the unbearable Batman Unlimited films.
And it’s strangely where you find Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. On paper this should be an A-tier film. It’s based on an excellent and popular graphic novel that teams two iconic properties. But it was given to the b-team and received a weirdly low key release. So which is it?
The film tells a vintage crossover story. Ra’s Al Ghul (Cas Anvar) and Shredder (Andrew Kishino) team up because each has something the other wants. Batman (Troy Baker) investigates but discovers Leonardo (Eric Bauza), Raphael (Darren Criss), Donatello (Baron Vaughn), and Michaelangelo (Kyle Mooney) are also investigating, mistaking them as a threat. They fight. They realize there’s a misunderstanding. They team up. This template is as safe and reliable as it gets and I’ve got no gripes.
With a solid story, this movie ultimately only really matters on one count: Does it satisfyingly blend the two franchises? On that, I’m happy to say it’s a winner. Given that the TMNT were created as a parody of Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil and Batman, they logically blend in, especially with both having ninja clan leaders as villains. The movie starts the interactions early in its 87 minutes and doesn’t let up until the end.
Of course it gives you every fight you’d ever want to see. Want to see Batman fight Shredder? He does so twice. The Turtles fight mutated versions of Batman’s rogues gallery. As the title promises, Batman and the Turtles throw down and it’s great. This movie exists as a fight scene delivery device and they’re pure fan glee.
But the film is smart enough to know the real fun is in the small interactions. Science nerds Donatello and Batgirl (Rachel Bloom) geek out together. Batman clashes hard with Raphael. Michelangelo annoys everyone while endlessly cracking jokes. And inevitably the villains don’t get along.
So yeah on a script level this is far from a miss. It definitely satisfied someone who was at midnight showings of the Dark Knight trilogy and at the 1990 TMNT on day one. Animation wise, it’s decent. There’s a definite upgrade in the flow during the action with talking scenes rather static. Everything has a very stylized look that I wouldn’t call pretty but it works. Wouldn’t call this theatrical grade animation the way the recent Death of Superman duology, which I saw that way, was but it looks solid.
Voice acting is strong. While it’s not star heavy the way some of the films are, it’s a nice blend of talented voice actors and solid face actors. Baker is an excellent Batman and Joker. The Turtles are all solidly themselves with Mooney’s Michelangelo as hilarious as you remember him. I’ve also got to praise that we at least once get to enjoy Bloom as Batgirl, almost impossibly perfect casting.
This is a fun time but it’s definitely still a modest film by its nature. This won’t replace the live action entries in either catalog and there’s better Batman animated movies for certain. But it’s what you hope you’ll get, a solid hour and a half distraction. Is it an A or B? Eh, I’ll put it between.