Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/10/19
Cast: Troy Baker, Rachel Bloom, Tara Strong

"Just think about your retirement. Someplace where the turtles don't talk and clowns are funny."

Shredder and Ra's Al Ghul team up to share their knowledge of Lazarus pits and TCRI mutagens, and start stealing high tech machinery in Gotham City. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follow Shredder to Gotham, and it doesn't take long before they run into Batman (Troy Baker). They initially view each other as foes, but they eventually work together to take down their mutual enemies. As part of a massive distraction, Ra's Al Ghul releases the inmates at Arkham Asylum and mutates them into hideous creatures, which Batman, Robin, Batgirl (Rachel Bloom), and the Turtles have to defeat before going after their true target. Good old fashioned teamwork and hardcore brawling save the day, and grumpy old Batman manages to loosen up a bit by throwing a pizza party for the Turtles before they head back to New York.

The movie strays considerably from the comic book, and Splinter, April, and Casey are notably absent. Batgirl wasn't in the original, but I was glad to see her show up. The sillier moments are definitely off-script, which creates a disappointingly campy tone and strains the movie's credibility. Of course, one might question if the story has any credibility at all given the absurd premise, but here's my point: Both Batman and the Turtles exist in their own well-defined worlds, and as long as they obey the rules of those worlds in a consistent and predictable manner, then everything is great. But the mutated villains push the boundaries of those rules just a little too far, and are played mostly for laughs. The worst offender is a human who mutates into a giant T-Rex. Seriously? Even Leonardo questioned that. I pretty much tuned out at that point.

On the plus side, the animation is good and the fight scenes are superb. The choreography is very intricate and distinct, and does an excellent job of showcasing the characters' various fighting styles. Batman's fights against Shredder and the Turtles are simply wonderful to watch, and have a classic Shaw Brothers kung fu feel to them. The opening credits look fantastic and the closing credits feature a wonderful collection of classic comic book cover mash-ups. I wonder if those are included in the trade paperback? The only disappointing aspect of the animation is the Turtles themselves. They seem a little too tall, their heads are featureless and shaped weird, and their lines aren't very clean. Batgirl looks great, although her overly puffy lips are a constant distraction. The voice acting is very good, even if some of the characters are extremely annoying (I'm looking at you, Damien and Michelangelo). Troy Baker delivers an excellent performance as both Batman and Joker, and his uncanny channeling of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill is both amazing and unnerving. Rachel Bloom makes a charming Batgirl, and I would love to see Batgirl get her own movie. I'm not particularly fond of this version of the Turtles, as they seem too flippant and needlessly grating. Or maybe I'm just getting too old to relate to them anymore? Regardless, the film can be a fun ride as long as you don't think about it too hard and just let it take you where it wants to go. There's no point fighting it or analyzing it. However, even the bombastic action scenes eventually wore out their welcome and I was anxious for it to end.

The movie has some great dialog. Here are some of my favorite lines:
"Hey! Creature! Leave that kid alone!"
"Hello, Batgirl. Love your boots!"
"So, are we not going to beat up these green losers?" "It's not looking like it. No."