This may be one of the quickest turnovers in this article series. While I haven’t read the DC/IDW comic crossover due to my current financial situation (or lack thereof) the concept sounds pretty good. I think there are three crossovers plus a version that takes cues from Batman: The Animated Series and the 2012 cartoon. (I would have gone with the Fox Kids version of the Turtles as a nod to their shared network but nobody asked me.) It’s very popular but even then having Warner Brothers (who also owns Cartoon Network) and Nickelodeon team-up for this direct-to-video movie is rather surprising. I would love to know how they made that happen…and how we can get one with Daredevil in the style of the original comics. Turtles fans know why.
As a fan of both properties, and how rare cross-company crossovers are (even within the same animation studio it only happens in comedic shows like OK KO–I think the closest I’ve ever seen is the Mask/Ace Ventura crossover when both cartoons were on CBS or the anti-drug special Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue) and even rarer to see two comic properties team up in animated form I really wanted to see this, and Nickelodeon went ahead and aired the movie on Nicktoons, so I was able to see it. Was it worth the wait?
RELEASE DATE: 2019
RELEASED BY: Warner Brothers and Nickelodeon
RUNTIME: (2 hours for the Nickelodeon version, edited for content)
DIRECTOR: Jake Castorena
The Plot: While visiting a lab Barbara Gordon (secretly Batgirl (Bloom)) witnesses ninjas steal a prototype device as well as what she thinks are lizard people trying to stop them. Batman (Baker) learns they’re actually turtles, of the teenage mutant ninja variety. The Ninja Turtles have come to Gotham following the Shredder (Kishino), who is teaming up with Ra’s Al Ghul (Anvar) to destroy Gotham City with an army of crazed mutants in exchange for access to a Lazarus Pit. Joined by Robin (Giroux) and Batgirl, it’s up to Batman, Leonardo (Bauza), Donatello (Vaughn), Michelangelo (Mooney), and Raphael (Criss) to stop a mutated army of Batman’s foes, the Penguin (Tom Kenny) trying to profit out of it, and the combined forces of the Foot Clan and the League Of Assassins!
Why did I want to see it?: Besides the rarity of something like this being made, the concept works on paper. (Obviously given how many comics have sold. 😀 ) Batman and the Ninja Turtles teaming up seems like the most obvious crossover apart from Daredevil and the Turtles, and that’s just because of the Turtles’ original comic origins. I really wanted to see if the end result is as good as the concept.
What did I think?: I am happy to say it was. The two groups play off each other well. From Donnie and Batgirl together in the lab to Donnie and Robin in a team-up bostaff against mutated Foot Clan and League Of Assassin warriors (what, Donatello’s my favorite Turtle) there’s a lot of good chemistry between the two teams. Robin learns a bit from both Raph and Mikey, but Raph is also the right one to reach Batman at one point, though Batman and Leonardo make for the better paring. I just like that the pairings can switch around from moment to moment based on the skills required. I point you back to the two Donatello team-ups earlier. While the annoyingly obligatory “heroes fight each other first” stuff comes in it makes sense for these two groups but they join forces pretty quick afterwards as they realize they may be on the same side. I should also note that Baker plays both Batman and the Joker, and his Joker is so close to Mark Hamill’s that while you can tell it’s not the same person the influence is clearly there.
There’s also some humor in the interactions. Poor Alfred (Brian George) has to deal with Mikey’s antics. Later, Mikey gets to push all the buttons in the Batmobile, which Robin is disappointed he’s never gotten to do that. They play off each other well both in discussions and in fighting and it’s just fun to watch them even when things are too serious for jokes. The movie knows when to be funny and when to get serious. Baxter Stockman (Keith Ferguson) trying to decide if he’s a member or a hostage was a decent running gag.
There are also Easter Eggs all over the story, like Bob Kane’s original Batman design, nods a plenty to the various incarnations of both Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises, and despite the primary influence being the crossover comic there are nods in design to other incarnations. Batman wears the more classic grey and blue costume, Batgirl’s is influenced by her design in The Batman (as is the Penguin, including having Kenny back in the role) and since they have the Damian Wayne version of Robin they just go with the regular comic outfit. Meanwhile Donatello seems influenced by the 2012 cartoon, Raphael is bigger and closer to his Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles design (which has to be a coincidence given the show was at best in production while this movie was being made, Michelangelo is maybe the 2000s version, and Leonardo the IDW design. Shredder takes cues from the original comic, the 80s cartoon, and the first live-action movie from the same period while Ra’s keeps his classic look. Stockman is a fly but retains his intelligence.
However, this movie earns its PG-13 rating, and that’s just from the Nickelodeon edits. (You can tell stuff was edited out, although I’m not sure if those were terrible language edits or glitches in the recording/broadcast.) People die, the mutation of the Arkham residents is the second creepiest thing in the movie, with Leonardo’s fear-gas induced vision of his brothers being killed by Scarecrow number one. They also edited out the post-credits sequence which I only learned about in the research for this review. I can only imagine what was taken out by what was left in, and they didn’t pull any punches. Even the uncensored version of Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker wasn’t this violent but going by the TV edit none of it felt gratuitous. The Foot Clan killing people in the comics world happens pretty often and they’re not called the League Of Assassins for nothing. The story is based on the comics and they didn’t tone anything down. So if you think this is like the other cartoons, I advise you to not let your kids watch the uncensored version until you vet it first. Even the Nickelodeon version should probably be screened first depending on the age of your child.
As far as any negatives, there are very few, but nothing is perfect. I don’t know if the comic had a Turtle Van but it does seem odd for the IDW Turtles to have, cool as it is to watch it transform into battle mode while disguised as a poor-shape RV. At least in the Nick edit there’s no mention of the Turtles’ origin or Damian’s connection to the League Of Assassins (Ra’s is his grandfather), a deadly technique that is also fatal to the user is mentioned as if it’s important but never really shows up in the movie, and I’m not sure why the Joker turns into a serpent, but I don’t know if they’re going with the old show notion of “mutating into the animal you’re closest to physical prior to exposure” or it just randomly turns you into an animal. If the latter how does that work?
Was it worth the wait?: Of everything currently in the Finally Watched list this may be the smallest gap between “everyone else has seen it but me” and finally getting to see it. There are a few other movies from more recent times I do want to check out, but short as the wait was I think it was worth it. This was a really good movie although now I want to see the full version and the comics the movie is based on. If you’re a fan of both properties you may well enjoy this movie. Just watch it before letting the kiddies see it first.