Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: My Childhood Dream is Real (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

The Dark Knight meets the Heroes on the Half-Shell and it’s just a great time all around.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Leonardo: Eric Bauza, Raphael: Darren Criss, Donatello: Baron Vaughn, Michelangelo: Kyle Mooney) come to Gotham City after they find out that their nemesis the Shredder (Andrew Kishino) and his army of foot ninjas have set up shop in the city. Batman (Troy Baker) discovers that high-tech thefts have been occurring involving ninjas all around the city. Batgirl (Rachel “Yes, that Rachel Bloom” Bloom) witnesses one of these thefts, but believes that the TMNT, who were there to stop it, are the culprits. Batman and the Turtles fight, then they unite to take down the Foot Clan and Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery. 

BatmanTMNT - 1Lineup
If this came out in 1994, it would have broken reality.

END SUMMARY

Crossovers aren’t new. They’ve been happening since Apollonius Rhodius decided to get an audience by going “hey, did you guys know there’s a story where Hercules, Orpheus, the Gemini twins, Achilles’ dad, some flying brothers, and a bunch of other heroes all went on a quest together?” The Argonauts were just the Avengers of Ancient Greece. I’d say Justice League, but I’m still smarting from that movie. 

BatmanTMNT - 2Steppenwolf
The villains in this animated movie look more convincing.

Crossovers are common in animation (Scooby-Doo has met just about everyone at some point) and in comic books (Archie has met the Punisher, the Predator, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Harley Quinn, and Vampirella), so this particular one was basically inevitable. Hell, apparently there have now been 3 different comic crossovers between these properties, including the one that forms the basis of this film. So, the team pretty much just had to deliver everything that’s good about Batman with everything that’s good about the Ninja Turtles. Since both of them have had SO MANY adaptations, they could reasonably give the two properties any number of qualities and they would still probably feel true to the source. 

BatmanTMNT - 3Crossover
I admit that I like the comic art much more.

Well, good news, the movie definitely gets across versions of both franchises. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this movie is no more and no less than what it promised in the title. 

Here are the good parts:

The fight scenes in the film are pretty creative and they do manage to demonstrate the abilities of all of the parties involved. Special credit goes to the Shredder v. Batman fight, because it’s everything I wanted and more. It’s one of the few moments in the film where I was genuinely surprised at the quality. The fight between Batman and the TMNT is, likewise, awesome.

BatmanTMNT - 4Shredder
Seriously, this is one of the best fight sequences ever animated. 

The voice casting in the movie is amazing. I particularly like that Troy Baker voices both Batman and the Joker, giving the characters an appropriate level of mirroring that isn’t usually present. I also loved Rachel Bloom as Batgirl, though that might be because I just love Rachel Bloom. Each of the turtles has an appropriately distinct voice that lends itself to their personality, just like in most of the adaptations. 

BatmanTMNT - 5Batgirl
This movie almost makes up for Batgirl’s terrible Killing Joke animated prologue. Almost.

The writing is pretty good. Definitely more effort than you’d usually get from a direct-to-video film like this. Is it going to match something like Into the Spider-verse or The Lego Movie? No, but it does a good job not distracting you from the action sequences. Also, they definitely manage to get in almost all the cameos and interactions that you wanted from a movie like this without most of them feeling insanely contrived. 

BatmanTMNT - 6Penguin
Somehow this fight isn’t over in 2 seconds.

This film is one of the few to actually make use of a PG-13 rating. This movie is violent, far more so than most adaptations of Batman or the TMNT, harkening back to the roots of both series. 

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Like how the turtles offered Shredder the opportunity to KILL HIMSELF.

The bad stuff:

Look, it’s a superhero crossover and those have certain things that have to happen. The heroes have to fight each other and then team up to fight the actual bad guy. It’s such a cliché that Watchmen mentioned it as something that typically happens in hero interactions back in 1985. The upside is that the film gets most of the adversarial stuff out of the way pretty early, so it’s not that big of a drain. The plot is meandering and kind of unfocused, but not distractingly so. 

BatmanTMNT - 8Mikey
The fight is entertainingly brutal and quick.

The art style is obviously subjective, but I didn’t like it. The turtles to me didn’t resemble any of their incarnations very well and Batman’s color scheme was closer to the one from Adam West than Tim Burton, which didn’t feel appropriate for a version with this much violence and death. Most of the villains, aside from Shredder, felt way too subdued until after *SPOILER* they get mutated. *END SPOILER*  It just never worked for me. 

Overall, though, it was a pretty fun movie that hit most of the notes that I would want for this kind of film.  If you like either of these franchises, this is a must-see. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.

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The left one has over 200 episodes. The right one had 65. Would you have guessed that?

Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.

SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)

So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.

TeenTitansGoToTheMovies-2Slade
Will Arnett is just gold for animated superhero comedies.

END SUMMARY

First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.

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There are like 30 references in this one screen shot if it’s in HD.

Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.

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A reminder that Cage loves Superman so much, his son Kal-El Cage is IN THIS FILM.

Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON  that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.

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That’s Michael Bolton as a Siberian Tiger playing the keytar on a rainbow fountain.

It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.

TeenTitansGoToTheMovies-6CondimentKing
Can’t beat a movie with the Condiment King in it.

The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.

As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.

Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.

If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.