Move over Avengers; we have a contender for the crossover of the year.
Select pieces of technology have been stolen around Gotham. As Batman investigates, he comes across the mysterious Shredder, and the even more mysterious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Unsure of each others’ motives the Dark Knight and the ninjas in a half shell end up butting heads. However, as they come to realize that they are solving the same problem, they agree to work together.
The Shredder has brought the mutagen known as ooze into Gotham in hopes of trading it to Ra’s al Ghul for a Lazarus Pit (fountain of youth). But first, they are teaming up to take over the city. With the heroes on their tail, they must buy some time, so they enlist The Joker to assist. But, not without the crown prince of crime taking the ooze for himself, transforming Batman’s Rogue gallery into mutant animals.
As Batman and the Turtles descend on Arkham Asylum, they must face-off against the super-powered criminals. But, when they get the upper hand on Batman, Joker uses a cross between his Joker serum and the ooze to transform him into an insane bat. The Turtles must stop him in time to get to R’as al Ghul and Shredder can launch their actual plan.
Ra’s and Shredder have been constructing a machine that will mix Joker’s serum and the ooze and disperse it over Gotham. Batman is going to have to depend on his new friends if he hopes to save his city while the Turtles will need to grow up enough to help the Bat and stop their oldest enemy.
This is a crossover that nobody could have seen coming but often imagined. It is hard not to think back to the ‘90s when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman: The Animated Series ruled Saturday mornings. Despite both having origins in dark and brooding comic books, they come from two different publishing companies and two very different worlds. However, in 2015, we finally received our first cross between the Bat and the Turtles in a memorable comic book series. It was so good in fact that it spawned two sequels and even opened the doors for the Turtles to join in the Injustice 2 video game. Still, this movie seemed like an impossible dream, and if it were to happen, it would be done in childish fashion ala Batman and Scooby Doo. But, here we are (look at me now 10-year-old me!).
As mentioned, this epic team-up has occurred in comic books before, and fans were wondering if the movie would follow the same plot points. While taking inspiration from the inaugural mini-series, this is very much an original story. One significant difference is in this film the heroes share the same world, instead of having to cross dimensions. There’s a little disbelief involved to ignore the idea that these characters wouldn’t at least know of each other, but that’s okay. The other significant difference is this film’s severe lack of Splinter. What’s a Turtles story without the giant rat? Other than that, the plot hits some of the comics more memorable moments.
The first exciting moment in the film comes when Batman goes toe-to-toe with Shredder. The battle of the expert ninjas is evenly matched, if not giving the edge to the villain. But, considering how many times we have seen the Bats take out his own rogue gallery, it’s fun to watch him meet a truly formidable foe. Then, when the Dark Knight finally runs into the Mutant Teenagers, he downright embarrasses them, but with an equally fun to watch sequence. From there, their interactions are lighthearted and even humorous, especially when you throw Alfred and the disgruntled Damian “Robin” Wayne into the mix.
Unfortunately, TMNT is massively underrepresented in this adaptation. Besides the titular characters, only Shredder and Baxter Stockman make an appearance, which means no April, no Casey Jones, no Krang, not even Bebop or Rocksteady. At the minimum, it would have been great to see Splinter’s interactions with the Dark Knight, Robin, and their trusty butler. On the other hand, we get to witness bonds develop in the Batcave. Most notably between Michelangelo and Alfred, but we also see Batman training Leonardo, Robin and Raphael brooding together, and Donatello finding a like mind in Batgirl.
Being centred in Gotham City is nothing to complain about though. It opened the door for the brilliant joke about Gotham being pretty much the same as New York City except for the blimps always flying about. But, the highlight is absolutely when the criminals of Arkham Asylum are injected with the same mutagen that transformed the Turtles into mutant ninjas. We get to see some great new freaks with Mr. Freeze becoming a polar bear, Bane a leopard, Two-Face becomes a two-headed cat, and Scarecrow, well, I suppose you could guess that one. Harley Quinn becomes a hyena which is a clever move considering she often has two pet hyenas tagging along with her. The only one that was off was turning The Joker into a snake, especially when some of the Foot Clan become elephants, lions, and even a dinosaur. Joker as a dinosaur would have been a lot cooler.
The end battle of Ra’s al Ghul and Shredder facing off against the heroes was the epic conclusion you would want to see out of a mix-up like this. Michelangelo gets a ride in the Batmobile, Leonardo faces down the immortal Ra’s, while Batman and Shredder get to finish what they started. The climax of this showdown has to be seeing Batman utter the word “Cowabunga” and actually mean it. It was even better than when Splinter said it at the end of the 1990 live-action Turtle film — just saying.
And when you think you’ve had all the crossover that you can handle, the end credits are just as great. With each of the characters most famous comic book covers reimagined with the team-up in mind. This includes the first TMNT book with Batman added, Justice League #1 with the Turtles in place of the other members, and Robin’s first appearance with Michelangelo in his stead. Maybe it’s the comic nerd in me, but this was a bright point of the movie for me. Then, an after credit scene sets us up for one heck of a sequel. I won’t spoil it, but be sure to stick it out to the end for this one.
In getting prepared to watch this, and even starting this review, I have often mentioned that a younger version of me would be crying at the glory of this team-up on television. And, boy, did it deliver. Everything about this movie brought me right back to the childish nerd that I am, and it was all that I could have hoped it would be. Kyle Mooney’s rendition of Michelangelo was one of the best ever delivered, and Troy Baker kills it playing both Batman and The Joker. It is hard to find anything to complain about other than wanting more. More characters, more action, and more pizza. Let’s hope this great movie spawns another line of comic books and a sequel in the near future.