“Heroes in a half-shell…turtle power!”
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a staple of pop culture since the 1980s, with a few years going by between movies, comics, or television series reboots. In 2012 Nickelodeon relaunched the fab four in a new show and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles brings together the first six episodes of the new series. It’s a turtle power primer, if you will.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or TMNT) are just that, four brothers who were brought together by the loneliness of a man and some mutagen, AKA ooze. Named after some of the most famous artists the world has seen, each turtle has a special weapon, mask and personality trait to set them apart. They emerge from the sewers of New York City to fight crimes and right wrongs. Leonardo (Jason Biggs, American Reunion) leads the team, he’s the blue-masked katana-sword-wielding planner of the group. Raphael, (Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) who has the anger management issues of the crew, wears a red mask and fights with two sais. Fun-loving party dude Michelangelo (Greg Cipes, Teen Titans), AKA “Mikey”, carries nunchucks and sports an orange mask. The squad is rounded out by Donatello (Rob Paulsen, Animaniacs), the inventor who carries a big stick called a bo staff and has a purple mask, not to mention a crush on their only human friend, April O’Neil (Mae Whitman, Parenthood). The turtles consider Splinter (Hoon Lee, Banshee), the rat/human hybrid, to be their father, mentor, sensei and protector.
* “Rise of the Turtles” (Two-part episode)
We learn how the turtles became who they are as well as Splinter’s backstory. The guys want to finally go aboveground, and when they do they discover something amazing: pizza.
* “Turtle Temper”
Raphael’s temper gets in the way of his fighting and Leonardo sends him back to the sewers to cool off. Splinter tries to show Raphael what can happen when he allows insults to become weapons.
* “New Friend, Old Enemy”
Michelangelo wants to be friends with a human. But not just any human, Chris Bradford, who happens to be familiar with martial arts himself.
* “I Think His Name Is Baxter Stockman”
Donatello invents a new MP3 player Mikey quickly dubs the TPod. But the TPod’s AI chip helps transform an ordinary man into an indestructible weapon.
Donatello is sick of fighting off the forces of evil with a stick. So he builds a robot but soon learns that technology can only go so far.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles has the kind of corny slapstick humor that appeals to me. Not to say there isn’t action, but it’s kept in check with the quips and puns of the fearsome foursome, to be sure. And while this trend of combining genres has certainly found success in primetime (see Psych or Supernatural) it may grate for those who wish to see the turtles as lean mean fighting machines, kicking booty and taking names like some kind of Seven Samurai homage. The turtles are silly at times, there’s no getting around it. As far as viewing age goes, this is a Nickelodeon show but the violence isn’t always cartoon violence. They show some serious beat downs, so be wary of little ones who may want to watch.
Thought providing a comprehensive introduction to this world, it seems as though the show is going to follow a fairly predictable formula: something the Turtles do results in a need for a confrontation, after which a life lesson is imparted. For this first season that kind of set-up is fine, but the characters actually need to grow and show meaningful change for there to be any hope of longevity. I’ve long had a soft spot for the TMNT and have no problem recommending this for anyone willing to give these goofy guys a chance.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles boasts an impressive array of visual styles, from comics and graphic novels to hand-drawn scenes and CGI. The problem with combining all those different types of graphics is that weakness within one will be highlighted in comparison to a better executed scene.
The humans are the weak link in the show, at least visually speaking. They appear to be at their best in close-up shots, while fight scenes and establishing shots instead display a rudimentary style of CGI that looks out of place when compared to the TMNT, who obviously have been given the lion’s share of resources. A different visual weakness comes with the darkness of the many night scenes, which sometimes obscures the colors of Leonardo and Donatello’s masks, leading one to have to look at the weapon being used in order to be sure which turtle is which.
While I normally prefer my television shows in widescreen, in this case the full screen works since there are so many varied visuals; I actually appreciate seeing them fill the screen. The theme song has been upgraded to the times and has a rap style but it’s not the only bit of audio to ascend. The track is a Dolby 5.1 which isn’t more than the space needs, indeed it’s perfect since so many scenes, especially fights, rely heavily on sound effects to deliver emphasis.
Special features include a half-dozen storyboard comparison animatics, a karaoke video of the title sequence, and a small poster folded inside the case.
It hasn’t really been all that long since their last incarnation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles will find a foothold with viewers. There’s always going to be something appealing about a show which features archetypal characters: their lessons can be ours. If you’re a TMNT fan at all, this set is worth a look.