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First Thoughts 2012: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) poster

Written by : published Monday 15th October 2012

First Thoughts 2012: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles main image

When four brothers shielded from the outside world due to their mutation are allowed to on their birthday go top-side and experience the world for the first time, naturally there are some speed bumps to be expected. That is the basic plot of the pilot episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on nick, titled aptly “Rise of the Turtles”.  After a few episodes after the pilot with a stellar voice cast, how does the new CGI-based toon fare in comparison towards the original 80’s series or the 2003 (or 2k3) series?

The four TMNT and April

Somewhere in-between; for a series that could be given the term hit or miss, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is dead-on with that statement.  The new series is seemingly hell bent on paying enough homage to the original Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird comic books yet being a particularly bit more friendly towards the 1980’s cartoon series instead. 

 

For fans of the original series, this will definitely play up to your memories and nostalgia. For us turtle-fans who have been with the fab four since the 1980’s cartoon series, then finding the comic books and so on, though, might have a different opinion.

the turtles look over one of 'the Kraang' 

Everything that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets wrong is pretty glaring: the overt nod to anime is more than a bit frustrating and really takes you out of the story. It makes ideas and sequences seem more cheesy than they need to be. For some, the belief that a giant humanoid turtle walking or running the rooftops at night in New York City is already unbelievable. Add anime-like influences on the border of over-doing-it and you are pressing your luck. 

The reliance on trying to be funny is also pretty frustrating as well. There were more than a few moments that the series tried too hard to be funny.  Some work well in context of a scene, others are too broad, while others are ruined by over-share.  For example: Being a fan of the TMNT, I had joined the twitter Turtles vs. Foot social marketing thing, and so clips of the episode would be released in doses.  One particular clip was handled as their first introduction of pizza. While as an adult fan of the turtles the whole pizza thing was just weird and just stupid, at the same time, it doesn’t really matter. Pizza is great, so it makes sense that humanoid mutant animals would dig good food. Pizza is nothing to get up in arms about. And so the clip makes a joke from Raphael saying something close to ‘this is the best food I’ve ever tasted and I thought worms and algae was the best food I’ve ever eaten.”   As a clip, the joke sells.  It makes sense. What do they eat when apparently the clip spells out that this is their first time above ground.

In retrospect to the whole episode though, we start off with Michelangelo cooking worms and algae with a cake baked out worms, algae and something else he says you don’t want to know.  To see the pizza scene later in the epsisode now feels, especially the way it was handled in the earlier scene, as just overkill on trying to sell what is a pretty logical joke. What happened to letting audiences add 2+2? Look, we know the answer is 4, but sometimes, we like to do the math ourselves. The whole hour-long pilot episode is made up of little problems like that.  Especially with Splinter and The Kraangs. 

Now, look, I get it that the 2k3 series was as close to the Mirage books we’ll get in animated form.  At least any changes in that series made complete and total sense.  Even the far out ideas (like Shredder being an Utrom) seemed more logical. The idea that Homato Yoshi IS Splinter has been one that has always bothered me. I know that was how the 80’s cartoon was, but it seems just wasteful. If they wanted to make it more interesting, which was let Splitner think he was a rat or that he WAS Yoshi when in fact he was the opposite would be more stellar storytelling.  Yet, we’re not going to get that here.  And what about the Utroms? I can understand maybe a group of rebel Utroms calling themselves the Kraang, but the entire species? And the joke about “The Place is the Place is the Place”? Gag me with a spoon.

There is also an abundance of “Freak of the Week” like monsters from Lewis Black turning into a big spider-creature, or a thug who works for the Kraang who turns into a giant plant monster. The idea that Michelangelo names the beasties is only a pinch humorus but if this is how it is gonna go every single time, the appeal is quickly lost. What happened to the TMNT themselves being unique when it came to other mutants (of the animal hybrid variety)? Now to wit: the storyline of the TMNT being filmed via cell phone and used as blackmail was actually an interesting concept and idea but they floundered it.  Why not have it be the old man didn’t know how to load it up into youtube or myspace, etc? Why did he feel he could use it over the TMNT’s heads for money when they are giant mutant ‘frogs’? Logic seems to be lapsing a bit.

But the series did get a few things right.

One of the biggest things achieved was the idea that the Turtles have never been top-side before, and further more, Splinter trained them as individuals and not as a team. Which in itself was beyond interesting.  In this regard, they acted like teenagers.  It was a series of keen concepts something akin to Brian Michael Bendis of Ultimate Spider-man taking over a TMNT book. 

I really liked the idea of the TMNT never being top-side.  To experience it all before; that their roles as team members hasn’t been flushed out fully. Heck, I even liked the Donatello digging April thing (minus the overtly cheesy anime expressions of love which just ruins it).

 

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets more wrong than it gets right, which is sad, but being this is a complete reboot and re-imagining, it is best for old fans to hang in a bit longer until the end of the season if anything, and then maybe if it does not improve, come back again in Season Two. But what about me? I’ll be sticking around a bit longer to see how it plays out before I jump ship until Season Two.

Watch Episode 3 - Turtle Temper online

About the author goodbadgeeky

goodbadgeeky

Nick ‘Nitro’ Arganbright has an extreme love for a good story, whether it be in film, tv, video games, comic books, music or more and it shows in each article and podcast he produced. The titular podcast he produces is called The Good The Bad & The Geeky with co-hosts Jon Bettin and Nathan ‘DJ Meat’ Haley. The podcast has helped him make a few contacts within in the industry which he hopes to use to entertain and inform readers of his reviews on Examiner.com and The TV King, offering an average joe opinion that is often overlooked in major print and online publications. If you’d like to e-mail him, please do so at [email protected] or you can tweet him on twitter at @goodbadgeeky.

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