“Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Review – Mystic Mayhem – Series Premiere
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was given a nearly impossible task.
Reimagining a beloved franchise while the previous incarnation was wildly successful can’t be easy. While RotTMNT should be judged as it’s own show, it’s necessary to also look at how it compares to what came before it. With a very vocal minority seemingly on the defense over the new series, Nickelodeon finally gave us the premiere episode.
Below is a detailed, SPOILER RIDDLED REVIEW of the first episode of the new, flagship Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
SPOILERS BELOW FOR “RISE OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES” SERIES PREMIERE “MYSTIC MAYHEM
LAST CHANCE! SPOILERS BELOW
The new series seems like a new origin, but an origin we haven’t seen yet in the TMNT franchise.
In every series so far, we see how the 4 turtles become teenage mutant turtles. The emphasis is on the ooze and finding out how a giant rat grows in New York City with 4 turtle brothers. We are usually told they began training to be ninjas, but it all seems very easy. We always learn how the turtles meet April and the turtles are always in a world where they exist as the weird thing in the universe.
This series looks to focus more on the ninja part of the ninja turtles origin. The turtles exist. They are already best friends with April. But they still have no idea how to use their weapons. When we meet our heroes, their main concern is having a pool party on the roof. They zipline over a clear bad guy party to cannonball in to the neighboring rooftop. They nailed the teenage part.
Each turtle shows off their unique personality more in this version than any previous version of the turtles.
Raphael is the new leader, but he seems directionless. He doesn’t know his skill, but loves his brothers. He doesn’t have confidence in himself as a leader at this point. Leonardo isn’t the leader here, but I don’t think he wants to be. He’s interested in having fun and cracking jokes. Michelangelo is the creative one. He’s called an artist, and his skills help the turtles open a magic portal (we’ll get there). Donatello is still the brains of the brothers. But the old schtick where the smart guy isn’t cool is dated. Today, Donatello is funny and smart. His weapon is a highly technological bo staff equipped like Inspector Gadget’s fedora.
The design of the turtles needs commenting on. Many people don’t like the new designs. I appreciate them. They will definitely take a bit of getting used to. I like that each turtle is designed closer to a specific type of turtle. Raph is a giant Snapping turtle, so he’s bigger. Leonardo has the noticeable red lines behind his eyes, because he’s a red snapper. Same with the voice actors. I think each version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been based on all the ones before it. Where the 2012 animated series took story, plot and character from the comics, movies, and original cartoon, RotTMNT tries to stand on its own.
Each voice is jarring not because it’s bad, but because it’s completely new. When I first heard Leonardo refer to himself as “Leon” I had to check to see if it made sense. It does, but hearing it didn’t make sense in my head.
The turtles hint their inexperience with the weapons a few times. They’ll say things like “We finally get to use these!” or, in Michelangelo’s case, constantly smacking himself in the face with his own weapon. Master Splinter calls out their inexperience as well, but it’s very clear from watching them, they have no idea what they’re doing. Soon, the weapons we’ve all come to know are destroyed.
The new weapons are a really interesting take. They already weren’t great with their base weapons, and now they wield glowing out of control weapons. Donatello keeps his awesome robot bo staff (Ro-bo staff?), but the 3 brothers gain extra powers they still can’t control. I like the idea, but I hope it doesn’t become like Power Rangers, where they would only win the fight after forming the Megazord. I don’t want them to need the magic to win, but I want them to use it where it makes sense.
Master Splinter has taken a very different form than we’re used to. He’s still given a great deal of respect from the turtles, but takes on a more aloof role. He’s lazy and likes napping. He knows the turtles need training, but it doesn’t seem like he’s the one interested in doing it.
This April is one of the best versions of the character I’ve seen.
She’s usually ready to jump in to the action before any of the turtles. She said a few things that make me think she’s Raph’s muscle. Watching her try to chew off her Baron Draxum restraints is a great visual that sums up her character well. We don’t know how she met the turtles and right now, it doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that she fights alongside the turtles.
This is the first time we’ve seen a show where the world is more weird than the turtles. This version of New York City has tons of people not connected to the turtle. The opening shot of the show features 2 giant henchmen up to no good chasing a tony saber tooth kitten that teleports. There are bright neon city lights all over the city. It fits in perfectly with the action of the new series. The magic seems like it’s going to be the crazy part of this world. Already they encounter a teleporting kitten and magic scary portal door. They jump in and encounter Baron Draxum.
Baron Draxom works as a villain here. He’s huge and has mystic powers that take out the inexperienced turtles fast. John Cena is a fun choice to play him as well. John Cena is playing himself as a bad guy because it seems like Baron wants to train the turtles. He sees something in them and wants them to refine their powers.
The fights seem to take from anime like Pokemon and Dragonball. Bright colors flash while strong angles heighten the action on-screen. The camera sweeps around the characters while fast music plays in the background. I really love the music they picked for these scenes. It was a modern feel that put you further in to the action. It was especially fun watching Leonardo test his new weapon, only to form an infinite portal.
The animation style reminds me of a mix between Invader Zim and Johnny Bravo.
The animation can get intentionally jerky to punch up a joke. On the closeup shots of character, you can see that they aren’t solid black lines, but almost a thick chalk black outline. This really highlights the movement and shows more color than if it were solid black.
There are plenty of references to past version of the TMNT, but this should be looked at as its own iteration. It’s a different version that actively tries to distance itself from the franchise it’s based on. The premiere tells you that this will be a different show than everything that came before it. That alone is worth giving it a chance.
No, this isn’t my favorite version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, I’m not the primary audience.
This is a show I would have loved at 8 years old. This is a comedy series with action as a backdrop. It gives options to kids everywhere. Now you can pick your favorite turtle based on their personality and not just their weapon or bandana color. As a young, artsy kid, I would have latched on to Michelangelo’s positivity. Young girls everywhere can look up to how strong April is. The big kid can look to Raphael to figure out their place and the smart kid doesn’t have to be ashamed of being smart.
My versions of the turtles still exist. I have my favorites and, frankly, the 1987 cartoon isn’t it. But this is a welcome addition to the TMNT family. I hope it gains a rabid fan base, to show younger fans an introduction to the turtles. Hopefully, this opens a gateway to other versions of the turtles for young fans. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has been persistent in evolving with the times, and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the next step.
Whether you want it to be, or not.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premieres on Monday, September 17, but you can preview the entire first episode on iTunes or Nick.com