19th Mar2013

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars (the voices of): Jason Biggs, Rob Paulsen, Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, Mae Whitman, Hoon Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson | Created by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

Turtles

Splinter allows the Turtles to visit the surface for the first time, where they attempt to stop a group of thugs from kidnapping April O’Neil and her parents. But the Turtles, who have never been in actual combat before, fail miserably. Splinter, realizing that the Turtles need a leader, assigns the task to Leonardo. After some initial resistance, especially from Raphael, Leonardo’s leadership skills begin to take shape. The Turtles track down Snake, one of the kidnappers, and when they come upon a mysterious canister of mutagen (the same kind of mutagen that transformed the Turtles and Splinter 15 years ago) they realise this mystery is much bigger than they ever imagined.

Like any show, the opening episodes are key to the future of your series. Even more so when said series is the umpteenth reboot of a fan-favourite franchise under the auspices of one of the largest kids television networks in the world. So how does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles fair? Turns out not so well. Don’t get me wrong, I was super-excited for this reboot from Nickelodeon. After all the footage screened at events such as the MCM Expo looked fantastic, and the folks behind it were so enthusiastic about what they had planned for the show. But after watching the first few episodes doubts have crept in…

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the new series – for one the voice cast are uniformly superb: in particular Jason Biggs as Leonardo and Sean Astin as Raphael. The pair have some great comedic timing and the interplay between the two characters is fantastic, especially when they banter about just who is the leader of the gang. Scott Pilgrim‘s Mae Whitman also gives a notable performance as April O’Neil, succinctly capturing April’s excitability and youth in the short amount of screen time she’s given in the first episode. And the animation also works. Somewhat.

I’m still not 100% convinced about the new design of the Turtles, although it’s good to see even the producers of the show having a sly dig at the Turtles appearance. But the new three-dimensional CG animated versions of Mikey, Raph, Donatello and Leo do work in this new world and it’s good to see that Nickelodeon aren’t resting on their laurels when it comes to character design. But it’s just not the Turtles. At least not the ones I know and love. However the rest of the animation is superb. Using a mix of traditional animation and 3D CGI really brings a fresh look to the series and a real sense of urgency to the action scenes – the chase sequence in which the Turtles track down one of the Krang in a delivery truck looks superb and is a great example of showing just what a difference good CG can make.

What doesn’t work, at least in this collection, is the Krang who this time round are Terminator-esque cyborgs with the familiar pink “brains” in their bellies and who dress like the Men in Black; and yes that is Krang plural – in this new iteration the Krang are an army  of robots rather than just one super-villain. I get that the makers of this new version of the Turtles want to pay homage to what has gone before by including new takes on familiar characters and I get that these Krang are the comedy villains of this new universe, but did they have to make them so bloody annoying? The whole “We are the Krang” way of referring to themselves gets really irritating after the first few times, as does the incessant screaming of their pink brains!

When all’s said and done, this collection is however just six episodes of a much longer series and given my experience of the Turtles franchise I expect there to be much more exciting and interesting things to come down the line. Which is while I’ll be sticking around for a few more episodes yet…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles, containing the first six episodes of season one, is released on DVD on March 25th by Paramount Home Entertainment.

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