Saturday, September 29, 2018

SepTMNTber - Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Before I dive into this show, let me just give you a hint of my thoughts – I stopped the show halfway through the 3rd episode.  I made it through two Michael Bay movies and a Power Rangers-esque series, but this show is the one I couldn’t watch anymore.

Rise of the TMNT is Nickelodeon’s second series, going back to traditional animation, and I can’t tell you how glad I am to see it return to that format.  The animation in this show is so crazy and smooth, it really is the best part of it.  It’s got a real anime vibe like Teen Titans before it, and is just straight up gorgeous.

The second thing you’ll notice is the changes to the Turtles’ look.  Like the Next Mutation, the Turtles are definitely not blood brothers.  In fact, they’re not even the same breed of turtle.  Raph is a spike-covered snapping turtle; Donnie is a soft-shell turtle and wears a backpack to protect him; Leo is a red-eared slider like what the turtles were originally based on; and Mikey is a box turtle.  While Raph is a hulking brute, the others being closer to their original sizes.  All the small ones end in O, I guess.

For some reason I don’t understand, they’ve made Raph the leader of the group.  Well, okay, I’m sure it’s because he’s the most popular, but it’s a change that doesn’t offer anything to the team, because now Leo is treated as the rebellious one and team jokester.  Donnie and Mikey don’t get much of a change besides Mikey becoming an artist, a trait I’m surprised hadn’t been assigned to a turtle before.  The biggest problem for me about their new portrayals though is that I can barely tell them apart.  Sure they look different, but all of them sound the same voice actor-wise, and they’re all spouting so many jokes all the time that their practically indistinguishable.  If I was just listening to the show, I might be able to pick out Raph, but that’s it.

Lastly, the turtles receive new weapons.  This series takes a huge turn into the mystical, including the Turtles replacing their tried-and-true ninja weapons with some magical implements.  Raph changes his sais for tonfas which amplify his strength, Leo’s got one big sword now which opens portals, and Mikey has a magic yoyo thing that has a fire spirit living in it.  Donnie refuses to replace his trusty bo, having upgraded it with all sorts of powerful devices.

The Turtles aren’t the only ones to change though – April O’Neal is now a black girl working at a Chuck E. Cheese-type pizza place.  Honestly, I don’t care that much about this though as her job hasn’t even been that integral as long as she's still hostage bait, and if the Turtles can be different breeds, surely she can be a different race as well.

We’re not done with the changes yet – the format of the show itself has changed, adopting the two 11-minute episode plan which is so popular among cartoons these days – even Transformers has started using it in their Cyberverse series.  I don’t understand why that has become so common, but I can only imagine producers think the kids of this day have so little attention span a 22-minute episode is too long for them to process.  It’s such an unnecessary thing considering other fantastic shows don’t need to split their episodes up to tell interesting stories.

The biggest change for me though, the one that had me turning off the show, is the enemies they face.  The premier episode introduces this big bad that wants to mutate everything in New York, Draco something, I can’t remember.  But every episode following that have new enemies they fight.  Two of them look like they could be Foot Clan so maybe they’ll show up again later, but when one episode introduced a talking caterpillar newscaster, I just couldn’t keep watching.  Maybe if it was a human-sized caterpillar, mutated to look like a person, I could understand it, but he was just a caterpillar with glasses and John Michael Higgins’s voice.

And that’s it – I’ve gone over every iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that has reached film or television.  There have been some wonderful shows and those that were lacking, some incredible feats on the Silver Screen and a few less-than-stellar offerings.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has certainly withstood the test of time, remaining one of the most popular and bankable properties to crawl its way out of the ‘80s where so many others had perished.  I have no doubt that the Turtles will continue to flourish – no matter what gets thrown at us, we’ll love it, as long as we get Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, and a hottie named April O’Neil.

Thank you so much for joining me for this trip through the Turtles’ history.  It’s easily one of my absolutely favorite properties if you couldn't tell.  It was a real labor of love to go through each series, and if you're interested in going back through them with me, click on the following links.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1986)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Ooze

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)


Top 5 TMNT Rip-Offs

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)

Turtles Forever/Trans-Dimensional Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Old School Evil TMNT Rip-Offs

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Bonus! Rank 'Em Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Rediscover the 80s!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

On paper, this movie tried really hard to correct the mistakes of the previous movie.  Shredder is the main villain without question, he makes a connection with Krang, he’s got Baxter Stockman working for him, and he mutates Bebop and Rocksteady with their correct animals.  So how did they still screw it up?!

First of all, they try cramming so much into this film that each plot point is only given a few seconds; When Shredder is teleported away from his police escort, Krang highjacks the teleporter and brings Shredder to him, what follows is a few minutes of exposition crammed down our throats, with Shredder blindly agreeing to Krang’s plan.  I don’t understand why Shredder just takes Krang’s offer on faith, but there’s no time for him to even question in.

Anyway, the movie kinda follows a string of episodes from the second season of the original cartoon – three pieces of a device must be collected and assembled which will allow Shredder and Krang to rule the world.  Baxter Stockman already has one piece, which enabled him to teleport Shredder earlier. The two other pieces just amplify the teleporter, I guess, which will allow Krang to pull the Technodrome into our dimension.  To help Shredder fight the Turtles, he gives him a vial of mutagen to create his own mutants.  Here’s another part that they just rushed through – Bebop and Rocksteady became a warthog and rhino respectively because of an ancestral genetic animal?  What the heck does that even mean?   How hard would it be to say Baxter was also working on mutants and had these animals’ DNA available?

We also get Casey Jones in this movie, but the character is totally wasted, being a police officer transporting Shredder when he got away and wanting to clear his name.  He wears the mask for one scene, beats up a few Foot Clan ninjas, then gets recruited to the Turtles’ team because April.  And April, ugh… I can’t even go into it here.  It’s Megan Fox, what else do I need to say that I haven’t already?

So the Turtles have a few existential crises – first is that the purple ooze can somehow make the Turtles human and the Turtles can’t fight as a team.  I honestly hate the first one – after coming off the movies that repeated “I love being a turtle!” it sucks seeing half the Turtles wishing they could became ordinary humans.  Secondly, the not fighting as a team thing only came up in the second half and was resolved just because it was time to be.  Literally, they put their hands together, called out each other’s personality trait, and that was it.

Honestly, if they were going this route, they could have taken a lesson from Bebop and Rocksteady who were great friends and worked perfectly together.  The main problem with that though is the Turtles only fought them once in a horrible looking CGI fest where they didn’t even have any fun banter.

In the end, Shredder betrays Baxter Stockman then is immediately betrayed by Krang in the same fashion, and the Turtles fight Krang on the flying Technodrome that mirrors the finale of the last movie down to the same drab color palette of the final enemy.  The Turtles even get some recognition from the police for saving the city by – what the hell is Laura Linney doing in this movie?!

Overall, this movie tries to correct the flaws of the previous movie, but in doing so cram way too much stuff in so that almost everything suffers.  If they split this into two different films, I could see it working out better, but as it is, it’s a complete mess with a few positives that fails in everything it sets out to do.

Monday, September 24, 2018

SepTMNTber - Old School Evil's TMNT Rip-offs

Last week I talked about some pretty shameful cartoons that borrowed the TMNT formula - Biker Mice from Mars, Road Rovers, Street Sharks, Bucky O'Hare, and Wild West: C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa.  Each of them centered around either people turned into half animals, or animals turning into half human and took on a different kind of theme - westerns, space, superheroes, etc. Though none of them came close to the magic that had made TMNT a raging success, each of them had at least one good quality, be it character design, story, or a catchy theme song.

When I was creating the cartoons that existed within Old School Evil, there was no way I could resist making up my own TMNT clones.  In fact, the primary cartoon conflict in Old School Evil is a pretty close facsimile of the Turtles - The Hurricanines. 

In it, a mutagen mixed with the main characters' canine mascot and turned the central characters into half human/half dogs, kinda like the Road Rovers in reverse.  The Hurricanines split and half became the Muttants, a terrible pun, I admit, and it never quite sounds right when I say it.  While all of the characters have dog traits, the good guys are pet breeds, while the bad guys are wild dogs and similar animals (hyenas, jackals, etc). Since it also takes a few cues from GI Joe, the characters are your usual military forces.

There are two other TMNT clones I made up, one of which is a spin-off of the other.  The stories are pretty different from the Ninja Turtles, but their designs are spot on.

Defenders of Diamond City is the first series with Defenders of Diamond Valley being the sequel.  Both stories center around a team of evolved reptiles and amphibians that are called upon to defend mystical places from outside forces.  These Defenders come from all corners of the globe and are imbued with elemental magic.  In the second series, three of the four Defenders are replaced and the fourth one relocated to Central America, gaining three new local teammates.  One character from each show is even a Turtle!  I went in a mystical direction here since none of the other TMNT clones has taken a magical turn.

Just like all the other cartoons I made up, I took certain aspects of the shows I watched and squished them together.  In the case of the Defenders cartoons, the Turtles were mixed with Bravestarr and the Thundercats respectively.

If you want to learn more about each of these cartoons, consider picking up Old School Evil on Kindle or paperback and help support the blog.  You can get it here.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

I can't think of a single person who had any faith in this Turtles movie.  Let's count down all the things that went wrong with it before it even came out.

1. Michael Bay - fresh off his increasingly bad Transformers franchise, Michael Bay attached his name to the Turtles.  He wasn't directing it like those monstrosities, but even being a producer was enough to taint this film from the get go.

2. Megan Fax as April O'Neil - Another transfer from Transformers, Megan Fox had just been fired for her shitty attitude and off-hand comments to Michael Bay, so what do they do?  Name her as April, a character she has no resemblance to and can't hope to hold a candle to the original portrayal in the cartoons.  I don't care of she's a reporter or that she wears a yellow jacket.

3. A new origin - Again with Michael Bay; he hinted at a new origin for the Turtles, moving away from the Mutant aspect enough that the movie was at one point just going to be called Ninja Turtles.  What was their new origin going to be?  Aliens.  Yeah, they quickly back-pedaled on that one.  In fact, back-pedaling is something they did quite a bit off for this movie.

On these three reasons alone, I didn't even bother to see this movie until it was out on home video for a few months.  And what was I greeted by?  A terrible mess of a film that tarnished everything I loved about one of my favorite cartoons the same way the second Transformers movie did.

First of all, let's get the Turtles out of the way.  Where pretty much all the cartoons and comics and movies had portrayed the Turtles as about 4-5 feet tall, for some reason this movie has them standing at about 7 feet.  Why?  What is the point of them being that big?  They can barely hide in the shadows when they're so freaking massive.

Of course, this time around, the Turtles are all CGI, and they don't look nearly as convincing as actors wearing rubber suits.  I mean, look at that picture up there - when Megan Fox is the most realistic thing in your movie, you've screwed up.

One thing I did like about their design - probably the only thing - is the individualized costumes.  Each of the Turtles has different armor or clothing on - Leo looks kinda samurai-ish, Donnie's got tech stuff all over, etc.  It does more to establish their character than just colored bandannas and this movie needs all the help it can get in that regard.

I'm not familiar with any of the voice cast except Leonard's Johnny Knoxville.  Just like the 2012 series, why would you cast someone known for their comedic work as the all-too-series Leonardo?!  The rest of the Turtles sound okay, but none of them stand out.

Onto Splinter and the Turtles' new origin.  No, they're not aliens, thank god, but it's still all sorts of screwed up.  After rescuing April and bringing her back to their den, as you do, Splinter tells her about their beginnings.  After they fell in the sewers and started growing, Splinter found a book, but instead of naming the Turtles after the Renaissance artists within, the book was about Ninjitsu.  Splinter, who was just a regular rat, I guess (I can't remember), learned from the book and taught the Turtles from it.  So how'd they get their names?  When Splinter found them, their names were written on their backs on tape.

Here's where April comes in; they used to be her pets, four Turtles her dad and his lab partner were experimenting on.  When the partner, Eric Sacks, set the lab on fire, she escaped with the Turtles but lost them down the sewers.  To be honest, I didn't hate seeing April be a part of their creation, although it's a bit contrived that they save her later on.  What I hate about this is that the Foot Clan doesn't matter at all now.  Splinter doesn't have a connection with Shredder, and the idea of the Turtles learning Ninjitsu from a single book is ridiculous.

So it turns out this Eric Sacks guy is in league with the Shredder, who's this Asian guy that's constantly hiding in the Shadows.  Here's where the director had to do some serious back-tracking - originally, this Eric guy was supposed to be the Shredder.  Test audiences hated the idea of Shredder not being a Japanese ninja, so they made some shitty edits to include this guy in the shadows.  Now, Eric is just some scientist working with the Shredder, who wants to release the mutagen across all of New York.  Honestly, I have no idea why, and the movie doesn't do a good job of making me want to know.

So finally, there's a confrontation between the Shredder and the Turtles atop Sacks's office building/lab thing and another positive I'll give this movie is how cool the Shredder looks.  I will admit it's a little over the top in terms of mechanics, but all the knives are pretty awesome looking.  The Shredder had almost killed Splinter int he sewers and the Turtles want revenge.  We get a big flashy fight scene that we're used to in Michael Bay movies, and April gets the be the big hero that saved the city, of course.

Overall, this movie tries to blend so much stuff into one cohesive story and I think they fail miserably.  April's dad works in a lab and she spends a lot of time there, so you get that from the comics, but then she's a reporter with Vernon Fenwick from the cartoon.  They switch around pieces of the Turtles' original unnecessarily, they add in extra people that don't add anything to the story. And in the end, after all the over-done action scenes, we only get one really enjoyable moment in the movie.

Friday, September 21, 2018

SepTMNTber - Turtles Forever and Trans-Dimensional Turtles

Before I even get started, let me say I absolutely love the idea of these two shows and wish more cartoons did this – each one crosses over the then-current cartoon with the original cartoon and even the comic versions of the Turtles.  Both stories are fairly similar, someone creates a dimensional portal gun and the different generations of turtles meet, make fun of each other, and team up to kick ass.

In Turtles Forever, which was released as a stand-alone movie featuring the 2003 Turtles (thought it was planned to be part of that series), their Shredder is searching for a way to kill every version of the Turtles by finding the Prime universe, the one where all other Turtles dimension was started – the Comics dimension.  Three separate versions of the Turtles team up – the 2003s, the 1986s and the comics – to defeat Shredder.  The best part for me was the different Raphaels making fun of each other; 2003 Raph makes fun of the 1986 one for being lightweights compared to the more mature 2003 Turtles, only to be ridiculed by the much darker comics Raph.

Trans-Dimensional Turtles matches together the 2012 Turtles with their 1986 counterparts – switching from 3D to 2D versions and back as they travel between the two worlds.  They face off against two Krangs, and we find out that the 1986 Krang was banished by the 2012 Krang for his ineptitude.  The best bit again is the jokes thrown back and forth between the two generations of Turtles – old Raph gives new Donnie some lip about his weird voice, both of which are provided by the same voice actor.  Though they travel to the comic dimension, they don’t interact with those Turtles – instead that short scene is animated as if they were jumping between comic panels to mimic the two different animation types.

Both of these shows are so well done and full of nostalgia – the character designs match perfectly with the older shows and all the available voice casts come back to reprise their roles.   It’s obvious to any fan of the Turtles that these shows are made with a lot of love and respect for the source material.

As a fan of both TMNT and Transformers, I wish so hard that we could see this kind of crossover for our Robots in Disguise.  Imagine Opimuses and Megatrons from across the multiverse joining together to clash against some massive threat like Unicron!  Get on this Hasbro!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)

After the success of 2007’s TMNT, Nickelodeon acquired the Turtles license and decided to follow suite with a computer animated series.  As the third TMNT cartoon series, they basically threw everything into a blender and we ended up getting a story starting with the Utrons, an alien race of living brains that ride around in robot guts.  Sound familiar?  Though they first appeared in the original comic, they didn’t appear in the cartoon until later in the 2003 series.  Obviously Krang was patterned after them in first cartoon, but I don’t think the name of the race was ever mentioned.

The cartoon starts out before the Turtles have ever breached the surface, staying in the sewers and eating worms and algae cake.  They appeal to Splinter to let them go to the streets and he finally relents.  Upon reaching the surface, they wreak some havoc, inadvertently scaring a pizza delivery boy and stealing the pizza he left behind.  Thus their love of pizza was born – I’m actually kind of glad to see how that started.  There had to be a scene somewhere about the first time they had it - it's hard to imagine how  a full pizza could have ended up in the sewers in the earlier cartoons.

They witness April and her father being kidnapped by the Utroms and intervene, almost rescuing her but the Utroms escape with both O’Neils.  It's interesting to see here that their first real fight ends in a loss for them - in both previous cartoons, the Turtles meet April when they save her from a threat, but here, they lose and she is kidnapped.  They later rescue her but the story follows their attempts to get back the father.  I only watched the introductory two-parter, so I’m not sure why they were targeted, but I will admit it’s weird to see any of April’s relatives, or seeing that she’s only a teenager in this series.  Even weirder is seeing Donnie’s crush on her being as big as it is.  I’m glad it’s not all the Turtles flirting with her, but seeing Donnie completely in love with April is just kinda wrong.

I admit, I am not a fan of the voice cast at all.  Leo and Raph and voiced by Jason Biggs and Sean Astin respectively, but considering how big their names are, it’s practically a waste as both are unrecognizable and against type.  Greg Cipes plays Mikey, and even though his voice does fit Mikey, all I hear is Beast Boy from Teen Titans and it’s distracting.  But worst of all is Rob Paulson doing Donnie’s voice.  I know he played Raph in the original series, and I’m glad to hear him make a return to the show, but why Donnie?  It doesn’t fit at all for me.

The designs of the Turtles are pretty decent, but I don’t think I’m a fan of the anime style reactions, mostly seen on Mikey. That is definitely personal opinion though, since I know they’re pretty popular in current cartoons.  My favorite part is the new intro that updates the original’s theme with more hip hop lyrics.  I’m so glad to see how much of the old intro they incorporate into it.  Overall, I’d say this is my least favorite cartoon of the three I’ve reviewed so far, but considering how great the other two are, I’d still recommend this one to any Turtles fan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SepTMNTber - Top 5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rip-Offs

In the wake of the original Turtles cartoon’s success, there was a glut of shows featuring anthropomorphized animals with crazy sci-fi origins.  Whether they’re created through science or aliens from (or on) another planet, these guys all owe their creation to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Though none of them achieved the success of their forefathers, there’s no denying they were just as weird.  I never bothered to watch these in their original runs, seeing them as inferior imitations, and I’m not bothering to watch them much more now, only watching the first episode of each shows for this list. 

Street Sharks
I’d wager this is the most well-known show to follow in the Turtles’ path and stays as close as possible to the original formula.  A scientist working with integrating aquamarine animal DNA into human genes, his evil partner uses it for evil purposes, and the scientist’s four sons need to rescue him.  They’re injected with shark DNA and turn into the Street Sharks.  That’s about all I got from the show – the four brothers have the most generic personalities – one’s lazy, one’s brainy, one’s athletic.  I’m not sure what the last one’s trait is, and I don’t think I caught a single name of theirs.  As Street Sharks, they swim through the streets causing thousands of dollars in infrastructure damage, while eating anything that gets in their way.  They all talk in the same 80s surfer lingo as the Turtles, but with shark references.  Artistically, this show’s a mess.  The animation is terrible, the designs are dull, and there’s a weird Seinfeld-style riff that goes through the episode.  And what’s with the misplaced environmental message? “Jawsome?” No, far from it.

Biker Move from Mars
I feel like when this show was created, the writers tossed some dice in a box and went with what came up.  Biker Mice from Mars is about as basic a concept as you can get; The planet Mars is populated by mice people and was taken over by Plutarkians, which look like big fat bipedal fish.  They escape the planet on a ship that looks like a big motorcycle, crash on Earth, and make friends with an April-like repair garage owner.  The leader of the Plutarkians, which commanded the bikers’ ship to be shot down, is also somehow a huge business owner on Earth at the same time.  I’m not sure how that worked out, but whatever.  They’re on our planet trying to steal all the resources like they did on Mars, and somehow decided to start in Chicago.  I guess with all the other crap that goes on there no one would know what they’re doing?  There’s a bunch of terrible 80s references – the big bad of the episode is a total rip-off of the Terminator and they even crack a Turtles joke.  Have some respect, you young upstarts! 

Bucky O'Hare
Before I get started, I know Bucky O’Hare existed as a comic about 5 years before the Turtles comic even came out.  But if it weren’t for the Turtles’ cartoon, I don’t think Bucky would have ever made the step to animation.  Of all the cartoons to come in their wake though, I think this one is the best of the bunch.  It’s got a serious tone, in the middle of a war between the United Animals Federation and the Toad Empire, with much of the show’s humor coming from their foot soldiers.  Bucky pilots the ship, the Righteous Indignation, freeing slaves with his crew.  Bucky is a green hare and ace pilot, Deadeye Duck is their gunner that bears a huge resemblance to Daffy except he’s got 4 arms, and Jenny is a telekinetic cat. Where the story loses me though, is when their engineer is lost during a warp drive accident, they open a portal to Earth and recruit a nerdy kid to take his spot.  This show would have been way better if Earth wasn’t involved, in my opinion.

C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa
As soon as I started this show, I not only got that it was inspired by the Turtles but by Bravestarr as well.  In fact, not only is the main character played by the same guy that did Bravestarr’s voice (Pat Fraley), he’s using the same exact voice.  It’s a Wild West show that takes place on a different planet populated mostly by bipedal cows, though other humanized animals exist there.  The C.O.W.Boys follow the Code of the West – that’s why the COW is an acronym – which is something they repeat so many times in the first episode I got sick of it.  While we got no real intro to the Street Sharks, this show makes sure you know their names by singing a song that introduces them right after the intro song does.  While the story isn’t particularly bad, there’s nothing real special here, made worse if you had watched Bravestarr before it.

Road Rovers

If you looked at the other cartoons on this list, you’d notice most of these cartoons are pretty low-rent.  The animation’s adequate, the writing stale, the creativity almost non-existent, but you can’t really expect more than that because none of these are from big studios.  But what if someone like WB did one?  You’d get Road Rovers – a superhero cartoon about dogs that get superpowers and crack a whole lot of jokes.  Coming out around the same time as Animaniacs and Tiny Toons, this show obviously doesn’t take itself seriously.  Five dogs are summoned by a ghost or angel or something and are sent out to save the world from other dog-related crimes.  The characters are all stereotypes or imitations of celebrities, their powers are goofy, and the schemes they prevent are just kinda dumb.  But it’s what you expect from the studio that made Freakazoid.  It could have taken itself seriously like Disney’s Mighty Ducks, but I'm not sure anyone would have wanted that.

Monday, September 17, 2018

SepTMNTber - TMNT (2007)

When I found out the Turtles was going to be getting a brand new movie in 2007 and it would be fully computer animated, I was so stoked.  It had been probably fifteen or so years since I'd seen the Turtles - the original cartoon had finished its run after 9 seasons (of which I think I only watched about 5) and the Secret of the Ooze was the last movie I watched.  Keep in mind, I was clueless about the 2003 series.

So when this movie came out, I was so excited.  I saw it in theaters and once it came out on home video, I watched it on my first date with the woman who would become my wife.  Even if the movie sucked, it would still be special to me, but I'm glad I don't have to worry about that.  Going through college for a computer animation degree when this movie came out, I was totally ready to ditch the suits and get to an animated movie. 

The designs of the Turtles themselves are a little weird for me, with their faces being somehow flat, but the animation is pretty great.  I'm glad they decided to go the route of everything being animated instead of live-action with animated Turtles, like Transformers got the same year.  Man, what a year with two of my favorite cartoons from my childhood getting big screen movies.

The movie starts kinda where the 2003 series left off with Shredder defeated.  Without a big enemy to focus on, the Turtles start to drift apart.  Leonardo goes to Central America to finish his training, Raphael goes to patrolling the city for criminals every night, while Donnie and Mikey get actual jobs - Donnie's in tech support and Mikey does birthday parties as "Cowabunga Carl."

April, who is now living with Casey Jones and is an art dealer working for a billionaire named Max Winters, goes to collect a piece and convince Leonardo to return to his brothers.  After saving two citizens from a militia attack, Leo takes April's advice and goes back to New York.  Mikey and Donnie are excited to go back to defending the city, but Leo's immediately berated by Raph for leaving them.  Splinter forbids them to fight until they can do so as a team, but Raph leaves anyway.  Leo also finds out about the Nightwatcher, a vigilante who hunts criminals with extreme violence.

Meanwhile in April's side of the story, she brings Winters a statue, completing a set of 4 figures wearing animal-styled armor.  Winter brings the statues to life, revealing that they were four generals that had been turned to stone and he was their leader, the immortal warlord Yoatl.  With their return, a portal is opened that releases thirteen monsters into New York.  His plan involves capturing the monsters and opening a new portal that would remove their immortality, as he resents his eternal life.  The generals, having just returned to life, aren't keen on his plan and start to plot against him.

So here we are with two huge different stories and you might say Winters's part has nothing to do with anything in the Turtles' history.  There's never been South American demon generals or portals to any dimension besides X.  And to be honest, I love it. We're not rehashing previous stories here, telling a new story that fits the Turtles well without conflicting with other stories.  We still have the Foot Clan here, led by Shredder's adoptive daughter, Karai, but instead of hunting the Turtles, they're working with Winters to capture the beasts.

And here's where the Turtles come in - they're finally allowed to go out and patrol the city and they find a Sasquatch fighting against the Foot.  They're still not supposed to fight but Raph jumps in and the others follow.  It's a great fight scene, lots of action, and it's cool seeing them kick ass against this giant monster.

Raph and Leo fight some more, Raph takes off and Leo goes out looking for him but comes across the Nightwatcher.  After watching him fight another one of the monsters, Leo confronts the Nightwatcher for his violence ways, revealing him to be Raph in a not so amazing twist.  They have a brutal fight on the rooftop, which ends with Leo's swords broken and Raph moments away from killing him. 

Raph realizes what he's doing and runs away, which lets the Generals capture Leo, planning to use him in the place of the last monster and sabotaging Winters's plan.  The rest of the Turtles go to rescue their brother while April (who now knows ninjitsu as well, did I forget to mention that?) and Casey pair up with the Foot Clan to capture the last monster. 

Overall, I think this movie is fantastic.  The animation is great, the action is fast-paced, and I'm glad they ramped up the schism between Raph and Leo to its natural conclusion.  Originally, I wasn't a fan of seeing them always fighting going back to the first movie, if not the comic, but I've accepted it, so to see this final battle between them was pretty satisfying..

The voice cast is a mixed bag with some high points.  Max Winters is played by Patrick Stewart, Chris Evans pre-Captain America is Casey Jones, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays April.  For the longest time, I thought it was Freddie Prinze Jr as Casey, the couple playing together like in Scooby Doo.  The Turtles themselves are played by established voice actors, with Nolan North being the biggest name as Raph.  I'm really surprised they didn't stunt cast the Turtles, but I'm glad they didn't as their work was well done. Kevin Smith plays a weird cameo that I still don't understand the purpose of.  It does bring up a point that the humor in the movie is a little off.

If you're a fan of the Turtles, you owe it to yourself to watch this.  It's the last good Turtles movie we got, far superior to the newest movies.  Even though it goes in a completely different direction than the Turtles' have gone, I certainly prefer it to changing the stories we know like the Bay produced ones.

Friday, September 14, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

I'll admit, this show passed me by when it came out.  At the time, I was in the Air Force and working on my own creative projects and didn't have time to watch much in the way of cartoons, and what I did see was generally on Cartoon Network.  Still I caught some of the network shows.  I watched the new He-Man cartoon and a lot of the shows designed by Jeff Matsuda (The Batman, Jackie Chan Adventures), and my personal favorite of the lot, X-Men Evolution.  But somehow this new Turtles series just eluded me.

With the rest of SepTMNTber, I had to give it a watch and I decided to go the route of my Villain Retrospects and check out the first three episodes, just to get a taste of it without going down the Turtle hole, as it were.  And what I discovered is that I really missed out on a good show.

But first, let's talk about that horrible theme song.  For some reason they went against the trend of the early 2000's and had an actual intro song instead of some techno or orchestral music.  I think that was a huge mistake, especially as it had to compare to the far superior theme to the original cartoon.  I mean, why not just update that song?  Why not incorporate parts of it at the very least?  Instead we get "Turtles count it off!" whatever that means.  There's 4 Turtles, we get it, jeez.

Next, I'm looking at the art style, which definitely fits in with the more angular designs and darker colors of its era.   I love the fact that the Turtles took after their original toy designs and got different colored skin and shells.  It's such a cool touch that I wished could have been in the original.  Their white eyes remind me a bit too much of Batman, but it makes sense.  Batman's influence doesn't end there as so much of the show is bathed in black shadows, which suits the Turtles well since, you know, they're ninjas.

The Turtles all fit their respective attitudes, with Raph retaining the angry, rebellions personality, which has him fighting with Leo a lot.  Maybe someone that read the comics could tell me - was Raph always like this, or was it something they came up with for the first movie and everything else just kept it going?  Splinter remains almost the same as his previous incarnation except keeping the origin from the movie (or comics, I need to pick them up someday, but not for SepTMNTber).

April does go back to her comic role as Baxter Stockman's lab assistant, but her introduction to the Turtles remains the same - saved in the sewers, faints, etc.  She's lost the yellow jumpsuit but retains the red hair.  Baxter gets an update from the original cartoon, now he's confident to the point of arrogance, which I certainly prefer.  Shredder makes a few brief appearances in the three episodes I saw, but never in his bladed armor, only wearing a robe and issuing orders to his minions.

Voice work is pretty good, though I don't recognize any of them actors besides Michael Sinterniklaas, who plays Dean in the Venture Bros.  Overall, I think this entry in the Turtles' history shows great promise and I do plan to watch more of it.  I loved the art style, and that there seems to be an overarching story instead of just standalone episodes.  I wish I had caught it as it had come out because I missed a fantastic show that would have kept me hooked.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

After the success of the live-action TMNT movie, there was a whole slew of other live-action Turtle projects floating around.  One of the biggest (and definitely worst) was the Coming out of their Shell Tour rock show, which I will not be covering this month because I prefer to keep my sanity.  Another one came from the minds behind the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Haim Saban, and if you’ve ever seen a Power Ranger show, you still wouldn’t have a clue what was awaiting you.

Before I get into the show, I have to give some credit to the Turtle suits.  Obviously, they’re not going to be one the same level of quality as the movies. Their heads aren’t full of the servos and transceivers and mechanics to move their eyes or lips, but their mouths still move correctly.  The Turtles each wear different styles of bandannas and wraps to differentiate themselves more. Overall, these costumes look way better than those singing monstrosities.

Of course, the main thing anyone would notice when seeing anything about the show is Venus De Milo.  Yes, they made a fifth turtle and this one is female.  Frankly, I’m all for it.  I have no problem with them trying something new, and it made for some real interesting material instead of the same dynamic playing over and over again. 

The story starts with her and her master talking about an evil in another dimension trying to break into ours.  She’s inexperienced but when her master is killed, she finds the next master capable of combating this evil – Master Splinter.  When she meets the Turtles, they’re amazed that there’s another one of them alive, and besides being female, there’s one other difference between them and her.  She’s a Shinobi, a master of the mystic arts.

The Turtles find themselves in a position they had never been in before – rivals for a love interest.  Granted there was some competition for April’s attention, but it was never treated seriously in previous works.  We find out that Turtles aren’t actually related, brothers in the social sense but not biological.  It’s a new way to look at them that the creators go even further with in a later series.  Since they’re not related, none of them are related to Venus either, so she’s fair game, which is a terrible view on life, but whatever, at least it isn’t interspecies.

Of course, being an early Haim Saban series, being released around the same time as Power Rangers Turbo, the series was full of special effects but light on budget for them.  Venus’s shinobi powers were full of blurry sparkles and other effects that were just there to take up space.  It had its share of cheesy costumed monsters, as the Shredder (who looked pretty cool) is put out of commission early on and replaced with the Dragonlord, your typical Power Ranger-style monster.  There’s also plenty of new vehicles, with the Turtles receiving motorcycles and a flashy Turtle-themed Hummer.  I still miss the van though.

Speaking of Power Rangers, there’s a crossover with them!  I don’t think I need to watch it, but it’s interesting seeing the two series together.  Totally makes me wish for other crossovers.

Overall, from the handful of episodes I watched, I didn’t see any major problem with what they were doing.  It could have been loads better, of course, but there are so many ways it could have been worse as well.  I’d check it out for the novelty of it, but it’s not worth going through the whole series.