Almost 4 years ago, I spent the entire month of September reviewing nearly every piece of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to hit the small and big screen. I started with the original cartoon, through the movies, the various other series (including that horrid live-action one), and finally ended with the premier of their newest show - Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
It didn't go well. After watching the first few episodes, I had a lot of good to say about the show, but a lot of bad as well. The show's biggest feature was its incredible animation. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the art style, I didn't hate it - I did like Transformer's: Animated, which was a huge departure from the previous shows. It changed the Turtles' weapons, relationships, and even their fighting style, giving them a strong mystical background, all of which I found pretty interesting. I gave up after a few episodes though due to the constant jokes, the similar voices, and the stupidest Ninja Turtles villain ever, Warren Stone, a worm newscaster with blond hair. It was a low point to go out on for my SepTMNTber series.
But things changed a few months ago when I found the series again on Netflix. I started it up again out of boredom and my entire view of the show changed. I found myself drawn into the evolving story of the Turtles and Splinter's history, finding out Splinter is literally the Turtles' father. I got sucked into that animation, which only got better as the show got on. I learned to tell the difference between the Turtles even and found that Donatello was easily my favorite. I went through the first season in a few weekends and even started a second viewing since that's the only thing Netflix had.
And then I find out they're making a movie. I didn't know what to think of it since I hadn't finished the series, but the trailer was goddamned beautiful. They finally called themselves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with flashy mystic animation! It was awesome! I waited for the show to come out with plans to watch it immediately.
And holy crap was it worth the wait!
First, I was surprised to see some of the changes that took place between the last episode I watched and the movie. First, the Turtles' weapons were updated to match the originals: Mikey had his nunchucks, Leo got his twin swords, and Raph got his sais, all with the mystic powers they gained at the beginning of the series. Their looks changed a bit too and now they have black wraps on their arms and legs. It's a good look for them and gives them some commonality even with their different turtle-y markings.
Anyway onto the story. In the future, the Foot Clan releases the Krang, an alien race that subjugates the world. The Turtles lead the meager resistance, but only Leo and Mike survive, with Casey Jones as their protege. At the last minute, Mikey uses his mystic powers to open a portal and Leo sends Casey back in time to stop the invasion. It's a great set-up, but the movie speeds through this part so fast but I'd love to have seen more, like what happened to Raph and Donnie.
In the present, Leo is far from the leader he's made out to be later. He butts heads with Raph in a mirror of their relationship in almost every series that's come before. His refusal to take anything serious allows the Krang to be released in the present and for the team to lose Raph. The loss hits him hard and he goes too far to compensate, taking charge but not being a team player, and the rescue mission for Raph goes just as bad.
It's your typical coming-of-age, rising-to-greatness story and it's done really well. Leonardo's transition is played perfectly, leading to Casey Jones saying he's nothing like the Master Leonardo that he admired in the resistance. He steps up his game, becomes the leader that he's always been before, and makes the plan to save Raph and send the Krang's Technodrome back to their home dimension.
And yeah, this movie has a fair share of if it's callbacks. Krang is back, this time the name of the race (instead of the Utroms they've been called before), and made up of three tentacled brain creatures. There's a lot of squishy, creepy body horror here, though, that's for sure. Seriously, when they start taking over the Foot Soldiers, it's pretty gross. The Technodrome is their main base of operation, but it's basically just a spaceship made of that same purple goop, and everything's covered in big eyeballs.
I'm not going to spoil how the movie ends, but I can say I've replayed the last 20 minutes about 3 times now and I'm all tears every time. It's beautifully written, animated, and acted, and I freaking love it. Everyone gets their own bad-ass moment - Did you ever think you'd see Mikey throw a building at someone?!
This movie has quickly become one of my favorites. It's not perfect - the pacing in the first 30 minutes is way too fast so they can get to the final battle - but man is it GOOD. It's an excellent send-off for a fantastic series that I totally screwed up skipping out on four years ago. Now I just need to watch that second season!