Rise of the TMNT: The Most Fearsome Fighting Team?…
On July 20th, Nickelodeon premiered the latest addition to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, Rise of the TMNT. The premiere showcased five 11-minute episodes, giving us our first look at the newest reincarnation of the Turtles. I have been a huge fan of TMNT since my early years watching the ’80s/’90s cartoon and getting my grubby hands on the original comic. I have been excited about the new show and looked forward to reviewing it for months now. So, let’s not waste any time. Let’s get shell-shocked and rocked by some incredible mutant teens!
This is a bit difficult since I am reviewing a chunk of episodes instead of one. So, I am going to focus on the first episode, “Mutant Mayhem,” in this section because it presents the overarching storyline of the season.
*You might want to scroll down to the next section if you’re avoiding spoilers.*
In “Mutant Mayhem” we are introduced to the four Turtles and their human friend April O’Neal. While the group was having a good time on the rooftops, Raphael spots a strange “dog thingie” creature running away from two goons. When the Turtles try to help the dog thingie out, they end up completely outmatched by the goons (who shifted into giant mutant warriors). They damage their traditional weapons in the process, making them incapable of stopping the goons from taking the dog thingie through a portal. The Turtles and April follow suit, finding a magical fortress and hidden city under NYC. The ruler of the city is Baron Draxum, a creature obsessed with making the perfect warrior via rapid mutation. Through mostly good luck and clumsiness, the Turtles find new magic weapons, blow up the fortress, and escape. However, a swarm of green-goo-filled mosquitoes called “Oozesquitos” also escape.
The Oozesquitos begin to infect random strangers around the city with mutant ooze, becoming the origin for the mutant villains the Turtles fight in the later episodes.
Cowabunga Means Family
To grade writing, you have to keep in mind what the show is aiming for. Rise of the TMNT is an action comedy and it does its job. The humor lands well and the lines are delivered with good timing. The script is just fun in its delivery and dripping with banter, which reminds me of the ’80s cartoons. Considering that Rob Paulsen is the voice director, I am not too surprised by this form of acting. The cast constantly finds themselves in an action-packed battle. However, what I really like is how the focus of the show is their relationships.
The Turtles not only act and sound like actual teens, but they feel like a family. When Donatello calls Michelangelo “Michael” inside of the usual “Mikey,” he feels like the cooler older brother. The Turtles and April constantly pose and hang off each other in their own individual ways. Little bits like that are sprinkled throughout the show and it is a delight to see the characters interact with each other.
Same Old Same New
It is impressive how they managed to change so many things but still have the same old Turtles. Leonardo is no longer the leader of the team and is now a dad-joke-infused wisecracker. However, he is still the responsible and supportive brother. He gives suggestions, keeps the team encouraged and tries to keep things at a certain level of sanity. Donatello is more confident and maybe a bit darker than usual. However, he is still the smarter Turtle and his confidence acts as coverage for insecurities we have seen in other versions.
Raphael is still “fist first” and crude, but being a leader gives him a sense of responsibility that makes him less of a loner type. Michelangelo is the party dude, but his immaturity has changed from the hyper to a little brother-like sensibility. He is dimmer and distracted because he is younger, not because he is…well…Mikey. It’s a nice change and my only gripe is that we didn’t get a lot out of him in these eps. April is a nosy, hard-headed troublemaker that reminds me of her trench-coat counterpart, but in a new light. She also useful and clever, like other past versions of April, and an active part of the team.
There is a lot of old and new here and I think it can really turn into something.
Writing on the Wall
In summary, the writing had great action, humor, and character potential. The only real downside is that the TMNT premiere was very episodic. Besides the mutants, these eps felt like one-offs. The narrative itself left me a bit wanting because we did not get more on Hidden City. Then there is also Splinter.
I’ve been around the internet. I know that some fans are disappointed in what little we have seen in Splinter. He is abrasive, and a bit mean to his sons, but I really think that there is more to that, to be revealed as the overarching plot develops. I couldn’t help but notice that Nickelodeon skipped a B part or two in the premiere, telling me that there are things that they are not ready for us to see yet. Considering that many shows like Steven Universe, Ducktales, and Star vs. the Forces of Evil started out similarly, I think it is safe to prep our conspiracy hats and hope for a wild ride.
I am truly in love with the animation in this show. In Rise of the TMNT, the action scenes are crazy, crisp, and smooth. The style pops and has a lot of urban flavor, which is perfect for the city environment. The “jumpy-head style” during dialogue reminds me a lot of Motorcity, which was also a great, stylish, action cartoon. There was a punch to every action and absurd details to every movement. Leo does an epic fail in the first episode that is truly beautiful in its construction and impact. Let me drill that in for you: a character almost killed himself via clumsiness and it was art. I can’t wait to see more and witness how far they can take it.
I Love Being A Turtle (Fan)
In conclusion, I really like what we are seeing so far from Rise of The TMNT. There is room for improvement for certain characters and in the episode structure. However, though there seems to be a “monster of the week” formula at first, I do have hope that there is a juicier story waiting to be told. I know there are going to be some TMNT fans who will have their opinions, but I am looking forward to future adventures. The first five episodes are still up on the Nickelodeon site, so check it out yourselves.