Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
August 14, 2018
(Channel Awesome and NC titles play)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. If you were to tell me back in 1987 that...
(Cut to a shot of...)
NC (vo): ...Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was still going to be around thirty years later, (a shot of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appears over the first image) after it first came on TV...
NC: ...six-year-old me goes, "YEAH!" Thirty-six-year old me goes, "What the hell's kinda wrong with us?"
(A shot of the Ninja Turtles from over the years is shown)
NC (vo): It's weird to think of all the comic book characters that had the lasting power of...
(Cut to a shot of the evolution of the cartoon version of...)
NC (vo): ...Batman, with tons of different incarnations over the years.
(Cut to a shot of the evolution of the Ninja Turtles)
NC (vo): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be one of the major ones.
(A photo of young Doug Walker dressed as Raphael for Halloween is shown, with the words "BAD ASS" appearing on it)
NC (vo): Even though I friggin' adored everything Turtle-related growing up...
(Cut to another evolution of the show's run over the years (movies included))
NC (vo): ...it is odd to think that a clear product of the late '80s and early '90s would lend itself to so many reboots and spinoffs, many of them still very popular.
(The intros for the 2003 and 2012 incarnations are shown)
NC (vo): While I can't say I've actively watched them, all I can say I kept taking a peek once in a while to see what they were up to.
NC (vo): Nickelodeon, after wrapping up a pretty popular run with their last take on the series, has rebooted the idea again with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Because everyone needs to be rising now for some reason.
(As NC says that, the logos for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Rise of the Guardians, Star Wars: Rise to Power, The Dark Knight Rises, Rise of the Argonauts, Rise of Nations: Extended Edition and Rise of the Planet of the Apes are shown)
NC (vo): Hell, they really wanted to make this modern, they call it (A picture of a kid sleeping in bed is shown) "The Sleeping in Past Noon Because Hell With Your Shit, It's the Goddamn Weekend".
NC: ..."of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".
NC (vo): Fans have been buzzing about their new design, new style and all-around new field. While the Turtles have certainly looked and acted different in the past, there was a definite spin on this version that seemed very unique, compared to the others. Nickelodeon was so confident in this new version that, like Disney did with the DuckTales reboot, they released the first episode on YouTube in late July, despire the show premiering mid-September. Will it win Turtle fans over? Can it suck in the newcomers? (Channel Awesome's YouTube profile is shown) Does anyone see YouTube videos they subscribe to if they didn't press that goddamn bell? The answer to all of these is pointlessly complicated, yet somehow simplistically dumb. And we're gonna look it over today.
NC: Let's take a look at Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
NC (vo): First, let's examine the intro.
(The opening to the show features the titular Turtles and their ally, April O'Neil, riding across the city in their van while fighting enemies. It is animated fluidly, and the action goes very fast)
Singer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...
NC: It's friggin' amazing.
NC (vo): Like Thundercats, X-Men, even original Ninja Turtles, amazing. This whole opening is done in one shot with no cuts, and the animation matches the incredible angles and energy throughout the whole thing.
NC: It's a freaking rush!
NC (vo): This is one of those intros you can watch over and over and slow down to see what you missed. (The intro slows down, and we see a Photoshopped shot of a woman silhouette in the window) Look, there's that naked lady from The Rescuers. Unlike the other versions, though, the song explains very little about who the Turtles are and even leaves out their origin.
NC: (nods, smiling) Get used to that.
(The pilot episode "Mystic Mayhem" starts with a dog-like creature running away from two men (one burly, the other tall) in the city)
NC (vo): As you see, the episode starts off by explaining...how'd that dude from UHF put it?
(A clip from said movie is shown)
Kuni (Gedde Watanabe): Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
(The men corner the creature, but he vanishes into thin air before they could catch him)
NC: Oh, yes. It gets stranger.
(As the night turns, the unnamed owner of the Molina Tower recieves a briefcase that starts glowing after it is opened)
NC (vo): We randomly cut to presumably a crime boss looking at the briefcase from Pulp Fiction.
(Cut to a clip of this film)
Vincent (John Travolta): Yeah, we happy.
(The Turtles are first shown, standing on top of the Molina Tower in the shadows. One of them, Donatello, shoots out the grappling hook, which clings to another building. The Turtles go down and...dive in the pool on top of the building)
NC (vo): We see our heroes in a half-shell watch this shady deal as they set up a grappling hook, cling on to the wire, swing right past the mob boss and cannonball into a pool.
NC: And if you're thinking like I was how funny it would be if we never see that crime boss again, (his expression changes to a look of sincerity) we never see that crime boss again. (Beat) Well, that is funny, but...Wha?..
(April O'Neil, who is shown as a Afro-American teenage girl, appears to film the moment on her phone, but gets soaked up in the water the Turtles splashed after diving)
NC (vo): Quickly, the tone of the show starts to reveal itself, as we look at the Turtles' designs and how they act. It looks like they kept some of the additions from the Bay-produced films...
(The audience boos, and a gun actually fires in NC's direction. NC manages to dodge)
NC: Oh, good additions! (dodges another gunshot)
NC (vo): ...as we see Donatello's tech gear, even down to his shell being half-robotic, Michelangelo having more of the silly goof-off look, and Raphael looking rough and...
(One later scene is shown, showing Raphael, a really muscular turtle with one sharp buck tooth peeking out when he's not talking, throwing Michelangelo's shell at the enemies)
Raph (Omar Benson Miller): Brother-ball!
NC: ...getting his name removed from the Guinness Sports Records.
NC (vo): What kind of shell-roids is he taking?! I mean, I like the idea of the Turtles being different sizes, but all of them are the exact same, except for him! He literally picks up Michelangelo with one hand and throws him at one point! (The Leatherhead from the original cartoon and Gummy Joe from The Simpsons season 4 episode "Last Exit to Springfield" are shown) Did he also steal a tooth from Leatherhead, or is that just to open soda easier?
NC: He's looking like Clay-Croc! (Pictures of Clayface and Killer Croc from Batman: TAS appear below)
(April is shown in various scenes)
NC (vo): We also get the one constant change in every Turtle property, April.
April (Kat Graham): (speaking in a typical "sassy black lady" voice) If you step to my friends for stepping to you for ste...stepping to me, you're gonna have to s...step to me.
(A collage of five versions of April O'Neil (the original comics, the 1987 cartoon, the 1990 and 2014 live-action movies, and the 2012 show) appears)
NC (vo): They've changed her so much in this franchise, Lando Calrissian is complaining about her to Darth Vader.
(A clip from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is shown with Lando Calrissian negotiating with Darth Vader)
Darth Vader (voiced by Doug): I have altered April again. Pray I do not alter her further.
Lando (voiced by Doug): This franchise is getting weirder all the time.
NC: But, their looks are fine as long as it matches their personality trait. Like Michelangelo...
Mikey (Brandon Mychal Smith): You must be (points at himself) this rad to ride that ride.
NC (vo): ...the party dude. Leonardo...
Leo (Ben Schwartz): (chuckles upon discovering two katanas) Oh, yeah!
NC: (shifts eyes in confusion) The party dude.
NC (vo): Raphael...
Raph: (dives into the portal) Cannonball!
NC: ...the party dude...
NC (vo): ...and Donatello, the machine guy.
NC: Note: also a party dude.
Donnie (Josh Brener): Based on our velocity and entry angle, I concur: we rad!
NC (vo): Well...that's incredibly odd. At least April is there to act as...
April: (after the Turtle dive into a pool) You guys crushed it! Give me five...
Mikey: Yeah! (high-fives April)
April: Or three.
NC: (shrugs) ...a party dude?
(The clips from the 1987 show play out to compare and contrast)
NC (vo): Okay, I'll admit, it's not like the Turtles were the most fleshed-out of characters. But in terms of their personality, you could still tell them apart. Despite them looking identical except for their mask colors, you still knew who would say what in a situation.
NC: For example, who's this?
(The 1987 show's official art is shown as the audio clips are heard)
Leo (Cam Clarke): (audio) Why don't we just find these ninja thieves for her? And perhaps she could help us find a cure for Splinter's condition.
NC: (as the clip of Leo saying this line is shown) That's the ground of responsibility, Leonardo. Who's this?
Raph (Rob Paulsen): (audio) Bingo. Yeah, we're dealing with a real mind here.
NC: (the clip of Raph is followed) That's the wisecracking cynicism of Raphael. Who's this?
Mikey (Townsend Coleman): (audio) Rock, dudes! It's a place where we can get some pizza!
NC: (as the footage of Mikey is shown) That's the totally baked, dim-witted charm of Michelangelo. Now, let's try it with the other Turtles. Who's this?
(The 2018 show's art appears as the voice clips play out)
Donnie: (audio) Teriyaki Shakedown always gets me so... (inhales) jazzed!
NC: Well, that...sounds like the goofiness of Michelangelo...
(The clip from the episode "Origami Tsunami" is shown with Donnie saying this line)
NC: Oh, nope. It's Donatello. How about this?
Leo: (audio) What? I can't make a joke in the middle of the craziest thing ever? That's how I cope.
NC: Well, that also sounds like the goofiness of Michelangelo...
(The clip of Leo saying this follows)
NC: Oh. It's Leonardo. How about this?
Mikey: (audio) Let's go bungee dunk on the hoops at Rucker Park.
NC: Well, I'm...just gonna go against the grain and say that's Raphael...
(The footage reveals itself)
NC (vo): Oh, that's Michelangelo!
NC: See a problem?
NC (vo): Don't get me wrong. The voice acting is good, and they have great delivery. I can tell them apart just by the vocals.
NC: But in terms of the personality, there's little to no difference.
NC (vo): Some have even said that they switched the leadership roles of having Raph as the leader instead of Leo, but after seeing four of these episodes, I couldn't tell you who the leader is, because they're all exactly alike! And if you're wondering why they're not going to their backstory, series' villains or...honestly, any character, it's because this show is taking a very similar route as Teen Titans Go. The focus is more on jokes and silliness, rather than consistent storytelling.
NC: (facepalms with both hands) And yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds to demand consistent storytelling from something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that was always kind of part of their charm.
(More clips from the original cartoon are shown)
NC (vo): Even though it was dumb, it was still an action series, too. And you can't be that into the action if you're not that into the story or characters.
(Back to the recent animated incarnation)
NC (vo): Teen Titans Go has a very similar problem, but don't worry, we'll get into that in a few weeks. (The title card for the upcoming Old vs. New review is shown) For this, however, there's a great irony that the action is harder to get invested in, because...
NC: ..honestly, it's some of the best action the shows have ever had!
(The Turtles and April discover the creature from the beginning at the construction site, but they are confronted by the duo that was chasing after it. The duo is revealed to be aliens from another planet, and the Turtles fight them)
NC (vo): Watch to see what I'm talking about, as we get back to the story with April and the Turtles coming across Pac-Man's furry here. The two henchmen turn into bug aliens riding their dogs as steeds. And the action...just kinda starts without knowing what these two guys' personalities are.
NC: Look at them! Don't you wanna know more about these two weirdos?
NC (vo): It not only would make the comedy funnier seeing their unique personas work off of the Turtles, but we'd be more invested in the fight itself.
NC: Can you imagine fighting Bebop and Rocksteady without establishing them at all?
(The 1987 series' antagonists are shown: Shredder, Krang, Leatherhead, Mondo Gecko, Baxter Stockman)
NC (vo): Or the Shredder, or Krang, or any number of mutants that they fight over the shows? It was silly, but it was fun, because we knew these guys so well and so quickly. Even the most throwaway villains had a distinct personality always attached to them.
(Back to the current show)
NC (vo): Here, it's bad guys with no personality versus five characters with...only one personality. Therefore, it's not nearly as funny.
NC: But, with that said... (waves his head) It is kind of funny.
NC (vo): There are some good one-liners and deliveries throughout the fights, ones that get a really hard laugh.
Buff Guardsman (Fred Tatasciore): ...with or without your fake nerd voices.
Donnie: That was actually my real voice.
Raph: Well, you better get intimidated!
Donnie: What's wrong with my voice?
(The duo transforms into bugs riding on big dogs)
Leo: So...you guys from Jersey?
NC: These are good jokes, but they're not personality-based. Anyone of those characters could say those lines and get a laugh.
(The fight sequence is shown to demonstrate the fluidity of the animation during this)
NC (vo): But again, the animation is crazy amazing, and those jokes do get legitimate laughs. Like, I love this random pizza boy who just falls into an evil portal mid-fight.
(Just as said, everybody stops fighting as the delivery boy, riding his bike, falls into a portal that appeared in the brick wall previously)
Mikey: Ah! Good to know.
(The guardsmen capture the creature, and April manages to jump into the portal in the wall to save it, but the Turtles don't make it)
NC (vo): April gets sucked in, too, along with Wolverine's build-a-bear, and the Turtles have to figure out a way to follow them.
Raph: Hey, April! Are your bits on the other side of the wall?
NC: Well, if it was Megan Fox, probably, but... (realizes) Oh! Oh, oh! By bits, you meant...Oh, God, I'm sorry! I thought you were talking about...uh... (gets uncomfortable) I think this is a good spot for a commercial.
(And we go to a commercial. After coming back, we are first shown Master Splinter in the Turtles' lair, who is shown as a fat rat, watching his favorite show and eating chips. Yeah, there's a big contrast here)
NC (vo): So we're introduced to Master Splinter, who...
(Splinter loudly laughs at his sons' request to open his cabinet)
NC: ...is the Tasmanian Devil?
NC (vo): ...Who also calls his adopted sons by their colors...like what parents of kids who like Ninja Turtles do.
Splinter (Eric Bauza): (coughs) And I thought purple was the funny one!
(NC nods slowly with a smile)
NC: I'm just hoping he's playfully joking around the same way (pictures of...) Iroh or Yoda does, and he reveals that he's actually very wise...
(A clip from the following episode is shown briefly)
Splinter: Someday, you will be great ninjas...is something I would say if I were a liar.
NC: (smiling forcibly) Nope. He's kind of an asshole.
Raph: We can be heroes like Lou Jitsu!
Splinter: (chuckles) Nice try.
NC (vo): Man, if he was kidnapped like in the movies, I'd be more than happy to bring down the rat poison.
(Back to the pilot: Mikey sees an M letter carved on the wall and recalls that Splinter has an amulet with a similar letter on it)
Mikey: Hey, I've seen this before! In Splinter's do-not-touch cabinet.
(The Turtles go back to their lair)
Raph: We gotta get Splinter out of the room.
NC (vo): I don't even get it. Why don't they just say they need the device to save April?
Leo: And what do we say if he asks why we want it? That we need it to go after our best friend who disappeared into a wall?
NC: ...Yeah, that! Th-th...yeah!
(After a few minutes, Splinter falls asleep on his chair, and Leo snatches the amulet out of the cabinet. They use it to open up a brick wall, and they enter a parallel dimension inhabited by strange creatures and monsters and reunite with April there)
NC (vo): Leo steals it, though, when Splinter's asleep, and they use it to get to Dimension Eh.
April: Over here.
(The Turtles and April hug...for only a second)
NC (vo): They find April, they hug, and then they merely just talk about where they are.
April: ...and we're in a mystic hidden city, deep under New York!
NC: It's the relationships that's the heart of the show.
(We see the lair of Baron Draxum (voiced by John Cena), a mutant Yōkai warrior and "Maker of Mutants", who captured the dog-like creature and the pizza guy, on whom he conducts a mutation first. The Turtles come across a wall that has their trademark weapons hanging on it, and they happily take them)
NC (vo): It turns out they're under New York, where a villain named Baron Draxum plans to turn people into mutants using the ooze in mosquitoes. They happen to find magic weapons exactly like theirs... (The picture of the Turtles' action figures is shown) except I'm sure they'll cost more at the toy store...and they tell Baron to give back their Simpson-Momo.
Raph: Stop creating imitation crab-men...um... (tries to think)
Donnie: Oh, this is getting old. (Leo laughs)
Mikey: (overlapping Donnie) And a ride home, and a limo with a hot tub, and pizza!
Raph: ...and you'll walk outta here.
Draxum: (mesmerized by the Turtles) You're... (gets teary-eyed) beautiful.
NC: (after a beat) So...how progressive is this version?
(The Turtles and April fight Draxum and his mutants, which again proves the animation works in these kinds of sequences)
NC (vo): Once again, they have a fight sequence, and...well, it's friggin' amazing. I can't believe how good this animation is. It's like (shot from...) Kill la Kill fighting against the Turtle toy boxes. It's beautiful to look at!
(Donnie's spinning high-tech bo flies at the mutant)
Donnie: No, no, no, no, no, no! Look out, guys!
(The bo hits the mutant on the head and explodes)
Draxum: Accidentally impressive.
NC: You're talking about two words that sum up this show perfectly.
(Draxum shoots the web fluid out of his hands, capturing April and the Turtles. Mikey and Donnie are in the one web)
Mikey: (rubbing Donnie's face) We don't spend enough quality time together. (makes a kissy face)
Donnie: Oh, please not now, Mikey.
NC: Okay, you know there's gonna be enough slash art of you guys. You don't need to fuel the fire.
(Draxum's gigantic mutation contraption blows up, and a boulder falls on him. The dog-like creature manages to teleport from his cage to the Turtles and April, getting them out of Draxum's lair by teleportation, and they return back to the surface)
NC (vo): Draxum's machine falls apart, destroying...ish him... (A snippet of the intro which shows Draxum is shown briefly) Future episodes!...and the Muppet Minion teleports everyone out, making you wonder why he just didn't teleport out before. Oh, my God.
NC: Am I applying logic to this show? (slaps himself on the hand)
(As everyone falls after returning, Mikey lets go of the amulet, which breaks apart)
Mikey: Oh, no! Splinter's doohickey!
NC: Oh, no! Who cares? Characters don't mean shit. Just name your pet.
April: You sure were good through all that mayhem. Hey, Mayhem! That's a cute name.
NC: Oh, and...yourselves, I guess.
(They dramatically pose as the shot goes dark, and the lightning forms a caption "Mad Dogs")
Raph: We deserve a name like..."Mad Dogs"!
Leo: (going back to his usual color) "Mad Dogs"? You don't think something like "Mutant Ninja Turtle Teens" or...I don't know. Maybe we'll keep brainstorming.
NC: I mean, think about the European market. "Hero" might be better than "Ninja".
(Because the stone wall wasn't closed, Draxum's mosquitoes fly above the city, making our characters really uncomfortable, and they flee. The episode ends on that)
NC (vo): But, oh, no! A bunch of the mosquitoes get out, and...eh, it's over 22 minutes. We'll just get them next time.
NC: And by "next time", I mean...not in the next four episodes.
NC (vo): Yeah, the following episodes never address this, again focusing on more wacky comedy than continuing plot.
(The end of the YouTube video of the pilot plays briefly, showing Raph's voice actor, Omar Benson Miller, addressing the audience)
NC (vo): This one just ends with the voice actor asking us to give our thoughts.
Omar Benson Miller: Alright, comment below. Let us know your thoughts.
NC: (waves hands around, slowed down voice) NOOOOOOOO! (normal) How long has YouTube been around?! You should know better! It's like asking (picture of...) Gollum his opinion on the Ring! Some things, you just don't do!
(The footage of the other episodes posted on Nick.com at the time of this review's release is shown)
NC (vo): Since the other episodes are on Nickelodeon's site, I won't go into too much detail about them, as I'm sure they're building up for the September premiere.
NC: But I will say...they're roughly the same thing.
NC (vo): The times are cut in half to 11 minutes, there's usually some problem or foe that they have to overcome, and they use action and/or jokes to overcome it. Like I said, there's no one main villain, or much of a continuing story, or even continuity. Mutants, for example, just seem to exist in this world. One (Todd Capybara) owns a puppy farm while another (Repo Mantis) owns a junkyard...
NC: It...isn't very clear how this world works, but again, I think that's kind of the point.
NC (vo): It'll be interesting to see if they want to take this the same direction as Adventure Time or Steven Universe, where there's silly nonsense mixed in with slow, building drama. If that's the idea, though, there is no sign of it yet. And I kind of argue there shouldn't be. Even in their goofiest episodes, their characters are very well defined in those shows, so we relate to them very easily and know what they're going through when the tough stuff happens. But, like I said before, everyone in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is exactly the same character. The only difference is a slight addition of some cliches, like Raph might say a tough stereotype, Don might say a geeky stereotype, April might say a sassy stereotype, and Splinter might say an old stereotype.
NC: So the best way I can describe this show is...enjoyably frustrating.
NC (vo): There is a lot to be impressed by, some of it the most impressive in any incarnation of the Ninja Turtles. The action, amazing. The designs, colorfull and unique. The comedy, sometimes awkward, but other times, hugely hilarious. If they wanted to go for just zany jokes like Ren and Stimpy or SpongeBob, I'm open to that. But if they wanted to add an action angle as well as make memorable characters, there has to be a better understanding of who's being portrayed and the environment they're being portrayed in.
(The official arts for Gravity Falls and Star vs. the Forces of Evil are shown)
NC (vo): Shows like Gravity Falls or Star vs. the Forces of Evil are silly. But Mabel is going to be a different kind of silly than Grunkle Stan. Star is gonna have the different kind of energy than Marco. That's why we like them and that's why we're with them both through so much goofiness and so much drama. But these characters have little variety.
NC: The best example I can think of of how well this can work is in The Simpsons.
(The clip from The Simpsons season 5 episode "Rosebud" is shown, with the titular family discussing the matter of Mr. Burns' childhood toy, the teddy bear Bobo, in their kitchen)
NC (vo): The family has something Mr. Burns wants, and Marge says that they can get a decent price for it, and then make him double it. Everyone looks at her shocked, as she says, "Why can't I be greedy once in a while?"
NC: That only works because it's Marge, because you know her character.
NC (vo): That wouldn't have worked if Bart said it, or Homer said it, or Nelson said it, or Barney said it. It has to be the unique character they designed for only her.
(Back to the Rise of the TMNT)
NC (vo): If this show wants to last and stand out, it has to have characters as definable as these characters.
NC: But, truth be told, I think it can.
(The show's clips continue playing as NC gives his opinion on it based on the first five episodes)
NC (vo): There are some good laughs, some fun ideas and some incredible animation, and I think it should all be utilized as best as possible. While it has a clunky start, it's a start with promise. But there are promises that could ironically use a little more limitation in some areas and a little more expansion in others. Given the right tuning, this could be a very fun and unique show. I don't know what's next for the Ninja Turtles, whether this has a long future or a short future ahead of it, but I hope it plays to its strengths, sharpens its dull edges and turns out a show worthy of the surprisingly long-lasting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle name.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)
Channel Awesome tagline - Raph: Hey, April! Are your bits on the other side of the wall?