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Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": They're Baaaaaaaaack!

So they’re trying yet another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show.  Everything old is new, and old, and new again.  I guess we’ve hit that point in pop culture where recycling is itself recycled.

Well, at least we have a good show for the effort, one that easily stands aside its predecessors without being a pure facsimile.  Short back story first, not like most everyone here doesn’t know:

There are four brothers, Michelangelo(orange), Leonardo(blue), Donatello(purple) and Raphael(red), who happen to be mutated pet shop turtles.  They’ve been training for many years in various weapons-based martial arts under the tutelage of Splinter, a man mutated into a giant rat by the same substance that mutated the turtles.  Pretty much all of that has been consistent through all of the properties versions, save some slight differences in Splinter’s origin.

This time we meet our heroes on the half-shell as they turn fifteen. It’s their first shot at leaving the sewers they’ve lived in their whole lives, and wouldn’t ya know it, their first visit to the outside world results in them stumbling into a plot involving kidnapping a bunch of scientists around the greater New York City area for purposes unknown.  This plot mechanism also introduces us to one of the other major characters in the Turtle-verse: Miss April O’Neil, who has been recast as the teenage daughter of one of the kidnapped scientists. Oh, and the Shredder also shows up, sorta.  There’s a lot of different plot points put in motion by end of the pilot episode between the turtles themselves, the Shredder, and the people-type things kidnapping the scientists.  The turtles manage to find themselves knee deep in whatever’s going on when they stumble upon April and her dad being kidnapped, despite their lack of experience proving to be a major hindrance against a very-well organized foe.

The new turtles behave pretty much like the old ones, right down to the brotherly feuding.  Raphael in particular is a bit more of a jerk this time, but he has his soft side to. Splinter is also a bit different in this go around, but it works.  The animation is an interesting look.  The characters themselves have a fairly claymated look to them with some bits of wild-take overlaid on them.  The backgrounds are fairly generic overall, but they get the job done.  All of the action is very well choreographed, nothing sticks out from that standpoint, so kudos to the animation and production crew for taking the time to do it right. Interesting lack of any kind of street traffic though. It’s New York City, like there’s ever a street where there isn’t traffic, or a residential street where someone wouldn’t at least call the cops on a car crash, or someone firing off laser weapons in the street.  I know it seem like an odd complaint, but for a show that’s definitely done a lot of work to ensure that things feel realistic, it sticks out.  So does a slight physics error involving Donatello and a helicopter, but that’s a lesser issue.  The voice actors all do a wonderful job infusing each character with life.  Of course it helps having Andrea Romano as the director and actors like Rob Paulsen and Jason Biggs in the cast.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with this one, even at the expense of running over nostalgia.

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