Friday, October 5, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Episode One Impressions

When Nickelodeon showed an early sneak peek of their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series in early 2011, I was genuinely concerned with the direction they were taking the show. No, I wasn’t concerned that this show would be “ruining my childhood” for some stupid reason. The first teaser video featured both Donatello and Michelangelo with new weapons. The concern came from the fear that the series would try changing things in the Turtles mythos simply for the sake of change. That said, I still managed to keep an open mind and give the series premiere a fair chance this past Saturday.

Once the episode was done, any concern I had went away.

I’ll be upfront with you; I thought this premiere was excellent. It felt like the show took the best parts of both the 1987 series and the 2003 series and combined them to create a great blend of comedy and serious action. Surprisingly, the hybrid manages to work very well.

Visually, the show works very well. The main part of the show uses 3D animation with some occasional 2D animation. Keeping in mind that this is a TV show, the 3D models look very nice. Every turtle has their own unique look beyond their mask color. Their skin even has their own skin patterns that add a nice layer of detail to the turtles’ looks. The set pieces also have a level of detail, when needed. That said, it did seem odd that the streets New York City appeared very baron. I know it’s supposed night time, but the emptiness of the city streets came across as odd. The 2D animation is mainly used for some reaction lines, similar to what you would see in a comic book or an anime. They’re a nice touch. In addition, the fight scenes themselves were all a lot of fun to watch. The fluid animation allows some really good fight choreography. Overall, the show looks great.

Story wise, the episode did a nice job of dividing time up to let each turtle shine. It allowed the viewer to know who each turtle is and what their personality is like. The episode also had a really nice progression of showing the turtles talking a big step in their lives and exploring the world outside of the sewers. The fact that they weren't automatically great at team combat was a nice way of showing the turtles growing in skill that felt natural. Dialogue wise, the show had some genuinely funny moments that were actually pretty clever. I especially liked the joke about how a human named "Snake" didn't mutate into a snake. I enjoy 4th wall breaking, but not actually breaking the 4th wall, jokes like that.

They made some interesting choices in regard to the show's cannon so far. The most notable change is that April O'Neil is a teenager in this version, around the same age as the turtles. This allowed they show to have a possible romance story line between her and one of the turtles. April is the only aspect of this show I'm wary of right now, but I have a feeling that's mainly due to my familiarity with the previous versions of TMNT. She'll probably grow on me in the future.

What really surprised me is how the Turtles never made any interaction with the Foot Clan. At all. Shredder and company are still in Japan. Remember Krang from the '87 series? Well, he's back but instead of one Krang, the turtles had to fight a whole army of Krang. They were the villains in this episode and were presented as a legitimate threat to the city. Their design is really awesome as well. Those things look downright freaky! I love the idea of the turtles fighting multiple Krang using alien technology. It’s a nice difference from the previous shows.

Finally, there’s the theme song. Initially, I was cautious towards it because it featured rapping. That said, I really enjoy listening to this song. Similar to Power Rangers Samurai with the original Power Ranger theme, the theme song is based on the original TMNT opening song. It’s a nice remix.

Overall, I was really surprised with how good this episode was. The show feels like it was made by people who care about this franchise and wanted to make a genuinely good product. So far, it’s working. After one episode, Nickelodeon has already ordered a second season. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I would recommend that you give it a chance, regardless if you’ve watched the previous shows or not. It won’t “ruin” the turtles and it certainly won’t “ruin” you childhood. I can always appreciate a show where crew put some honest effort it to crafting something great. It’s a show that’s both familiar and unique enough to make you say cowab-, er, I mean “Booyakasha!”

Official Nickelodeon show page

The show's opening (karaoke version):

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