Movie Review: Turtles Forever
The recent news of the sale of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property to Nickelodeon has sent many TMNT fans into a tailspin. What will happen to our favorite Turtles without either of the original creators (Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird) at the helm? I suppose we won't know for sure until Nick releases a new show, but many of us miss the Turtles already. TMNT needs an appropriate send-off to effect a transition from the old to the new. Does Turtles Forever fit the bill?
The concept behind this movie is that all TMNT incarnations exist in a Turtle Multiverse a la Crisis on Infinite Earths. The G1 Cartoon Shredder and Krang mistakenly send the Technodrome and its contents (which include the G1 Cartoon Turtles) to the 200x Turtles dimension. There, the G1 and 200x Turtles work together to stop the Technodrome from causing all sorts of havoc. G1 Shredder, realizing that he's hopelessly outnumbered, frees 200x Shredder from his icy encasement in space. 200x Shredder quickly realizes the advantages of the Technodrome technology and seizes it for himself from the comparatively incompetent G1 Shredder and Krang. He wants to destroy all Turtles, everywhere, by seeking out the ultimate source of the Turtles: a dimension right from the Mirage Comics called Turtle Prime. The Turtles of three dimensions have to band together to stop the Shredder from destroying reality!
That's all well and good, but how does the movie sit with Turtle nerds like me? Let's break out the analysis by generation:
The 200x characters understandably take the lead. I've always thought that the 200x storyline is the strongest of any Turtle incarnation, and its Shredder is the most diabolical of all the Shredders, so it's understandable that their universe would stand as the basis of the movie. (That, and the 200x Turtles are the only ones that today's kids would know.) The only weird thing with these guys is that the character designs are somewhat inconsistent: the Back to the Sewer style Casey and April are co-mingling with the Fast Forward style Turtles. It's not a biggie, though.
I've never been a huge fan of Hun, but the character undergoes a pretty cool transformation in this movie that's definitely worthy of an action figure.
G1 Cartoon TMNT
The original cartoon Turtles were over-the-top silly in the original cartoon, and the personalities of the G1 Turtles in this movie follow suit. Similarly, the G1 Shredder and Krang were over-the-top incompetent, as they are in this movie. Some fans might balk that the G1 characters in this movie are over-the-top in their over-the-topness, and that's probably true, but I'm cool with it.
It's awesome to see the G1 Cartoon characters animated so well. The animation of the original cartoon was spotty at best, so this is probably the best they've ever looked. And it's fun to juxtapose the goofy personalities of the G1 Turtles with today's Turtles.
There are many tributes to the old show for fogies like me. Stay frosty and you can see Erma, Ninja Pizza, Tokka, and Razar. One other thing: I need a Mutant Banana action figure. Seriously.
Mirage Comic TMNT (Prime)
The climax of the movie occurs in the Turtle Prime universe and as expected, there are many homages to first Mirage comic. Not only is the style of the Turtles indicative of the first issue, but also some of the dialog is lifted straight from the comic. But the coolest thing is that some shots are identical to those in the original comic. You'll see the street shot from page 9, the iconic cover shot, and the Turtle group shot on pages 2 and 3, among others.
The Prime Turtles are grim, exhibiting the Frank Miller-esque personalities indicative of the first issue. In later issues of the Mirage comic the Turtles lightened-up considerably, which might make some fans say that the Prime Turtles in the movie are caricatures of the comic. But remember that the Turtles were all business in the first issue, exhibiting no personality other than the grim internal dialog.
My biggest geekgasm happened during the scene in which 200x Shredder calls up dozens of viewscreens displaying Turtles from other dimensions. You can see artwork from many of the coolest and most legendary TMNT artists over the decades: Jim Lawson, Eric Talbot, Michael Dooney, Michael Zulli (from issue 31), Mark Martin (from issue 16), and even Lesean (from the short-lived Dreamwave series). It's worth a DVD rental just to pause that scene and check out the other dimensions.
And, not to spoil anything, but the final scene is a heart-felt nod to Kevin and Peter.
Turtles Forever is a great tribute to the cross-generational TMNT multiverse, and a perfect send-off for the property as it transitions into a new era. The movie is a Turtle nerd's dream, conglomerating a lot of the stuff that's cool about the different generations of Turtles into one big bowl of Turtle Soup. Those of you who missed it, don't fret! CW will be playing it 2 or 3 more times over the next few weeks, so you too can once again get swept up into the Turtle Power!