It’s not like I had the highest of expectations going into Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I knew it was going to be a horrible adaptation just based on the teaser. While the animation style seemed a bit better in the show and fit the tone they were going for compared to what I saw in that teaser my concerns were whether or not it would at least be a good show. The previous Nickelodeon take on the Turtles was a good show, but I couldn’t get into it. Apparently it was well-written and it earned a strong fanbase. I don’t understand why Nick decided to change the style up. Plenty of kids shows continued for a long time if they could still make good stories. It would keep the adult audience and bring in new kids, or at least be waiting for the new kids. I grew up with shows that boasted adventures we never saw, while today we have full season releases and the internet to follow older seasons.
But just the same I watched the first episode, and I didn’t quite like it. I found out there were more episodes on-line and on demand so I watched those, hoping it would get better. It didn’t. While Rise fails as an adaptation it doesn’t even make up for it with a decent show. It’s like some middle ground between Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!, and that’s not to it’s advantage. So did the five episodes do anything right?
Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows a new incarnation of the four brothers and their rat mentor. Raphael is somehow now the leader of the group and built like a tank. Leonardo is a bit more dorky but brings common sense. Michelangelo is still the goofball and now has some artist skills. Donatello still does machines but with all the skill of a mad scientist. Which means disaster often follows. Still my favorite though. April is now a sassy black girl who…actually I can’t tell if she’s the same de-aged age as the previous show’s April or younger. She looks younger but that could be the art style. Splinter is a lazy bum who seems more like a bad parody of Splinters past rather than a loving father and mentor. I saw people praising this show saying this is the weakest Splinter ever. That should tell you how bad this incarnation is. At least new April is a good character.
And I’m not going to tell you they aren’t interesting characters. They just aren’t the TMNT cast. In the first episode they cannonball into some stranger’s pool and empty the thing for April’s amusement. How are they even friends? For the first time in the franchise’s history it’s never explained. Maybe it will later but I don’t think this show cares. They end up getting involved with some villain who seems to be set up as the origin of the mutations in this story but they don’t go into it. Leo, Mike, and Raph also get magic weapons but Don (in true Don form) stick to his high-tech bow staff which is so sci-fi it might as well BE magical so no real difference there. Raphael gets tonfas that give him a berserker boost or something. Leo’s swords can open a portal but he never uses it in the other episodes. Mike has a yo-yo, which was an actual ninja weapon before becoming a popular play toy (or given the history of ninja weapons it might be the other way around), and Don’s bow has all these collapsing weapons built into it.
As far as being ninjas, forget it. Remember that Which Ninja episode I posted going into how well each series portrayed ninjas? Well these Turtles are even worse at it than the original cast. Like even I could point out some ninja skills the first toon Turtles used (whether they made sense or not is another story), especially in the first miniseries. But the Rise Turtles? Not a chance. They’re as un-ninja as you can get, which is strange given all the grief the last two Turtles shows gave to the original cartoon. I swear the original concept must have been altered to fit something resembling the Turtles because nothing really matches. They don’t even fight a regular threat. The main villain of the pilot (the only episode lasting a full episode length, the others clocking in at 11 minutes per episode, being combined into a 22 minute show) released mutating mosquitoes into the city and then the next episode there are all these mutants and it’s just accepted as normal, as if the show didn’t want to bother building up the situation. Nope, we have a mutant running a scrapyard and auto dealer who talk Mike and Don into being repo men when a mutant chipmunk or something (possibly even a beaver) doesn’t pay the debt on the RV he uses to rescue puppies. We have a former newscaster turned into a worm who for some reason wants to destroy the Turtles but sucks at it while the boys track a hippo mutant magician. There actually was a series idea there in the lone 22 minute episode but it was tossed aside for unconnected wacky hi-jinks.
Which would be fine but the show isn’t funny. The Turtles are reduced to stereotypes, one of two interesting villains is still kind of a joke (that would be the debut villain I thought was being set up as the main protagonist, although the Origami villains with “foot marks” on their faces has potential…in a better adaptation), the IQ levels of everyone is up for debate, and the plots seem good in concept but fail in execution because this show is just not well written. I almost didn’t make through the episode where Don tries to fix an animatronic robot at the pizza place April is working at (I think her running gag will be trying to find work and having it go horribly wrong) only for it to go Five Nights At Freddy’s on the birthday kids. I stuck it out for the sake of a thorough review so don’t say I don’t suffer for you guys.
So I ask again, did it do anything right? The acting is good and matches the characters, and there does seem to be potential for a good show, but if the episodes I saw were any indication it’s going out of its way to squander that potential in favor of dumb jokes and silly heroes. I’m sorry but I just cannot recommend this incarnation to anyone. There are better Turtles out there and also better comedy superhero shows. Just go watch those instead.