It becomes ever so obvious that Turtles Forever, as it speeds forth to its climactic battle, is for the fans. Whether it’s the bittersweet surprise appearances in the final moments of the movie, the setting for the climactic battle between the Turtles and Shredder, or the plethora of cameos that pop up at one moment in particular that will undoubtedly max out the pause button on many remotes, there is no doubt who the audience is for this movie. While it’s so easy for a movie such as Turtles Forever to be nothing more than an excuse for fan cameos and baiting, there is a little more at work here, signifying something bigger. Bringing together so many different aspects of these beloved characters, Turtles Forever seems to perfectly encapsulate the past 25 years of the franchise.
The classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the 1980’s are back with a new adventure set in the present day with the Turtles of the 21st Century! There’s more Ninja Turtles than ever before – so many that we could only fit them in a movie-sized event! This ninja tag-team extraordinaire begins when the new the gigantic, evil, and terrifying Technodrome (a giant mobile battle station from the original 1988 TMNT animated series) suddenly appears in our world, carrying with it the original 1988 series Ninja Turtles. Our world’s Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo find themselves with a huge mystery to solve and four crazy Turtles to babysit! Can the Turtles of the past and the Turtles of the present stop annoying each other long enough to prevent all of time and space from unraveling? It’s a must-see special event for the millions of Turtles fans everywhere that journeys across multiple dimensions, full of twists, turns, and more Ninja Turtles than you’ve ever seen before.
Created to cap off the current 25th Shell-ebration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, fans will find plenty to love about Turtles Forever. While I’m sure it may not hit the right notes for everyone, the film makes every attempt to ensure nearly all aspects of the franchise are acknowledged, and it does a solid job at doing so.
After a great pre-credit teaser sequence, we’re quickly introduced to our heroes and the story unrolls thusly. It doesn’t take too long for the “2003 Ninja Turtles” to meet the beloved “1988 Ninja Turtles” (as they’re referred to in the end credits) and, as one can expect, hilarity ensues. Thankfully, none of it is too strained, with the movie managing to play up the differences between these two interpretations of our favorite terrapins quite nicely. Nearly every jokes manages to hit its mark, particularly Raphael’s “five Mikeys” comment, though there is the odd misfire. The inherent goofiness of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon is really played up, overbearingly so on occasion. I understand there’s a stark contrast between the old cartoon series and the most recent one, but sometimes the creative team behind the movie pushes it too much, which I actually works for the movie as the “2003 Ninja Turtles” become increasingly annoyed with the older goofy takes on the Turtles. Still, I can’t help but hop on the nostalgia wave, completely enjoying every little frame with the classic Turtles characters.
And the four Turtles from the classic 1988 series aren’t the only ones who get serious play, but Shredder and Krang in particular play surprisingly large roles in the movie. These two goofballs, portrayed as nary a threat to anyone in this movie, are ultimately responsible for bringing the Utrom Shredder back from the exile it was doomed to in the 2003 series, using technology that fans of the old series should definitely find familiar. Even if you’ve only seen the original five-episode 1980s animated television Ninja Turtles mini-series, you should be able to figure out how Shredder and Krang bring back the dangerous little Utrom. Naturally, the absolutely nutty Utrom Shredder, repeatedly called the “one true Shredder,” isn’t exactly what Shredder and Krang expected. They find themselves no longer in control of the Technodrome as the evil Utrom Shredder upgrades it (and the robotic Foot Soldiers) in his pursuit to destroy the Turtles.
To the benefit of viewers, everyone gets a moment here. Whether it’s Splinter just dishing it out, Bebop and Rocksteady getting a truly hilarious moment during the big climactic battle that feels like it’s straight from the old 1980’s series, the clever appearance of the “1984 Shredder,” or the constant shout-outs for the eagle-eyed viewers, everyone gets time in the sun. Even Tokka and Rahzar, making their animated debut here, get a cool little moment when they attempt to smash open the Party Wagon. Hun’s mutation into an evil Turtle is particularly well-handed and nicely designed. There’s one sequence in particular that fans will not want to miss, as the evil Utrom Shredder looks over the vast multi-verse from the Technodrome, viewing the many different interpretations of the Ninja Turtles. It’s truly a treasure trove of cameos that I won’t spoil, but be prepared to re-watch that particular scene over and over again. The creative team really constructed this movie with the fans in mind, a point hard to miss in the film’s closing minutes.
The quality of the film is hard to ignore, especially in beautiful widescreen. The animation is really spectacular, particularly the attention to detail given to the coloring of the different “Cowabunga cousins.” The production crew set out to make sure that each different version of the Turtles stand apart from the other, and they succeed in spades here. Just look at any scene where the “2003 Ninja Turtles” stand aside the “1988 Ninja Turtles,” and the different shading techniques being used become quite apparent and pretty impressive. And then, when the original 1984 versions are tossed into the mix later on in the film, it looks all the more impressive. In fact, this is probably the best animated Ninja Turtles product since the earlier seasons of the 2003 series. The stellar animation and enjoyable story really do result in a solid final product that fans will find hard to dismiss.
Sure, the plot itself isn’t the most complex or original, but it is undeniably fun and fits quite nicely in the film’s nearly 81 minutes run time. As Mikey says about the 1980’s Turtles, “How can you not love these guys?” That’s the overall vibe I get from the movie itself. While it never tries to be rise above the concept of getting these different interpretations of the Ninja Turtles together, and it works swimmingly in that respect, it also successfully acts on a different level for long-time fans. While I won’t spoil anything, the movie ends in such a satisfying way that it not only brings the 2003 animated series to a satisfying close, but also the 25th anniversary celebration of these characters and it’s now pre-Viacon International ownership days. This movie truly feels like the end of an era for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, turning off the lights on everything the franchise stood for from 1984 to 2009.
Overall, Turtles Forever can definitely be considered a success. While some jokes don’t really fly and there are some groan-worthy one-liners here and there, the unabashed fun of this movie is hard to dismiss. The simplistic plot only helps to really show what this movie is all about – giving the fans one last Mirage-laced adventure before the next Turtles tales are released courtesy of Viacom International. In fact, I could see this being a huge seller whenever the DVD release comes about due to the broad audience the film can reach. The creative team really put it all out there, and the proof is on the screen. The animation is sharp, the directing is solid, the writing is good, and the film never stalls, never becomes boring. There’s an undeniable sense of closure here. It’s the end of an era in animated form, but it’s a fun one, one that I have no doubt fans will really sink their teeth into. If you’re looking for a shell of a good time, then look no further than Turtles Forever. Highly Recommended.
While the above review was of the uncut version, this DVD is sadly of the theatrical cut which is 72 minutes in length as opposed to the lengthier uncut version that was (well, is still as of this writing) available on 4Kids website. Sadly that’s not the only disappointing thing about this DVD release as there isn’t…well, anything to look at here. If you’ve seen the film during its original TV airing then you’ve already seen all this DVD has to offer and that is an incredible shame. I’m sure this is something that fans will want to watch over and over again but this DVD release is really a showcase of just how little effort you can put into a DVD release to make money.
We can start with the case first as Nick/Paramount skipped by on using the theatrical poster and instead opted for some very generic art that seems to be pulled from the archives of the original 2k3 series reboot. Menus are no better and in fact are of a 4×3 (?!) ratio with only the most basic of elements that make it slightly better than something I could make with a homemade DVD maker. Disc art is a simple grey wash and no inserts are included.
So how does the audio and video fare? Well the back of the box denotes that it is a “Full Frame” (that explains the 4×3 menus) but it is, in fact, a 16×9 presentation letter boxed into a 4×3 frame. This is the type of DVD release you’d expect from 1999 or 2000 honestly; where’s the anamorphic presentation? Why were we not given an uncut release of the film? Why are there zero extras on this title? I know it’s a “kids” release, but I don’t think Paramount realizes how many Turtles fans they’re going to piss off by releasing such a terribly mediocre release of this film. I rarely say this but you’d be better off just hanging onto your DVR’d copy of the film as even though there’s obviously no cable noise on this transfer, it’s just a real kick in the pants to get a non-anamorphic copy of it. There’s also the DD2.0 audio to deal with which I wouldn’t be angry about normally but it’s just another sign that they cared very little about doing anything worthwhile when it came to this release.
There are no extras all (in fact the bullet points on the back are just “Full Screen Format” and “Dolby Digital English Stereo”…I’m half surprised “Interactive Menus” wasn’t tacked on there to make this totally feel like a release from ten years ago) and…yeah. I’m really angry I enjoyed watching this film so much because this DVD release is so very, very terrible.
Unless you’re a die-hard fan then you can Skip this release. It’s available for viewing free online (and in uncut form) until the end of this month and even after that this is only something you’ll want to rent as it’s pretty obvious they took the master used to air on TV and did nothing else to it for the DVD release (considering the TV airing was a letterboxed airing and the cut version, I don’t see how else they managed to put this and not the uncut anamorphic version on DVD instead). I can only hope that we get a double-dip of this release on Blu-ray and soon too—this isn’t the type of film I want to leave a bad taste in my mouth because it was given such a poor home video release.
TMNT – Turtles Forever arrives on DVD on August 24th.
Film review by James Harvey
DVD review by Zach Demeter