This weekend, I watched the direct-to-DVD movie, “Turtles Forever,” an animated film starring 80s independent comics-turned-TV-sensations, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or in the UK, the Teenage Mutant *Hero* Turtles, renamed out of concerns over violence). As anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s recalls, the animated series about, well, four teenaged mutant ninja turtle brothers. It was quite popular, though the show carried a goofy, humorous tone along with the action. I enjoyed the cartoon like many other kids, though by the 90s, my viewing had mostly shifted to “Tiny Toon Adventures” or “The Disney Afternoon” (shows that competed with the Turtles’ timeslot in my town).
Since then, I mostly ignored the Turtles, until the 2000s animated series revival that rebooted them as modernized, more-serious versions closer to their original comic counterparts (i.e., no-pupils-for-eyes like Batman’s mask, arch-foe the Shredder being more like a martial arts film villain and less “Saturday morning”-ish, etc.). I watched some episodes of the revival, but I eventually drifted away.
“Turtles Forever” was produced for the 25th anniversary of the TMNT franchise, celebrating the various incarnations in a unique way: a crossover between the 80s Turtles and the modern animated versions.
The general plot: the 80s Turtles live in a separate dimension from the modern versions, and get hurled into the modern-Turtles’ world after a fight with their Shredder results in a massive explosion that hurls them all into the modern-Turtles’ Earth.
The 80s Shredder somehow summons the then-comatose form of the modern-Shredder, who, being a more modern villain, quickly takes over and uses 80s-Shredder’s “Technodrome” (the giant battle-tank-on-wheels-thing Shredder used in the old cartoon) to fulfill his scheme of revenge against the Turtles (*all* of them). Adventure ensues, with emphasis on the many contrasts between the 80s Turtles and their modern counterparts. For modern fans, the movie also wraps up the run of the modern spin-off series, and features a few character cameos from that series.
While the movie was fun, it had one flaw: the 80s Turtles came off as *too* exaggerated/slapstick-ish at times. While I know the 80s cartoon was goofy and outlandish (especially compared to modern superhero cartoons, including the 2000s Turtles series) and that the Bush-Senior-era Turtles were more carefree versus the Bush-Junior-era versions, the 80s Turtles still came off as too inept at times. As well, the film got in more digs at the old show than the new one.
Given the old show’s tone, I could see the point, but it’d have been amusing to also see the old Turtles get in some shots about the modern versions. I suppose modern Turtles fans (or fans of the original 80s comic) won’t mind, but some that grew up on the old show might be annoyed.
(Or take solace in the irony that despite, or because of, the goofy tone, the old-Turtles were more commercially successful than the modern-Turtles. While the modern show’s also had a decent run—despite a few ill-advised tweaks such as sending the Turtles 100 years into the future for a season—it didn’t take the kids-TV-world by storm the way the old show did).
The animation quality is decent, and is well done during a scene set in the 80s Turtles’ world that reproduces the backgrounds, model styles, etc. quite well. The animation also excels during a scene set in the world of the original 80s comic (rendered in black-and-white).
One carry-over from the 2000s TV show: the modern-Turtles’ use of “shell” as an euphemism for “hell,” with phrases like “what the shell is going on?” The 2000s TV show often used that phrase, along with the theme song mentioning it’s “a shell of a town.” Which makes me (jokingly) wonder if there’s kids running around after watching the modern cartoon who annoy their parents by coming up with turtle-themed-“swearing” puns like “go to shell,” “shell no,” “like shell I will,” etc… (“But Mom, I told Tammy she can ‘go to *shell*’! And, uh, there’s a Shell station down the block! It’s *completely* not what you’re thinking… I hope.”).
Funniest lines of the film:
- 2000s-Raphael asks if the 80s-Turtles’ “clown car is in the shop” (upon seeing the old show’s Turtle Van and Blimp).
- A modern Turtles villain asking 80s-Raphael “why he keeps doing that?” whenever he breaks the fourth wall (and talks to the camera, which of course doesn’t make sense in the modern Turtles’ world).
On the nostalgia side, I also enjoyed seeing Bebop and Rocksteady again, the 80s Shredder’s bumbling mutant-warthog and -rhino henchmen (who despite their nature, still play a role in the film’s plot at one point).
Animation enthusiasts and Turtles fans will be disappointed by the DVD’s format, a bare-bones release. No extras, no “history of the Turtles,” no ads for the 80s or 2000s TMNT episodes available on DVD, nothing.
Despite the above mentioned flaws, “Turtles Forever” was fairly entertaining. With the franchise having been sold to Nickelodeon, it remains to be seen what’ll happen to the “heroes in a half-shell” in the future.