Review: TMNT: Trans-Dimensional Turtles
It occurs to me that since this isn’t a regular feature on this site (I don’t plan on doing an episode by episode review like my fellow writer Matt) that I should give some background.
Before I do that, how is this even possible in the first place? In 2009, shortly after the release of the “Turtles Forever” special, Nickelodeon purchased the rights for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… all of it. Every single thing ever made by them throughout the years is now owned by Nick.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead. So, bookmark this article and watch the shows first if you think that you need to.
A Quick Summary of the current Nickelodeon TMNT show:
When Nickelodeon first announced their own series following the purchase of the franchise as a whole, they said the new series would be a mixture of the 80s classic series and the 4kids show. Surprisingly they seemed to follow that in its style. For the 1st two seasons I was content to have fun with the turtles fighting against old and new foes. At the end of the 3rd season the new Shredder killed Splinter (who by far is the most interesting character of the current show) and the entire earth is destroyed by the Triceratons empire with a black hole. Since then for season 4, the turtles, April, Casey Jones and the Fugitoid (voiced by David Tennant) have been traveling around the universe trying to reverse it and restore the planet and lives of everyone.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 3.5
The storyline here is that while trekking through space the turtles are suddenly snatched out of their dimension and into the 80s series. It turns out that this is actually the work of the classic turtles themselves to get help from the Nick turtles to stop Krang from destroying all of reality (ya clearly “Turtles Forever” did not happen in this episode’s reality). If there’s an immediate problem with this episode it’s the fact it clearly should have been at least a two parter, but instead as just one it feels very rushed. There are plenty of interactions between the two teams. But, it would have been nice to see them play around with the different dimensions, while also giving the story some room to breathe. The voice acting is probably what keeps this above-average as, unlike “Turtles Forever,” they actually got all of the same voice actors back from the classic show. Rob Paulsen pulls double duty as he not only reprises his old role of the classic Raphael, but also plays the current Donatello. And yes, they make a joke about that. Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman and Pat Fraley sound like no time has passed as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Krang respectively. Barry Gordon does sound considerably older and raspy, which is a little sad, but I can’t complain too much because hey, They’re all here!
Now for the visual look, if you’ll remember this is what I praised “Turtles Forever” the most for. Sadly it’s this episode’s weakest aspect on a technical sense. The main show is done in cgi and it looks fine as usual. The show has always been good on that front especially with the textures. Now for each season they have a running gag of the cartoons the current turtles watch. I believe it was a “Star Trek: The Animated Series” spoof for the first season, then it was “Voltron,” then “He-Man” and now it’s a “Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos” parody. They’re all done in flash animation since, as a cgi show, it doesn’t have the time or the money to be using traditional 2D animation. That was fine for the little spoofs as each of the shows they picked to satirize were very basically animated, and thus flash was a good choice to emulate that. However, despite its primitiveness, the classic Ninja Turtles show was compared to modern shows and it was far ahead of the other shows they’ve been spoofing. So when they do enter the old 80s cartoon, it doesn’t truly look like they’ve entered a new dimension like it did in “Turtles Forever.” It is cool to see them try to render the turtles of the current series in 2D, but it never feels right. And flash was just not up to what was needed for this.
Entertainment Value – 4
Now you may have noticed from the previous section that the new episode seems to succeed where the older special failed, and vice versa. However, there are some of the same problems here too. The oddest thing that it repeats is the somewhat dismissive attitude it has toward the 80s series. I say oddest because watching the previous seasons of this series because the one thing that immediately jumps out at me is the love of the franchise. I mean I could list all of the little references to all the different versions in past episodes (they even threw in a reference to the electric seaweed from the NES game in the episode right before this), but it would take way too long. Point being, I always got the feeling they loved all the old series, and while the 80s turtles do get a better shake here than they did in “Turtles Forever,” they do make them sillier than on the show. Maybe the makers would argue that it was needed to help make the comparisons more noticeable, but it would be nice for one of these crossovers to actually get it right. Yes the classic series was goofy, but never to the levels seen in either of these.
The biggest problem in that regard would be its treatment of Krang. You see in the original comics there were these things called utroms that were these benevolent brain looking aliens that road around in the stomach of human looking robots. The classic series took that basic concept and created the villain, Krang (from Dimension X). This new series took inspiration for a race of evil aliens that look like a hybrid of Krang and the utroms called the Kraang (no that’s not a typo) also from Dimension X. In the classic series, it constantly mentioned that he wasn’t naturally a brain creature but was banished to earth and in the process was separated from his body. In fact one of the old episodes reveals what it looked like, (“Invasion of the Krangazoids”) but here they retcon it to that the classic Krang is a cousin to the current show’s Kraang. Now that’s forgivable, but what isn’t is how he is constantly made fun of and called a “screw-up” by the other Kraang. The banishment was vague, but implied to be some sort of military coup in the old show. Here Kraang subprime (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried), after hearing of Krang’s plan to destroy all of reality thus destroying all of them, chews him out for being a screw-up and then re-banishes him to the classic series universe. What makes that really messed up is that, despite being the most well-known turtles villain in the classic series, Shredder was actually totally subordinate to Krang – who was the real mastermind. Heck he was even the one who tried to KILL Baxter Stockman in the original cartoon (threw him into a disintegrator chamber), so making him a foolish bad-guy is such a major letdown.
I will say the moments that have to do with the current series events, such as traveling back in time and getting to see Master Splinter alive again, was nice. As I said earlier, he’s actually the most compelling character with the deepest story arc, so seeing the turtles being so happy to see him again was nice. It ties back into one of the new show’s strengths in that the new turtles really feel more like a family unit than any of the other versions before it. The very end also ties nicely back into events of earlier episodes. What I’m getting here is that if you have been following the Nick series up to this point, then you’ll enjoy it even more. Outsiders to the show may be more confused (this is 4 seasons into the series), so the entertainment value would probably be lower for them.
Rewatchability – 3
I’m certain that I’ll rewatch this episode again at some point. Both from my own interest and for showing it to my younger sisters. However, I have doubts I’ll re-watch it as many times as I have watched the earlier special.
I have to admit the reason for doing this review was that I was hoping to be able to go “Hey “Turtles Forever” take a page out of THIS special's book!” However despite some of its better qualities, like getting the original voice actors back, it ends up having other problems in different areas while also repeating some of the old ones. The use of flash animation prevents it from truly visually capturing the spirit from the 80s series, which was one of the biggest strengths of the previous crossover. Newcomers may be left in the dark, but then again this sort of crossover is obviously meant for the fans of the franchise. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.