Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes 1 & 2 spoiler-free review: Rise Of The Turtles

Matt gives us a spoiler-free tour of the opening two-part episode of the brand new Nickelodeon TMNT series...

In line with the upcoming Michael Bay-produced film, this new series sees the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as aliens, newly arrived on Earth. No, I’m kidding. That isn’t true at all; they’re proper mutants. Nobody quote that out of context.

Celebrating their 15th Mutation Day, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael (the Turtles, which I feel like I have a professional responsibility to highlight even though you surely already know) are keen to leave the sewers for the first time to see the surface world. Splinter, their father figure and sensei, is concerned that they may not be ready, but grants his permission as long as they promise to stick to the shadows. Once up top, the green team spot a young girl (April O’Neil) and her father in peril, which leads them to their first mission.

That’s all you’re getting from us on the plot of these episodes, as we here at Den of Geek hate spoiling a TV show before it’s even had a chance to grace your television screen. This review will be a covert analysis, to give you an idea if you’ll like it without telling you what happens.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series is here, rebooted and animated on shiny, high tech computers. Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was originally a comic, the cartoon series that ran 1987-1996 found the characters making arguably their biggest impact. This new series, from kids TV juggernaut Nickelodeon, will have a job matching that show in terms of pop culture influence, but, based on this two-part introduction, it should have little trouble surpassing that show in quality.

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Rather than a slight against the first Turtles ‘toon, for which I have a great deal of affection, that’s a comment on how good this new show is. 

The thing about The Rise of the Turtles that impressed me most was the high standard of writing. The episodes are very funny. We get jokey dialogue, slapstick and humorous visual effects, and, for the most part, they really work. 

The story moves at a good pace, allowing familiar characters to establish newly refined personalities without imposing on the action. The TMNT, in particular, are full, individual characters right away, which is something previous adaptations have struggled with. The new Michelangelo warrants special mention as the obvious highlight. This Mikey is silly, energetic and always enthused; he’s a proper cartoon character. 

While the writing (and animation, which we’ll get to shortly) set Michelangelo up, voice actor Greg Cipes brings him to life perfectly. The character could easily have become annoying if overplayed, but Cipes finds just the right tone to make the character work. All four of the Turtles voice actors work well, with Jason Biggs proving to be an inspired choice as Leonardo. Amongst the supporting cast, I really liked what I heard of Mae Whitman as April O’Neil. 

The only flaws I found with Rise of the Turtles were with the animation. As can often be the case with computer animation, the humans, for me, don’t look so good. April’s face, for example, looks really plastic and isn’t very expressive, and her father’s face lacks detail. Also, while mutant rat Splinter’s look is executed perfectly well, I’m not sure the design works.

The episodes regularly feature fun visual gags and effects, showing an anime influence. These are fine and generally add to the fun atmosphere, although at times can make everything feel a little too busy. I can’t imagine that these won’t be present for future episodes, but so long are they aren’t used too often it doesn’t seem like something to worry about. The same goes for the 2D animated segments, which are great in the small doses they are served in here.

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Of course, these mild complaints about the animation shouldn’t suggest that the show doesn’t look terrific, because it does. The four main heroes have some physical differences, whether it’s Raphael’s damaged shell or Donatello’s missing tooth, which highlights the effort to make them individuals. The action scenes, which are plentiful, are smooth and exciting. 

Rise of the Turtles, then, suggests the start of a triumphant return to the small screen. I could ramble on and on about the sharp writing and great animation, but it might be best to put this succinctly: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a really fun cartoon. 

Watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mondays at 5pm on Nickelodeon turtles.nick.co.uk

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