Review: TMNT Ultimate Showdown / by Steve Russell

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Those teenage brothers are back in another DVD offering from Nickelodeon, featured in the final collection of Season One, aptly titled: Ultimate Showdown. 

Collecting the final six episodes of Season One onto this DVD set, the new reimagined version of the TMNT connects the threads of the story, developed over the course of the series, in order to deliver the pay off in the titular ultimate showdown between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the  Shredder and this shows specific take on the Kraang. Now, being a life long Ninja Turtles fan, I was at first dubious as to how this show would portray the brothers; given the target audience and the network reimagining it, I was concerned of the over simplification and, in truth, their interest in perhaps simply appealing to the obvious and undeniable common denominator in their target audience: kids. Ask any Turtles fan however, especially those of the original Mirage comic book series, such as myself, and they will tell you about the character depth that actually exists within the lore of the Ninja Turtles; the familial bond that ties them together and the balance that they must strive to maintain between their existence and the way that they coexist with humanity. Couple this with the respect for the martial arts that defines their lives and all that this entails, and I’m sure you’re on your way to understanding the actual complexities that can be drawn from the source material: something that the 2003 series actually did quite well, not only in terms of the awesome animation, but in how it handled the tone of the comics within the show.

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The 2013 show is not this show. It is not the fine balance between the darkness of the comics and the humour that we now expect from anything that includes the famous brothers; instead it is a show that is aware of the its history and source material, and yet chooses to askew it for that younger audience. Does this make it a harder watch for older, and more long term/hardcore, TMNT fans? Sometimes, sure. But, for the majority of the series, there is a balance and, while it chooses to ignore the complex darkness of the Mirage/IDW Turtles, it makes up for it with a strong emphasis on the family bond between the Turtles as a unit; the way it incorporates (a young) April O’Neil; and, of course, their patriarch and teacher, Master Splinter. 

The last six episodes of Season One covers a lot of ground for the Turtles, as the story hurtles towards its conclusive battle between the brothers and their enemies. Without spoiling the entire series for those who are interested in starting it: the series reintroduces the Turtles to a new generation. The Kraang, who have come from Dimension X, are attempting to utilise the Mutagen, that created the mutant turtles, as a means of converting Earth into a habitable planet for their race to conquer. Additionally: in order to eliminate Splinter and the turtles, and in turn finally bring an end to his rival clan, Shredder has his daughter, Karai, lead his foot clan within New York City. But, intriguingly, there is more to Karai than initially thought. 

This entire backstory plays out over the course of the series, naturally, but really picks up within the last six episodes as there are a plethora of twists and turns along the way. Even the filler episodes (on this set: “The Pulverizer Returns!” and “Parasticia”) are still fun adventures that we can join the Turtles on; but it’s the cannon stories that help elevate this collection. Sensibly, the majority of this last set tackles the major themes and story arcs of the series, leading us to a convincing, and satisfying, ending to Season One that, although answers a lot of the initial questions, does a great job of whetting the appetite for more ninjutsu action.

The animation is solid throughout, though the characters that are more stylised stand out more distinctively than the majority of the human characters; the Turtles and Splinter; Dogpound and Fishface and, to a degree, the shiny metal faced Shredder all look great due to their unique design, as opposed to the humans: April O’Neal, Baxter Stockman, Kirby O’Neal, etc, etc who all suffer looking poor in comparison to their anthropomorphic mutant counter parts. 

Each Turtle has their distinctive personality in check, brought to life by the talents of (from L-R) Sean Astin, Jason Biggs, Rob Paulsen and Greg Cipes. 

Each Turtle has their distinctive personality in check, brought to life by the talents of (from L-R) Sean Astin, Jason Biggs, Rob Paulsen and Greg Cipes. 

The feel of the show is handled well; shadows, alley ways, roof tops and sewers all looking particularly atmospheric and appropriate to the world building of the show. I would be remise to not touch upon the voice acting itself, with the majority of the Turtles cast sounding well suited and convincingly performed; talents such as Jason Biggs (the pie guy in American Pie, for those who don’t know) as Leonardo and Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee, of course) as Raphael accompany lesser known performers who shine in their roles. It is also an interesting quirk that the voice of Donatello, Rob Paulsen, played the original Raphael in the 80’s cartoon show. 

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Although it doesn’t contain the darkness of its enjoyable predecessor in the 2003 TMNT cartoon, there is still plenty to enjoy in this series; whether you are already familiar with the brothers, or a brand new fan. TMNT Ultimate Showdown caps off a fantastically strong first season that relies on great character development, well paced story arcs and a somewhat over abundance on easy humour or slapstick comedy/action to appeal to their key demographic. So, with that in mind, it’s a definite win for those young Turtles fans. Older fans may find some of the humour and slapstick elements tiring and contrived, but if you stick with the show the very heart of the Turtles is present, alive and kicking. Throughout all the action, heroics, comedy and adventure lies the heart of what makes the Turtles and their stories so enjoyable and captivating: family. It’s a theme that the 2012 series manages to get right; the teasing, at times light bullying and, ultimately, close knit unit that comprises the Turtles is present in the series, and has a great showing in these final episodes. 

If you’re an old school Turtle fan, you should at least give it a try as it mixes a lot of the old school humour with a slightly darker edge that, although interesting, never veers into the darkness of the comics or even the source material dedicated 2003 series. A strong effort for a new generation that leads directly into plenty of opportunities for character growth and development through future seasons. 

If you guys have seen the new TMNT series, what were your thoughts? Be sure to sound off below!

★★★★

Steve "The Other Guy" Russell // @stevetendo

TMNT: Ultimate Showdown is out now, courtesy of  Paramount Home Entertainment