Over twenty-five years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is celebrated, in Turtles Forever (2009), an epic crossover animated movie between past and current cartoon incarnations of the Mirage comic property.
* For those who missed it. 4kids will be reshowing it in three half hour parts for the next three weeks.
You know I was almost going to put this in the So I Finally Saw.. articles given how hard it was for me to see this film. Any fan of TMNT has had a tough time patiently waiting for this movie to finally see the light of day after its original debut at the San Diego Comic Con earlier this year. Well it's FINALLY here, after the road bumps that prevented it to be seen elsewhere (both a limited theater run and early DVD release where canned for reasons not fully revealed, other than possibly due to TMNT now being owned by Nick).
So what's the storyline behind TMNT: Turtles Forever? Consider it a final bookend to both the new 2k3 cartoon and its 80s predecessor (even if both had their finales this truly is one last ride of fun with both groups). The 80s Turtles after beating Shredder and Krang's latest scheme end up in the 2k3 world. Obviously, both heroes and villains are finding it hard to adjust in a somewhat darker and less comedic atmosphere. It's because of this that the Utrom Shredder from 2k3 make's his grand return and decides to take the technology of Krang's to frightening new levels in a new attempt to well make sure there are no more turtles forever, hence that witty title.
I have to admit first off, that probably the only negative besides the original voice actors not reprising their roles (due to 4kids being non-union) would be the characters themselves. However, obviously in the time-line in the 80s toon Shredder and Krang haven't met their ends as they have in the toon. More, I probably put this storyline somewhere smack dab in the middle of the series, right when it was utterly ridiculous given the Technodrome wasn't banished to Dimension X and was more fully functional at this time period even though the quality of the episodes where pretty bad ( Shredder’s mom episode or the annoying dimensional creature that eats fine china). By taking that into consideration, I can see why they chose this period of the 80s toon. It fits into the plot perfectly. I'm almost surprised they didn't mock 80s Mikey's choice of weaponry during this period (the grappling hook), but I digress it was nice seeing him swing his chucks once again. Also, even though they aren't the original voice actors that fact didn't bother me much at all and in fact honored and nailed the characters. If others who take these into consideration can get through the first half hour of this show, I bet they'll enjoy this movie as I had. As for anyone who just plain loves TMNT, they will love this film.
On the opposite side of things, trying to understand where this take's place in the 2k3 series is headache inducing. So rather than just go into those details I'll just state that I'm assuming this take's place after Back to the Sewers with all the things going on with those characters. Thankfully, the animators of this movie decided to drop the designs of the 2k3 turtles used in later animated series featuring them, and instead returning them to their original 2k3 designs. Everyone else on the other hand (from Ch'rell down to April) retains their BttS design. Though I don't mind this, I loved Hun and Casey's new looks from that show. So not much of a waste there. Not surprisingly all voice actors from 2k3 are retained here. All of course do an admirable job.
Though of course the one standing out amongst them would have to be Scottie Ray for me aka the voice of Ch'rell the Utrom Shredder. Ray brings just such a presence in his voice that one will find themselves transfixed onto the screen. Even more, given he's voiced three different Shredders on this show (though really two Ch'rell and Cyber Shredder where the same character) he has this knack on giving each Shredder their own persona. I won't go into the other two, but with Ch'rell, there's an almost maniacal glee and just total sickening evil that the viewer can truly be terrified of that Ray just nails. It isn't surprising to any 2k3 fan why he would be the Shredder of choice to be the main problem to Turtles of every multiverse. The character was revealed to had committed genocide in the past and those disappointed with his end in 2k3 will find a much more fitting finale for the character if the two part Exodus wasn't to their liking.
The other would be the voice behind Hun, David Zen Mansley. Honestly, I wasn't much a Hun fan but this movie really does this rogue of 2k3 proud. I really had a better love for this character here and the little homage to another classic 80s TMNT character he turns into was also nicely done. Regardless of even that homage, the character gets the best moments against the Turtles being more the physical threat fighting all eight turtles numerous times than Ch'rell. If anything this movie finally proves, there's another grand villain out there in the world of TMNT who isn't the Shredder or Baxter Stockman.
So what about the payoff? Was this movie truly worth it? I have to say is yes. This entire movie is one huge love letter from the creators to the fans of TMNT. The homages and easter eggs to both animated show's plus other areas of TMNT were just utterly sweet (namely animated adaptations of two mutants creatures from a certain live action movie sequel). As always, the fights are of a 2k3 level of fighting making for some really entertaining sequences. About the only real negative I can say would be that the Utrom Shredder didn't have a true eight vs. one fight with the 80s and 2k3 turtles in his new form. But I digress the final free for all I like to call "Crisis on Infinite Turtles" made up for it so much.
I'm so utterly glad that TMNT: Turtles Forever delivered. We got to see the return of the 80s Turtles and cast just one more time. As we also got yet another this time we know its final curtain call. Though I have to say of the three "finales" of 2k3 this was truly superior one. The Season 5 aka "Lost Season" one was ok, but bordered on logic, while BttS's finale felt just way too rushed. It was a blink or you miss it moment. Still, both where good, but this ended the series on a much better high note. I really can't find anything truly negative to say with this film, it hit all the targets for the TMNT fan that I am. Again, this entire movie felt like a giant thank you from Peter Laird. And to that I say, thank you Peter. To both you and Kevin for creating these magical characters and giving us twenty-five years of TMNT. May we have twenty-five more years of turtle power.
5 out of 5