No Shredder? Raphael as leader? Non-Caucasian April O’Neil? Needless to say, RISE OF THE TMNT is already one of the most unique installments in the TMNT franchise yet. Which is saying a lot, considering that the franchise itself literally revolves around turtle ninjas living in a sewer.

That being said, the information released so far about RISE has been filled all sorts of surprises. As stated earlier, Shredder, the Turtles’ typical arch-nemesis seems to be absent from the show. However, Shredder’s henchmen, the Foot Clan, are still in the show. They’re now going to be led by Baron Draxum, an immortal alchemist voiced by John Cena.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Other than the change in arch-nemeses, the Turtles will also be getting an entirely new set of magically enhanced weapons. Besides the color of their masks, the turtles’ respective weapons have always been their main identifier; Leonardo has his katanas, Raphael has his sais, Michelangelo has his nun-chucks, and Donatello has his bo staff. But in RISE, Leo has an odachi sword, Raph wields tonfas, and Mikey uses a kusari-fundo. Donnie still has a bo staff, though. But it has been technologically modified, which apparently means that the staff is now a retractable oversized rocket-powered mallet.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Images courtesy of Nickelodeon.

RISE OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES At Comic-Con

Everything I just mentioned had already been announced prior to this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The show’s main cast and the fact that it will consist of comedic 11-minute long episodes was also already known. With all that out there, it was hard to tell what else could possibly come up. I was curious to see how the RISE OF THE TMNT panel could one-up what had been released so far.

Well, for starters, some new villains showed up at the panel, with big-name voice actors attached. GAME OF THRONES actress Lena Headey will be voicing a giant spider named Big Mama. Sex Pistols front-man Johnny Rotten will be voicing a mutant supervillain called Meat Sweats.

RISE OF THE TMNT
The new villains revealed at the RISE OF THE TMNT Comic-con panel. Images courtesy of Nickelodeon and Ethan Anderton’s twitter account.

But more importantly, a new trailer for RISE premiered at the panel. Attached to the trailer was a one minute sneak peek at what the show will be like. So, let’s use the trailer and the sneak peek as our guide here. What can we expect from RISE OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES?

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…Actually, change of plans. Instead of speculating based on the trailer, I’ll be doing something else instead. As it turns out, a pretty big bit of info just popped up while I was writing this. The first few episodes of RISE OF THE TMNT are already available on the Nickelodeon website.

RISE OF THE TMNT First Episode(s) Review

Granted, only the first episode is available for free right now, and you’ll need a TV subscription to access the other three, as well as a one minute preview for an episode called “Repo Mantis.” Luckily, I was able to watch all four, so if you don’t have cable and you want to know what the other three episodes were like, hopefully, this helps.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to go into too much detail about what happened in each episode, since quality-wise and tone-wise, they’re all pretty similar. Based on what I’ve seen so far though, I really like the show. But it may not be for everyone. If you’re a fan of the franchise, there is some controversial stuff going on here, most of which has to do with the show’s fairly light-hearted tone.

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RISE OF THE TMNT’s Place in the Franchise

Now, if you’re not familiar with the TMNT franchise, you might be wondering why anyone would care about cartoon ninja turtles not being dark and gritty enough. Well, it might be because the TMNT comics started out as a parody of Frank Miller’s dark and gritty stylings. But, if we’re sticking to just the cartoons, the two prior incarnations of the show did take themselves fairly seriously.

I mean, they both still had their goofy moments, and they both generally aimed at kids. However, the 2003 series generally portrayed the turtles as a bunch of grim-looking muscle-bound warriors. The 2012 series had a cutesier aesthetic to it, but it still featured some dark overarching plot points. The villains brainwashed and mutated certain characters against their will. For half a season, the Turtles traveled back in time to prevent the annihilation of Earth. The two series even both had gritty post-apocalyptic alternate universe episodes.

RISE OF THE TMNT
“Same as it Never Was” (2003 series) and “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” (2012 series). Images courtesy of Nickelodeon.

They also both crossed over with the original 1987 cartoon. In both crossovers, the goofy ’87 turtles act like naïve buffoons in comparison to their more action-orientated straight-faced counterparts. Frankly, I always thought that was a disservice to the ’87 cartoon. The ’87 turtles may have been lighthearted and goofy, but that in itself didn’t make them bumbling morons. Now, why did I bring all that up? Well, here’s the thing: in RISE OF THE TMNT, the turtles actually are bumbling morons.

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The Half-Shell Heroes in Question

Eric Bauza, the voice of Splinter in RISE OF THE TMNT, said in an interview at Comic-Con that RISE’s version of Splinter as a couch potato who doesn’t even remember the turtles’ names. Now, in practically all the incarnations before RISE, Splinter is a wise old rat who taught the Turtles how to be a ninja and generally serves as a father figure to them. In RISE, however, Splinter really is a lazy bum who spends all his time watching TV and eating.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Because of this, the Turtles have little-to-no training, which may or may not account for their lack of wits. For instance, in the first episode “Magic Mayhem,

” mutant thugs destroy the Turtles’ original weapons. Near the end of the episode, the turtles stumble into Baron Draxum’s lair. The only reason they escape is that their newfound magical replacement weapons accidentally made Draxum’s lair self-destruct.

In “Origami Tsunami,”” they try to set a trap for a pair of paper thieves by making a paper store out of cardboard and salami. “War and Pizza” features evil animatronics at a Chuck. E. Cheese style birthday place. They’re evil because Donatello forgot to charge the batteries when he was repairing one of them. And so on.

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Sparkly Magical Weapons

So, since the turtles are lacking in both physical training and smarts, they mostly rely on the magical replacement weapons they stumbled across in “Magic Mayhem” to win fights. Interestingly enough though, this sort of gung-ho carelessness actually makes it so that the show has more opportunities for fight scenes. Instead of contemplating the need for training or self-improvement, the Turtles are able to go in guns blazing at a moment’s notice.

The turtles’ lack of combat experience also makes for a fun dynamic with the show’s version of April O’Neil. Usually, April is an untrained civilian who can’t quite keep up with the highly trained turtles. But since the turtles are barely trained here, April gets to be a plucky freewheeling fellow fighter instead of assuming the usual role of damsel in distress. Aside from the characters, the generally comedic tone and mostly 11-minute long episodes mean that things go at a fast pace, which adds to the action-packed feel of the show.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Speaking of action now would be a good time to bring up one of my favorite aspects of the series. Let’s talk about the villains.

Mutant Villain Madness

Given RISE OF THE TMNT’s more lighthearted and comedic tone, one of the biggest worries fans had about the series is that it would be more of a sitcom than an action cartoon. Fortunately, RISE is still a superhero show at heart, and the over-the-top action I mentioned earlier works in part due to the show’s over-the-top villains.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

To be clear, I’m not saying the villains here are at the level of say, BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES in terms of characterization and depth. But it is cool that instead of going up against your usual street-level gangs, every criminal the Turtles come across ends up being a big goofy gimmick monster of sorts.

In “Origami Tsunami,” the turtles go up against flaming headed ninja sorcerers who can summon minions out of paper. As mentioned earlier, in “War And Pizza,” the main bad guys are rampaging Chuck E. Cheese style animatronics. In “Newsworthy,” there’s a rivalry of sorts between a magic tux-wearing hippo and a narcissistic earthworm. Admittedly, even by this show’s standards, that one was weird.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Perhaps the least impressive villain so far would be the turtles’ new arch-nemesis Baron Draxum, but that’s only if you take his design at face value. Those gargoyle-esque shoulder pads actually are a pair of sentient gargoyle-esque minions. Besides that, Draxum seems to preside over a mutant/fantasy kingdom called the underground city, which looks pretty darn neat.

RISE OF THE TMNT
Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

What’s Next for RISE OF THE TMNT?

If you couldn’t tell already, RISE OF THE TMNT’s over-the-top fantastical stylings are its main draw. Portraying the turtles themselves as screwy underdogs won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; then again, if you’re the sort of person who thinks that turtle ninjas need to take themselves more seriously, you’re probably better off watching something like TITANS. But if you can tolerate a bit of goofiness, RISE OF THE TMNT should prove to a fun action-packed show filled with colorful designs and cool set-pieces.

That said, I don’t think it would hurt if the show took itself a little more seriously. It’s been announced that RISE OF THE TMNT will have overarching plotlines, so some character development should be underway. Splinter being a self-centered couch potato in this iteration does raise questions about why he took the turtles in to begin with, especially since it was implied in “Magic Mayhem” that Baron Draxum had something to do with the turtles’ origins.

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I’d also like to see the Turtles get better at using their magical weapons. Going back to “Magic Mayhem,.” Leonardo’s new sword showed off its teleportation capabilities, while Michelangelo’s kusari-fundo seemed to be some sort of sentient fire demon. Outside of that episode though, these concepts haven’t really popped up yet, which is kind of disappointing.

Tune In Next Time

However, I’m sure that once RISE OF THE TMNT returns on Sept. 17th, all that stuff will develop further. Until then, as I said earlier, if you’re interested in the show you can watch “Magic Mayhem” for free online, and if you have access to a TV provider account, you can watch the other three available episodes as well.

2 Comments

  1. That's What She

    July 23, 2018 at 3:45 am

    Only caught the first episode, but I was rather surprised. It was slightly funny and a bit jittery, but its command of the Z-axis was deft. It’s as if John Krickfalusi and FLCL scissored really hard, had a baby, and that baby puked on the Turtles – but a good kind of puke.. I’ll stick around if for nothing more than the animation style.

    Also, that was John Cena?? I thought it was Kevin Michael Richardson. Good on you, Johnny.

    Reply

  2. That's What She

    July 23, 2018 at 3:40 am

    Only saw the first episode, but I was rather surprised. It’s slightly funny and a bit jittery, but its deft use of Z-axis is on point. It’s as if John Krickfalusi and FLCL scissored really hard, had a baby, and that baby puked on the Turtles – but a good kind of puke. I’ll stick around if for nothing more than the animation style.

    Reply

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