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I guess I just like liking things

Color coding and weapon choice are not enough: each Turtle must have a badge that displays his/her initial

Color coding and weapon choice are not enough: each Turtle must have a badge that displays his/her initial

I’ve been on a pretty big TMNT kick lately, but it’s led me down some weird trails.  Netflix has Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation available for streaming, and I’d never seen it, so I decided to give it a shot.  I’m three episodes in and… man, I don’t know. I really don’t know if I can make it through this.

Here’s the thing: if you’ve been around here for any amount of time at all, you’ll know I don’t like to gripe about things.  There are a couple of reasons for this. One is I think a positive attitude is healthy. Two, it makes sense to me to like what you like. A third reason is that a lot of people work really hard on these things, and I’d hate for them to happen upon this site and read about this or that thing sucks and is the worst thing ever, when it was maybe their favorite thing they’ve ever done.  I know how that would make me feel and I don’t really want to be responsible for someone else feeling that way. I know it seems unlikely that would happen, but it’s the Internet, a place where unlikely things happen all the time.

With all that said, I still want to talk about this show, but I don’t know how to do it without sounding complainy!  I’ll do my best.

First, some history. This show aired from 1997 to 1998.  The IMDb summary says this:

In this live-action TV series, the Turtles are older than in the movies or cartoon, and are joined by a fifth, female Turtle. “Venus De Milo” mutated with the other 4 Turtles but was washed away with the current in the sewer into New York’s Chinatown before Splinter came across the turtles. After learning the Shinobi arts in China for 17 years, Venus has returned to New York. The Turtles are now faced with new villains such as Dragon Lord, Bonesteel and Vam Mi.

I don’t have any problem at all with there being a girl Ninja Turtle. In fact, I think her origin is a neat way to introduce her, and there’s a lot of potential in the “outsider trained in different arts, joins with existing team” storyline. So far it seems like they’re using “Shinobi arts” to mean “magic,” though, and I’m getting a real Mighty Morphin Power Rangers feel from the show. I do not say this as any kind of endorsement for the show.

The costumes are similar to the movie getups, but are lower budget versions, it seems. The mouths do not move very well. I mean, I’m a guy who willing to buy that there are 6-ft. tall talking humanoid turtles that know ninjutsu and eat pizza, but these mouths are asking for too much from me. The villain employs the age-old trick of nodding and shaking his head rapidly while he talks to give the illusion that his mouth is moving, but it’s not working for me.  Perhaps cartoon/CGI is a better way to approach the Turtles?

And the masks!  The standard ribbon-with-cutouts-for-eyes has been mostly replaced with scarves and ski mask-looking things. It’s just… very weird. Even Venus’s more standard-looking one has a long braid in the back.

It’s hard to tell only this far in whether they’ve kept the “standard” Turtle personalities. They’ve been more focused on introducing Venus and the new Dragon Lord villain, who has a very Shredder-like helmet and confused me for a while because I thought maybe he was a reptile version of Shredder. Leo still seems like the leader, but I can’t tell yet if Raph is angry, Mikey is a party guy, and Don is the techie.  I don’t know why they would change those things, but I also don’t know why they’d have Raph put his sai together to form some sort of staff, and they did that, so it seems like maybe nothing’s off the table, change-wise.

The first four episodes are actually one pilot-type movie that’s been split up, and I know it’s not fair to judge a show only on its pilot (hey, even the Seinfeld pilot is tough to watch!), but it’s troubling enough to make me wary of investing the time to see if it improves. It’s just… after 25+ years of being a Ninja Turtle fan, I have an idea of what I want out of Turtle stories, you know?  I’ve seen a little bit of the new Nickolodeon cartoon, and it does some updating that I don’t mind at all.

I do wonder if The Next Mutation is considered canon, though. After all, we don’t see Venus get mentioned in any other iteration. Then again, I don’t know how much of a canon there is for something that’s been told so many ways over so many years. Ack.  I don’t know if you can tell, but these three episodes I’ve seen are kind of shaking my Turtle core to its very foundation, and it’s scaring me a little.

Maybe it’s time I re-read the original comics and reset the timeline.


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