I was quite impressed with this fun, clever, and exciting tribute to the Ninja Turtles...
When you think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you think of one of the two cartoon shows that ever aired on television. There's the original animated series that premiered in 1987, which made the Turtles a household name. There's also the newer Turtles cartoon that was launched in 2003. Though based on the same major characters, there are striking differences. If you're like me, you grew up with the 1987 series that was funny, humorous, and exciting. The newer generation, on the other hand, may be more familiar with the darker 2003 Turtles series. Imagine two generations of Turtles fans, like a father and son, watching each other's favorite Turtles show. Wouldn't it be interesting to see them discuss the similarities and differences between the shows?
Now imagine this. Suppose both generations of Turtles fans get together and watch a crossover of the two shows, and it's one that marks the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Well, that's what Turtles Forever was: a made-for-TV animated movie featuring both the 1987 Turtles and the 2003 Turtles. Now how is that possible? Apparently, as far as I know, the animators for the newer Turtles went to great lengths to study the animation of the old Turtles so that they could draw characters from both cartoons equally well. The result, I must admit, is a very impressive, seamless juxtaposition of characters from different animated universes.
I won't say anything more about the animation, because one thing impressed me even more. The plot of Turtles Forever is cleverly written, as both an exciting action-adventure and a wonderful tribute to the entire Ninja Turtles canon. I originally thought that Turtles Forever would be an adventure just like any other. Instead, it turned out to be a unique and memorable adventure, one that no Turtles fan, new or old, should miss. Let me explain what I mean.
The story begins in the world of the 2003 cartoon. Master Splinter, the rodent ninja master, learns that the Turtles have been spotted by the news media. The four Turtles - Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael - claim they were not in public lately, so they investigate the matter. It turns out that the four spotted Turtles are a different quartet. Compared with the Turtles of the 2003 cartoon, the four spotted Turtles, even though they can fight, are somewhat shorter and have a tendency to crack jokes. It becomes clear that they came from a different time period: the years immediately following 1987.
The 1987 Turtles explain that they were fighting the Shredder when a dimensional rift caused them to teleport into this 21st-century world. One initial reaction among the 2003 Turtles is that they recognized the Shredder, though they are confused because it's not the same Shredder they're used to dealing with. This is a good time to mention one great thing about Turtles Forever: the humorous comparisons between the two Turtles cartoons and how they're pointed out through the dialogue and actions among the characters. For example, the 2003 Turtles are annoyed that the 1987 Turtles don't take everything seriously, and the 1987 Turtles are surprised by what the 2003 Master Splinter looks like. But that's only the beginning.
What about the villains? Well, guess who else comes to the world of the 2003 Turtles? The 1987 Shredder and the alien from Dimension X named Krang. The Shredder is pleased to discover the Utrom Shredder, the menacing high-tech Shredder of the 2003 cartoon. (Krang, however, doesn't have a 2003 counterpart.) And you know the Technodrome, the giant armored vehicle from the 1987 cartoon that Shredder and Krang inhabit? Well, that teleported into the 2003 world as well. Pretty soon, a lot of interesting crossovers take place among the villains, including a massive upgrade to the Technodrome and the use of mutagen from the 1987 cartoon to create an army more powerful than the weak Foot Clan robots of 1987.
The last 30 minutes is where the best part of the movie is. This is where we discover the Utrom Shredder's plot and the setting of the grand finale. These elements work so well as part of both a story and a tribute to the whole Ninja Turtles franchise. I found myself applauding at the cleverness of the whole thing. It's not just because I'm a Turtles fan who enjoys the tribute elements (which, by the way, don't seem overdone despite being noticeable). I also found the climax to be quite suspenseful, one that I would enjoy seeing in any exciting action movie.
If there are any weaknesses with Turtles Forever, I can point out two: not having the original 1987 voice actors reprise their roles (but only because of union-related issues) and appealing only to people who are knowledgeable of the Turtles. Otherwise, I was very astonished by this movie. From the start, it's fun enough for me to rate it a solid 7 stars out of 10, but with the ingenious ways of paying homage to the Turtles, I'm willing to give it a bonus star. Speaking of homage, the best scene of Turtles Forever is a quick one but definitely worth waiting for. It's the final scene of the movie, which essentially ties a nice bow around the whole Turtles franchise. All I can say is that this scene, along with the movie as a whole, is the perfect way to celebrate the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their first 25 years in existence.
For more information about Turtles Forever, visit the Internet Movie Database.