We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm, be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in my generation who WASN’T a Ninja Turtle fan when they were a kid. I had a TON of Turtle crap, down to a sewer-themed aquarium. I loved the cartoons and the movies, and you’d better believe I had more than my fair share of toys. And the toys were insane. After the initial wave of turtles, the lines kept getting stranger and stranger until I actually had a Raphael figure dressed as a magician with a rabbit that popped out of his hat. Suffice to say, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold a special place in my heart and in my childhood.
I was excited to see the new TMNT movie in 2007, and even more so when I realized that the writers were clever enough to fit it into both the current cartoon continuity and the original movie continuity, making it the best of both worlds (or both generations, at the very least) since at the time I had never seen the new cartoon. I’ve since then seen most of the first two seasons of the new show and it’s OK. There are some things I don’t like about it (mostly the obnoxious music and sometimes lackluster voice acting), but it’s solid. The art style is cool, and overall, I can’t complain.
Somehow Turtles Forever slipped completely under my radar until after its release. It’s a shame, too, because I should have been all over it. The two Turtles series in a crossover? This could really go one of two ways. Either it would be a disaster of monumental proportions or it would be pretty cool. I never considered a third option, that it would melt my face with awesome. There’s more heart in Turtles Forever than in most shows on the air right now, and it goes well beyond the standard crossover. It’s more than just the eight turtles interacting. It’s a complete marriage of the two series’ radically different art styles and production designs. When the ’80s Turtles are in the ’00s world, they look like they don’t belong there, to the level that the new Turtles notice and comment on it. The same thing happens when the new Turtles go back to ’80s New York. Gone is the dark color palette and in its place is the cheesy glory of our collective childhoods.
But why does this story even exist? How do they pull it off? It must make no sense at all, right? Believe it or not, it’s incredibly well thought-out. In their latest tussle with the Shredder and the Technodrome, the ’80s Turtles and the Technodrome (and the villains) are pulled into a different dimension just like they could have been in any random episode of the original series. There is NO reason this shouldn’t have happened. You buy it immediately as the viewer. What follows is a well thought-out movie that is both reverent of the original series and self-deprecating at the same time. The old Turtles do nothing but make weird lame jokes and occasionally speak to the camera, thus confusing the hell out of the new characters that don’t get it.
The best part is the villains. When the Shredder and Krang (yes, Krang!) see the turtles, they figure there must be a Shedder in this new dimension, too, so they resurrect the long-gone Shredder and give him a new body (much like Krang’s) in hopes that they will join forces and crush the cursed turtles. The only problem is that new Shredder is actually a badass and a competent villain, unlike the bumbling Shredder of old. He promptly hijacks the Technodrome and imprisons his ’80s counterpart and turns the Technodrome into the weapon of mass destruction it should have been. Bebop and Rocksteady now follow new Shredder (yes, they’re in there, too) on his quest to destroy Ninja Turtles across the multiverse.
In the ultimate “Oh snap!” moment, the eight turtles eventually follow Shredder to “Turtle Prime,” where it all started. That means the original Laird/Eastman comics. That means black and white and grim and gritty. It’s fantastic. The final showdown with 12 turtles, old bad guys, and even some new ones (looking at you, Karai) all teaming up against the giant new Shredder in his crazy Krang suit is too cool for mere words. Fade out to a short yet touching live-action segment at the end and you’ve got one of the most unique TV events I’ve ever seen.
There’s so much more to this movie that I implore you to find it. It’s not on DVD yet, nor is there even a date announced for its release, so you’ll have to find it on the internet (YouTube is your friend), but it’s worth it. WAY worth it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the old series or if the new school is more your style. If you’re a Turtle fan, you’ll love this. Period. The writers clearly had a love for the franchise, and they wrote what honestly feels like the end. There will ALWAYS be Ninja Turtles, but if it WERE to end now, this would be a fitting close to the series. It’s fun. It’s got heart. And all in all, it’s just really well done. The animation is great. The jokes are funny (“We save April at least once a day!”). The story is engaging. It’s honestly near-perfect in every way. You need to see this.