TMNT: Now and Then

I’m going to say the most controversial thing I have or will ever say within this blog series – Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987).

Based upon my demographics, I should be hopelessly in love with the nostalgia of yesteryear and remember fondly the time of my youth. I was a diehard TMNT fan with all the toys (well not all the toys…), the hero’s base, VHS cassettes and a desire to play around the sewers. But the truth is…the show doesn’t hold up at all.

TMNT 2012All cartoons we loved from the 80’s era were commercials designed to entice kids to irritate their parents until they bought a new toy. Each episode would showcase a new villain (available now at your local store) or send the heroes on a wacky alternate adventure with new costumes (you only have the standard Michelangelo? what a sucker). It was formulaic and painful to revisit.

Nickelodeon wouldn’t be upset if you bought a new TMNT toy and there are still lots of merchandising opportunities at play but the storytelling and mythology building is stronger. The past show was a standard freak of the week series where goofball Shredder would be defeated only to swear he would get vengeance next time – he never did. In the new series Shredder is the big bad of New York and proves easily capable of defeating the turtles (Splinter, not so much)…unfortunately he still falls for the villain trap of always sending flunkeys out instead; it is still a kid show.

As a show for kids it remains fun and light hearted but still interjects consequences. The heroes will fail, relationships will be tested and sometimes the villains get the upper hand for like half an episode – the theme song intro clearly states “the good guys win and the bad guys lose” so you know what to expect.

The true strength of the series is the turtles themselves. They each have their own unique fighting style, visual cues and personality. Outside of the base personality established in TMNT 1987 (leader, machines, rude and jokester) they were all really the same. If they took their masks off they would be indistinguishable. They all talked like each other and most often would keep their weapons in check and do the same silly non-violent fighting sequences. It was fine for the time (and my age) but is no longer necessary.

Yes, the characters are still based on those personality archetypes previously established but they are slightly more complex and intertwined. There becomes a cadence to the banter of Raphael and Michelangelo, Leonardo is still growing into his role as leader and Splinter is wiser, sadder and more sarcastic than ever before. TMNT is self-aware of its past and isn’t afraid to build a better universe and keep what drew kids in – the fun.

tmnt-nickelodeon-tv-showThe show is very much a reaction of what came before. TMNT has the opportunity to learn what worked in previous iterations, and what didn’t. April is reinvented in all but name, but still remains the perfect conduit for the turtles to interact with humanity. Casey Jones is only in this series because he is a beloved character from previous iterations and the secret of the mutagen is given a new twist, which intertwines a familiar face.

TMNT 2012 isn’t a perfect show and if I didn’t have a foundation of fondness for the property I wouldn’t have watched past the first episode. It turns out to be a solid show and is realistically the best iteration of Turtles we have ever seen on the small screen. If you were a fan of TMNT at any point in your life, you should watch this series. If you prefer the dark and gritty comic book versions…you won’t enjoy this either.

Have you watched TMNT 2012 yet? How do you like it? Whose your favorite turtle…historically I always preferred Leo but I like the new iteration of Mikey this time.

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