Man in Black Review: Turtles Forever (2009)

It’s taken me a while to verbalize this review. I knew months ago that I wanted to review Turtles Forever. Maybe it was just because I was in disbelief of how I felt about the film, or maybe it was because I just wasn’t sure how much of my opinion came from another, rather well done review of the film that I watched shortly before watching the film myself for the first time. That’s not why I watched them in such a short amount of time to one another; rather, I watched Phelous’s review when it came out, and I watched Turtles Forever as part of my research for my video on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

What I guess this whole, pointless spiel really says is that I really don’t like this movie, and it really makes me feel sad. My own personal memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a blend of the movies, the SNES games, the Red Sky seasons and the “Core” seasons, aka the Middle Seasons that most people associate TMNT with. As a result of this blend, I never saw the show to be as cheesy and comedic as a lot of people did, possibly because the first season is awesome, possibly because I didn’t watch the show from 1987 (when I wasn’t born yet) on, possibly because slapstick comedy to me is the boring part that I block out of my memory. Might be why most of my Inspector Gadget memories are of the theme song.

Turtles Forever was a 2009 made for TV film that brought the 2003 cartoon series to a close- and also successfully took the spot of the 2007 CGI theatrical film in everybody’s mind after the fact. Seriously, when was the last time you heard anybody actually talk about that movie? Probably 2007.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about that movie now, either. Instead, I’m addressing Turtles Forever, which by all accounts was intended to be an homage to all of the various Turtles incarnations that came before, and perhaps, for those people who really saw the Turtles as nothing but the cheese-fest that they were in the second third of their original run, might actually feel that way.

For anybody who actually respected the Turtles, and saw them as cool fighters with an inspirational tech guy, and actually liked to watch them do cool things, it’s rather an insult. While the 2003 Turtles are cool, grim, and handy in a fight, the 1987 Turtles spend the entire movie tickling one another, breaking their disguises, and running recklessly into fights without any sort of planning. The ’03 Turtles spend the entire movie whining about how useless and annoying the ’87 Turtles are, and the one- I repeat that, one occasion in which the Mirage Turtles mention they prefer the ’87 Turtles over the ’03 ones does not make for fair turnabout. If anything, it’s like the school bully constantly taunting the smaller kid, and then the parents off-hand mention to one another that the smaller kid is funny, and expect that to somehow make up for all of the psychological abuse the small kid suffered at the hands of the bully. Here’s a hint: It doesn’t.

The plot of the film isn’t too bad; in fact, simply trimming the script to fold down all of the straight up middle fingers to the original series would have turned out a pretty fun story. After a battle, the Technodrome ends up visiting the 2003 Turtles world instead of Dimension X. It’s actually pulled off fairly well, long enough to get the point across, but short enough the audience isn’t saying “okay, we get it” throughout the scene either. I personally came into this film with no familiarity to the 2003 villains (in fact, I had to ask several witnesses and visit several fan explanation pages before I could figure out exactly what the deal with all of the Shredders in this series was), but I was able to keep up with exactly what was going on at all times.

This is fairly short lived, however, when Donatello announces that he’s going to create a portal between worlds “with… a lot of positive thinking”. They travel back to the 1987 universe, where April O’Neil is being chased by about a dozen parodies of the most ridiculous villains in the entire 1987 series. Opinions are mixed on this- some defend the scene as a parody mentioning that some villains on the series were just as ridiculous as this, while I would argue that, if you combine the concepts and the cheap animation of this segment (and the fact that they don’t face a single serious villain from the 1987 universe), it comes off as more insulting than funny. This is one of those sections I was talking about earlier where just a little bit of foresight could have transformed an insulting scene into a worthy parody.

Speaking of villains, I haven’t really mentioned the 1987 villains here, and there’s a reason for that. After the setup, they’re immediately demoted to comic relief. This is probably the most frustrating part of the film for me. I’ve heard it said that the way you measure the quality of a (super) hero is by measuring their villains. If Turtles Forever is to be believed, that would make the measure of the 1987 Turtles somewhere around the level of a janitor flushing a turd down the drain.

Really, the best characterization in the film is Bebop and Rocksteady. In fact, their role in the plot is one thing that I would call a successful homage, in that it’s too close to the truth to be a parody. Not sure you can make a parody of comic relief characters anyway. Bebop and Rocksteady’s major contribution is something that I could honestly see in their original series, and for that reason, I have no problem with the way the climax of this movie goes.

Turtles Forever is a kind of fun film, but there’s a lot of flaws and sometimes that makes it hard to see how much work was really put into it. In one scene, the film shows off every single incarnation of the Turtles that doesn’t appear physically in the film- including Turtles that I remember owning the action figures of but can’t for the life of me tell you what they were called or what media they appeared in. It’s little tidbits like that which show you that somewhere deep down, there really was love for the source material. It’s just really hard to see when big, bad Raphael spends his days tickling people.

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