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Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the latest animated reboot, but sadly it might be the weakest incarnation to date. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted in comic form in 1984. The characters are walking, talking turtles who live in the sewers of New York, and were trained in martial arts by an anthropomorphic rat named Splinter. The comic was created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, but while it originally started as a parody of gritty superhero comics like Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, it soon became a runaway success.
This is thanks to the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series that premiered in 1987. The cartoon toned down the darkness of the comic and displayed the colorful adventures of the title characters and their battles against The Shredder and various other foes. The popularity of the cartoon and its merchandise led to the 1990 live-action movie, which spawned two sequels. The franchise has returned in various incarnations since then, including the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 2014 and its 2016 sequel.
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The franchise has had a few animated incarnations over the years too, with the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show being praised for its (slightly) darker approach, and the 2012 version – which included voice work by Jason Biggs and Sean Astin (Stranger Things) – was also being well received. The latest update of the concept is 2018’s Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is a more humorous, Teen Titans Go! style approach to the franchise.
Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles features a great intro sequence, colorful animation, and fast-moving action, but its the most disappointing animated incarnation to date. One major problem is the characterization – or lack of it. It’s hard to tell any of the central four heroes apart since they all have a similar personality. The show changes up the dynamics with Raphael being team leader and Splinter being a much less serious mentor, but the unrelenting focus on silly or meta-humor and racing to the next action sequence make it something of an exhausting watch.
That said, Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is designed for children, so in that regard, it can be fun. It’s definitely divided longtime fans, with some being put off by the animation style, constant gags, and interchangeable personas of the characters. Even with talented voice actors like Ben Schwartz (Parks & Rec), it just lacks the charm that came with previous animated shows based on the franchise. It has the potential to improve, however, so hopefully Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles season 2 can address some of the critiques aimed at the show.