Judge Patrick Naugle is a hero in a half-shell.
A look under the shell.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Are there four other words in the English language that fit together better and conjure immediate feelings from your childhood? As a kid I was totally into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so much so that I owned the toys, the comics, and saw all three movies (even though 2/3 of them were terrible). I was a Turtle fanatic, much like many of you were. 2014 has suddenly become the year of the TMNT with the release of Jonathan Liebesman's live action remake Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Riding on the wave of goodwill being offered to the reptilian foursome, Turtle Power: The Definitive History of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is director Randall Lobb's love letter to all things Ninja Turtles.
Turtle Power is exactly what it sounds like: a documentary about the inception, creation, and execution of the green foursome; from their humble beginnings in the Laird and Eastman studios (eventually called Mirage Studios) to the 2014 mega-budget Michael Bay produced film, and everything in between. Originally released as a one-off comic book in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went from being niche characters to unstoppable profit machines (toys, Hostess pies, pajamas) and eventually cultural icons. Their story is like a rags to riches tale, except it in a sewer.
It starts at the beginning of the Turtles inception and moves through all of the highs and lows of the characters, including their marketing (which was a huge part of the Turtle's success), big screen success, and adventures in the comic books. No stone is left unturned, although some stones are flipped over a lot faster than others. While the documentary lingers a long time on the making of the first film, the two sequels (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time) are glossed over extraordinarily fast. The toy lines are given a hefty amount of time but the animated 2007 reboot is all but ignored. Depending on which iteration of the turtles you liked, you may be happy or disappointed with this documentary.
As a rather linear documentary, Turtle Power hits all the right notes and covers all the bases needed. It's hard to fault the film on content because it's all so straight forward and informative. There are current interviews mixed in with archival footage of Laird and Eastman working in the studio. Interviews include creators Laird and Eastman, John Handy of Playmate Toys, Mark Freedman of Surge Licensing, animation producer Fred Wolf, Jim Henson's son Brian Henson (who worked on the 1990 film), voice actors James Avery (who played Shredder in the '80s animated series) and Townsend Coleman ("Michelangelo"), and many others. While nothing the participants share is very groundbreaking or revelatory, their insights into the phenomenon (and work on various cartoons or movies) will draw in fans of the property.
Turtle Power: The Definitive History of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a very attractive looking image that features crisp, colorful interviews. While some of the archival footage looks rough and worn (most of it on video tape), overall this is a fine looking transfer. The soundtrack is Dolby 5.1 Surround in English. This is a very front heavy audio mix with a few randomly placed surround sounds throughout. Otherwise, this 5.1 mix isn't all that exciting but appropriate for the material. Also included are English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
Turtle Power is a better-than-average peek inside some of pop culture's most enduring characters. Both casual and diehard fans will find this to be an interesting documentary, though it doesn't delve as deeply into the subject matter as it could. This would make a great pairing with the 1990 live action movie.
A fun if somewhat standard documentary on the TMNT foursome.
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