The TMNT franchise has been alive and (mostly) kicking for more than 25 years...and whether your first exposure was through the comic books, the 1987 animated series, the feature-length films or otherwise, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's iconic green ninjas have enjoyed a plethora of pop culture portrayals. Like many kids of the 1980s, it was tough for me to resist the franchise's charms but I wouldn't consider myself a lifelong fan: I pretty much quit cold turkey when the awful third live-action movie hit theaters. Since then, my only exposure to the franchise has been revisiting bits and pieces on DVD, as well as the flashy but underwhelming 2007 CGI film. So, having never seen an episode of the 2003 animated series, I approached Nickelodeon's new 2012 CGI TV show blindly and with an appropriate level of caution.
It wasn't warranted, because Rise of the Turtles (the first DVD collection of 2012 episodes) pretty much knocked my socks off. This likable reboot cherry-picks some of the best elements from the original 1987 series and omits much of what annoyed me during later seasons. Our four heroes seem more like brothers than ever before, the laughs are genuine, fights are more intense, continuity is followed and hey, even Splinter seems more like a genuine authority than a kindly but frail figure. Enter Shredder is the follow-up and includes the next seven TMNT Season One episodes (minus one, mentioned below); more often than not, it continuously maintains or exceeds the level of quality set during those first six adventures.
Episodes Include*: "Monkey Brains", "Never Say Xever", "The Gauntlet",
"Panic in the Sewers", "Mousers Attack!", "It Came from the Depths" and "New Girl in Town"
* - For unknown reasons, this DVD does not include "I, Monster", which originally aired before "New Girl in Town".
Appropriately enough, there's more of a focus on "big picture" stories instead of monsters-of-the-week; as mentioned in the DVD title, our heroes even do battle with Shred-head for the first time. He and his henchmen are presented as more of a threat than likable bozos such as Bebop and Rocksteady...and unlike the first live-action movie, Shredder isn't quickly disposed of in a garbage truck. The failure of the Turtles works to every advantage of a long-running series, setting the stage for future confrontations instead of easy layups for the good guys. Even Shredder's lackeys give our heroes a run for their money, which adds to the dramatic tension of brawls that might normally feel like practice. Not bad for a kids' franchise, especially one that had every right to fade into pop culture history almost twenty years ago.
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio---despite the packaging's "Full Screen" claim---my only nagging complaint about TMNT: Enter Shredder is that the series still isn't available on Blu-Ray (perhaps in time for a full season collection?). Other than that, this stylish production looks excellent from start to finish, boasting a moody color palette, strong black levels and only a few hints of banding and aliasing. Image and texture details are also quite strong for a standard definition release, as little touches like scuffs and dents on the Turtles' shells and the metallic sheen of Shredder's helmet are nicely rendered. From top to bottom, fans should be happy...but again, pretty please for Season One on Blu-Ray!
DISCLAIMER: These compressed screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent DVD's native 480p resolution.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also terrific, though it's odd that an optional 2.0 downmix wasn't included. Either way, TMNT regularly features plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) atmospheric touches, from the echoing dampness of sewer life to the steely clang of weapons striking one another. Dialogue is typically anchored up front and crisply recorded, while the sporadic music cues are dynamic but not overpowering. No optional subtitles are included with this release, though Closed Caption support is at least offered.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the standard menu interface is basic but easy to navigate. Episodes are divided into several chapters, though selection sub-menus are not present. This one-disc release arrives in a clear keepcase with an embossed slipcover and a Turtle-themed inside cover design. A fold-out Poster
is also included.
than last time, unfortunately. Only one Storyboard Comparison
is included during "New Girl in Town" (as opposed to the first DVD, which compared all six episodes); though not particularly in-depth, it's nice to have and may be of interest to budding artists. We also get a two-part Digital Comic Book
that's displayed in 480p widescreen and navigates manually from panel to panel. It's entertaining enough and should interest fans, but the navigation buttons obscure some of the artwork on several occasions.
TMNT fans of all ages should have no trouble enjoying this new version of the franchise, as its potent mixture of comedy, drama and action has already met or outclassed the "original series" in several ways. Likewise, those who saw and enjoyed Rise of the Turtles will find Enter Shredder a worthy follow-up, at least in episode quality. Sadly, Nickelodeon's DVD package continues to offer little support, aside from a quality A/V presentation. Their habit of dangling one-disc volumes instead of full season collections is a step in the wrong direction, and it will rightly keep die-hard fans at bay until this mistake is corrected. But Enter Shredder is still worth watching, so feel free to enjoy a weekend spin for now. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.