After the mediocre one-two punch of Retreat and Return to NYC, the third season of Nickelodeon's revamped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had nowhere to go but up. Sure, this wasn't exactly terrible stuff (especially compared to the original 1987 series' later seasons)...but after two years of consistently entertaining material, the once-promising show was definitely beginning to flounder a bit. Luckily, Revenge---the third and final volume of TMNT's third season---gets everything back on track, serving up 13 episodes filled with all the ridiculous action, juvenile humor, and over-the-top characters you'd expect when sitting down to watch a franchise with this name.
Part of the reason why Revenge works better than the season's first half is its improved focus. At least three ongoing subplots advance during the course of these 13 episodes, while a few one-shot "monster-of-the-week" outings (even if the monster turns out to be a good guy, as in "The Noxious Avenger" and "Meet Mondo Gecko") break up the drama with comic relief. Other episodes like "The Creeping Doom" play around with conventions, as Michelangelo and Donatello gradually switch brains after trouble in the science lab. But the big picture takes over as Season 3 progresses, especially during the two-part finale "Annihilation: Earth!": not only must our heroes join forces with their greatest enemy to stop a new group of invaders, it ends on a huge cliffhanger that promises a bold new direction for the series' fourth year, already in progress. It also marks the series' most surprisingly dark and dramatic path to date, and one that no doubt tugged on the heartstrings of anyone even halfway invested in the characters.
If that weren't enough, the vocal performances and supporting characters are a bit more memorable this time around. JB Smoove is a scene-stealer as Bebop: though the warthog (along with Rocksteady, voiced by Fred Tatasciore) debuted earlier in the season, he's much more comfortable in the role and given a chance to give him a looser, more enjoyable presence. The Turtles themselves have always played off one another nicely, and Seth Green's performance as Leonardo (who also joined earlier this season) also feels more natural at this point. A number of notable guest stars also shine in their supporting roles: Robbie Rist (who voiced Michelangelo in the live-action movies) will sound familiar to long-time fans as the voice of Mondo Gecko, following in the footsteps of Renae Jacobs (April O'Neal from the 1987 series) who voiced "Mom-Thing" earlier this season. Michael Dorn of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame even lends his vocal chops to the two-part finale, and almost made me think I was watching Gargoyles.
Similar to past season-closing volumes, Paramount belatedly presents TMNT: Revenge as a two-disc DVD set. As far as A/V quality and bonus features are concerned, it's on par with past volumes. A complete episode listing is screen-capped below, or check out the individual summaries here (beginning with episode #15, "The Noxious Avenger").
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio, my only nagging complaint about TMNT: Revenge is that the series still hasn't been made available on Blu-ray. Other than that, this stylish production looks quite good from start to finish, boasting a moody color palette and solid black levels. Image and texture details are also very 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. Aliasing and banding are definitely present (and honestly, they're almost expected on animated DVD releases), but the latter can be especially distracting at times. From top to bottom, fans should still be happy...but again, I know I'm not alone in wishing for a long overdue bump to high definition.
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 isn't included. Either way, TMNT regularly features plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) atmospheric touches, from the spooky echoes of underground 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. Overall, it's an effective mix that helps to sell the series' frantic, exciting pace. No optional subtitles are included, though Closed Captions are offered.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the interface is colorful and easy to navigate with a static advertisement beforehand. Episodes are no longer divided into several chapters, which is kinda lazy and annoying on Paramount's part. This one-disc release arrives in a clear, dual-hubbed keepcase with double-sided artwork and a matching slipcover.
Aside from a short Season 4 Preview
on Disc 1 (huh?), we get another handful of "Mutation of a Scene"
comparisons; these present storyboards, rough composites, and finished artwork of selected scenes from each episode. These are probably worth a look for die-hard fans and those interested in animation, but they only offer a surface-level breakdown of the visuals. It's a shame we aren't getting more creative behind-the-scenes stuff by now (especially considering some of the voice talent involved), because these just aren't cutting it after nine volumes and counting.
After a really rough start, the third season of Nickelodeon's revamped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets fully back on track with Revenge, a collection of 13 good-to-great episodes that ends on a huge cliffhanger (and yes, season four's already in progress and a fifth has been ordered). The series' entertaining mix of juvenile comedy, ridiculous sci-fi, occasional horror, over-the-top characters, and subtle in-jokes for long-time fans has proven to be a successful formula when done right, and that's basically what we get here. Paramount's DVD package is good enough, considering the format's limitations: aside from another lack of compelling extras, my only continued complaint is the absence of a Blu-ray option. Fans who have come this far should have no problem putting Revenge high on their wish lists, as it represents a better value compared to those other single-disc volumes. Firmly Recommended.
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.