Nickelodeon's 2012 revamp of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is slowly winding down after five seasons of action and adventure, and the show's been much better than its treatment on DVD thus far. With only one or two stretches of below-average episodes to its name, TMNT has done an excellent job of appealing to old and new fans alike with a strong mixture of comedy, action, danger, and no shortage of drama during some of the series' darker moments. It's been a fun ride for the most part, and this fifth season (dubbed Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) has taken a victory lap via one-shot and other self-contained episodes rather than a strictly linear continuity. The latest DVD volume, Wanted: Rocksteady & Bebop, serves up two more adventures from this fifth season: the time-traveling title episode (which has yet to air) and "Lone Rat and Cubs", an origin story written by co-creator Kevin Eastman.
"Wanted: Rocksteady and Bebop" debuts here as a extended 60-minute special, but will be aired in three parts during the next month or two. This story picks up where "Trans-Dimensional Turtles" left off, kind of: the 2012 Turtles are once again reunited with their 1987 counterparts, along with Shredder and Krang (all voiced by the original actors, save for the late James Avery), while 1987 Rocksteady and Bebop (Cam Clarke and Barry Gordon) are left in their own dimension. Naturally, Shredder and Krang enlist the help of 2012 Rocksteady and Bebop (Fred Tatasciore and JB Smoove) to re-power the Technodrome, and it's up to our eight heroes to stop them. This is a decent episode with plenty of fun gags for die-hard fans to pick out, although it goes to the "1987 is corny" well way too many times and barely accomplishes more than "Trans-Dimensional Turtles" did in one-third of the time. It's also got a music video tacked on at the end, which feels awfully out of place during an episode that repeatedly dogs the 1987 Turtles for being lame.
"Lone Rat and Cubs" (aired August 13, 2017) presents yet another fleshed-out origin story for Splinter and his four baby turtles, which brings the count up to something like half a dozen at this point. Either way, this is an incredibly solid and enjoyable episode: writer Kevin Eastman treats his characters with care, throwing in a handful of clever Easter eggs and giving some much-needed face time to a great character that's been hasn't been around lately for obvious reasons. Taking place some fifteen years before the first season, this episode's obvious nods to Ogami Itto and other touchstones of classic Japanese cinema make "Lone Rat and Cubs" one of the series' better installments. It's certainly the standout on this collection, which makes the lack of more content here even more disappointing.
Unfortunately, almost everything else about Paramount's DVD presentation of Wanted: Rocksteady & Bebop is much less impressive, making it one of the series' weakest releases to date by a landslide. For a show that absolutely deserves to go out with a bang, it's disappointing to see such a blatant fumble this late in the game.
Video & Audio Quality
Despite my continued gripes about the lack of a Blu-ray option, Paramount has served up a consistent string of good-looking TMNT DVDs during the past few years. Unfortunately, that streak ends with Wanted: Rocksteady & Bebop, as there appears to be a handful of glaring problems with the 480p transfer for both of these episodes. For starters, the black levels are more like medium to dark grey during almost every scene and, as a result, shadow detail and contrast values are severely compromised. To make matters worse (although it's probably related to the same issue), there's an awful lot of macroblocking, banding, and other compression artifacts on display as well, although these aren't quite as regular. The colors also seem a bit duller and less consistent than previous volumes. If I didn't know better, I'd say these were taken from a lower quality digital source or possibly unfinished version, as it's obvious that this is a defect rather than an intentional choice by the creative team (and this is a final copy, not a screener).
Another reason I'm confident that these episodes are messed up? An accompanying music video, first shown during the title episode, also appears separately as a stand-alone bonus feature and looks much, much better in direct comparison. I've included a few comparison shots of both versions below just to prove how bad these episodes look.
Comparison #1 - Episode | Music Video
Comparison #2 - Episode | Music Video
Comparison #3 - Episode | Music Video
DISCLAIMER: These compressed screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent DVD's native 480p resolution.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track suffers from no such problems, preserving the series' action-packed sound design perfectly well. Either way, TMNT regularly features plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) atmospheric touches, from the low rumble of subway trains 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 anchors the series' frantic, exciting pace. No optional subtitles are included, only Closed Captions support.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the interface is colorful and easy to navigate with a static advertisement beforehand. This one-disc release is packaged in a clear keepcase with double-sided artwork and a matching slipcover that continues the white background style for this final season. As mentioned earlier, the only bonus feature is a Music Video
for "Ice Cream Kitty" (3 minutes); I'd normally say that something like this is redundant since it's tacked onto the title episode already, but the upgrade in video quality [see above] answered several questions I had about the presentation of this disc.
Wanted: Rocksteady & Bebop is an entertaining but woefully short collection of episodes from a series that changed direction sharply during its fifth and final season. Both adventures---the hour-long title episode and "Lone Rat and Cubs", an origin story penned by co-creater Kevin Eastman---are very enjoyable for different reasons, which makes the lack of more episodes even more painful. But the disappointment doesn't end there: this disc suffers from several major visual defects (surely enough for a recall) and should probably be avoided until then. Rent It in the meantime.
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.