Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014.
Directed by Randall Lobb.
The history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles joins Ghostbusters and A Nightmare on Elm Street in the stable of “franchises celebrating 30 years of existence” and Randall Lobb’s rather wordy Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is more or less what it says on the tin. It’s a celebration of this franchise that has transcended generations just as icons like The Muppets and Star Wars have. But while it appears as though Turtle Power wants to be along the lines of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy or Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, it often just feels like an extended DVD extra, especially when its hampered by such a short runtime. In short, it’s not quite as “definitive” as it claims.
As you would imagine, Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles chronicles the the rise of the Heroes in a Half Shell from the first meeting of their creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird all the way up to their current 2014 iteration and blockbuster movie. The documentary covers the comic’s first few issues before diving head first into the ever popular ’87 cartoon series where Lobb spends a lot of his time. From there is covers the first big screen movie, which it talks about in great detail, and then… that’s about it.
What is supposed to be a celebration of thirty years ends up just being the first six, with the other twenty-four being wrapped up in a few quick montage sequences. Its almost as though Randall Lobb planned to spend the same amount of time on every facet of the Turtle’s history (a la Never Sleep Again or Crystal Lake Memories) but was then told he was consigned to just 98 minutes and not a moment longer. After a wonderful recap of the inner workings of 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the documentary then says, in so many words, “we did a second movie, and a third movie after that”. No talk with directors, no discussion of Judith Hoag leaving the franchise and no analysis of the utter failure that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. In fact, if this documentary is anything to go by, the oft-mocked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was a step up from the previous effort because it went back to its “darker roots”. There is no mention of 2003 cartoon series, no look at 2007’s TMNT and even the talk of the video game coverage stops at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.
It’s such a shame because Lobb clearly has a love for the series and Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles often shows signs of being a fantastic documentary. There is a great amount of archive footage of Laird and Eastman and their early days of Mirage Studios and Lobb has gone to great lengths to unearth as many of the voice talent involved in both the ’87 cartoon and the 1990 silver screen adventure – including the late James Avery and the now shamed Kevin Clash. Every single interview offers up great stories of the evolution of the franchise and there is even a wonderful montage of the various TMNT villains that were created for the sole reason of selling toys as well as comparisons to the original comic books and the Archie runs based off the TV show. In fact, the coverage of the 1990 movie is among the best ever produced. There is just too little of it.
Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a definitive look, it just about scrapes the surface and that’s why it’s hard to recommend. It’s worth watching because what it does show is great, but it will just leave you wanting more and 99 minutes just isn’t enough time to cover a thirty year history. A good effort and brilliant if you have no interest in the franchise post-1990, but don’t let the “definitive” title fool you.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.