Following their success with The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Saban produced a live action television series featuring the Ninja Turtles. The series was based on a loose continuity that was similar to the 1980s television cartoons and even adopted elements from the live action films. Saban, once again independent from Disney, is releasing the first collected DVD of the Ninja Turtles series for fans who remember the series and those who were never exposed to it.
I never knew about this series which spanned 26 episodes and only lasted one season. It borrows a lot of live action feel of the Power Rangers and even manages to add a unique feature to five-hero team sentai genre popularized in Japan. The series adds a new female ninja turtle called Venus de Milo or Shinobi to the core team of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo and Donatello. Every episode is in continuity so the first five ones introduce a new villain of eternal dragons banished in a distant dimension centuries ago. They want to return to Earth and absorb the powers of the Turtles. After Splinter’ the Ninja Turtles’ mentor has been trapped in a dream dimension, it’s up to Venus de Milo, whose own master has been defeated by the dragons to help the Turtles retrieve the anthropomorphic sensei rat.
The stories, although severely discredited by the Ninja Turtles’ creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are way more entertaining than those found in early episodes of the Power Rangers. In fact, the Turtles’ personalities are well captured with Raphael being a bit more negative than in the cartoon series but still likable. The series uses a lot stock images for scenes such as Raphael riding his motorcycle or the other Turtles riding their modified hummer. Venus de Milo is quite annoying though with her Asian accent although I like the humour with her misinterpreting cultural nuances all the time.
Now the costumes were not perfect. Having never watched the live action films, I can’t say how they compared, but clearly, the costumes which were probably quite expensive to produce at the time, were not perfect. You can see seems and even ripped fabrics such when the actors portraying the turtles raise their arms. Each of their heads are meant to pull on top of the actor’s head sideways, with one side seamless and the other one not. Although it seems the directors tried to hide this, they didn’t succeed in showing the individual turtles’ best angles all the time. You can see the eye slits where the actor’s are supposed to look through, right under the masks sported by the Ninja Turtles.
Yet, I really appreciate the stunts the actors perform. Given the weight of the shells on their back and the considerable amount of padding the costumes had, the actors move freely and perform martial arts and acrobatics that would be tough enough, were they not wearing any extra 50 pound costumes.
The DVD collects the first 13 episodes on two discs and has very few extras. The quality of the footage transferred was much better than that in the Power Rangers series I reviewed just a few weeks ago. Here is a special notes for viewers who like to skip chapters in DVDs and jump right into the action. Don’t skip the last episode previews that start just before the opening title sequence plays, you’ll miss a lot of material. The last episode recaps are fairly short and followed by new story development before the title sequence starts.