Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation - Vol. 1
Studio: Shout! Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 4th, 2012

Synopsis: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo are four genetically mutated turtles who have grown into human-sized, ninja-powered crime-fighters living in the sewers of New York City. Under the tutelage of Master Splinter, these four teens have spent their formative years fighting their nemesis, Shredder, and his evil army. But the turtlesí world we have come to know and love is about to change. If you thought Shredder was bad, wait until you meet the newest TMNT foe: Dragon Lord! It will take all the power of the turtles to combat this new villain . . . lucky for them, they will have help from a new ninja turtle, a FEMALE turtle named Venus De Milo! See all the exciting showdowns in the only live-action series based on the iconic Ninja Turtles franchise!

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation - Vol. 1 DVD Review
By James Harvey

To start things off, thereís a good chance youíll be disappointed in Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation. In no way is it on the level of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theatrical films, or even their animated television fare. Not even close. The budget was obviously very small, the suits are pretty unconvincing, and the fights canít even be called that. Theyíre just…a mess. But, I donít know why, it has this cheesy quality to it that makes it possible to watch. And itís kind of enjoyable, even with the myriad of problems the show suffers from.

Ninja Turtles: The Next MutationSo, where to begin? Do I start with the fifth female Turtle that has been basically denounced and ignored by the majority of the Ninja Turtle fandom? Or the small budget? Perhaps the squandered potential? Well, there is plenty I can ramble on and on about, but where to start is the problem. I suppose Iíll just start by saying what it is Ė Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation is a low-budgeted attempt to keep the Ninja Turtle franchise going. By the time this show debuted, in the tail end of the 1990s, the franchise was faltering. Toy sales were down and the long-running 1980s/1990s cartoon had wrapped up. So, logically, going live-action seemed the logical approach after having such success with the theatrical features. Sadly, the ambition did not really result in a high-quality product. The ambition was there, but the means were not. Still, thereís something so enjoyably watchable about Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.

Right away, this show tries to establish that this isnít your typical Ninja Turtles series. Their costumes have been redesigned quite…extensively. Regular mainstays like April OíNeil and Casey Jones are discarded (and actually never mentioned), and the Shredder is quickly dismissed after a couple episodes. What we get instead are dream dragons, a new turtle, some new villains, and a more mystical take on the mythos. For better or for worse, the show definitely tries to establish itself as something new for the franchise and, honestly, it does work to an extent. Thereís an honest attempt at world building and expanding, but the attempts are either stunted Ė such as the Dragon Lordís repetitive plans Ė or the other villains introduced are so weak and unable to barely carry an episode. Thereís something crazy awesome about a gangster ape, for example, but the show just completely drops its quirky potential. Additionally, while the showís attempt to take a different route with the Turtles franchise is noble, it is disappointing that some classic Ninja Turtles characters are pushed to the side.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

The show isnít top quality. The effort is there, but itís hindered by mediocre writing, cheap costumes, and weak special effects. The limitations are very apparent in every episode and pairing that with generally weak stories usually results with some disappointing results. The fighting choreography is also pretty shoddy, with the fights consisting mostly of kicks. Weapons are barely used at all (Leonardoís sword looks pretty flimsy, too). That being said, the episodes do remain watchable, oddly enough. Thereís this oddly campy charm that helps the series overcome its many, many shortcomings. There are times when you can actually see the potential shining through a bit, only to have it snatched away by excessively annoying sound effects or groaner dialogue.

Still, what the show was able to do with a limited budget is quite surprising. Thereís a host of costumed characters, voice actors, and computer effects, with nearly every episode featuring all three. Sure, they try to balance things out by using stock footage as much as possible Ė you will see the same footage of the Turtles leaving their liar in a jeep and motorbike over and over Ė but it does seem like the creative team actually tried to do the mythos justice. I am sure many will disagree with that, but I thought it apparent. In all honesty, the show is decent, but not anything special. It deserves a chance, whether that means watching it fresh or revisiting it if you watched it when it originally aired nearly 15 years ago. If anything, itís worth it to experience the wonder that is Venus De Milo, easily the biggest misfire of the Turtles franchise. Did the group really need a female presence? Well, they already had quite a few – with the likes of April OíNeil and Karai – so adding one that happened to be a Turtle seemed redundant and gimmicky. It also didnít help that her character was pretty flat and stale. I get the purpose behind her character, but I just donít find that it was pulled off successfully.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

As someone who missed this series when it first aired, I actually enjoyed it. By no means is the series actually good, but it has a campy watchability to it. Perhaps itís the Turtles fan in me, but I got a kick out of the show, even if the quality got extremely questionable during some of the first thirteen episodes. It will never be fondly remembered or looked back upon in a positive manner, but it is a series that one can just sit down and watch. Yes, the jokes are usually awful, the special effects weak, and the writing subpar, but itís not the total disaster that many have made it out to be. There are moments when the Turtles actually interact together in a somewhat realistic manner, or the bad guys actually seem interesting. Itís true Ė it happens! But those are few and far in-between. If anything, the excessive one-liners and overwrought exclamations get really tiring really fast. And ďRaph and Roll?Ē Please.

Moving on, the DVD is pretty basic, with a mix of both good and bad. First up, the presentation is fantastic. The video is surprisingly great given the age of the material here. Sure the image isnít perfectly crisp, but itís likely the best this show has ever looked. Itís clear with a hint of softness and some occasionally video artifacting. It looks pretty excellent. The sound is as youíd expect – good, loud, and clear. Action sounds just as audible and clear as some of the rare quiet scenes. Donít expect a top-of-the-line 5.1 mix, but what we get here is respectable to whatís on screen.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

Thereís not much else to cover beyond the audio/video specs. The DVD is barebones, with no bonus content whatsoever. On top of that, the cover art is also a bit of a hasty Photoshop job with weapons added in where they donít belong . On the cover, sais are woefully placed in Raphelís hand, with obvious errors surrounding not only itís placement, but the fact that part of the Photoshopped weapon repeats itself. Donatelloís bo staff is also added to the cover image, and the back cover image of Splinter is altered to have him holding his walking stick. Not the best job and easy to miss on a quick glance, but a closer look does bring all the issues to light. Sloppy, but probably not as worse as half of the cover artwork that dons DVDs these days.

Still, I would recommend at least renting this collection and giving it a test drive. Then again, with the set available for as low as $10 in some places, just picking up the collection may be a fine alternative. Be warned, if youíre not flexible and able to accept changes to established mythos, then this show is not for you. I can completely understand it, too, but Iím someone who enjoys both the original gritty Mirage comics and the 1980s animated series. Both wildly different, but each with their own unique slants on the material. And that is exactly what Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation is Ė a new take on established material. Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation is flawed and ultimately forgettable, but I think itís worth checking out for fans of the decades old franchise.