Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation - Vol. 2
Studio: Shout! Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 4th, 2012

Synopsis: Everyone’s favorite turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo along with the newest addition to the family, Venus Di Milo) are back! They’re on a mission to rescue Master Splinter from the evil Dragon Lord and his horde while staying clear of other new foes like the vampiress Vam-Mi, the yeti Silver and the big-game hunter Simon Bonesteel who’s out for their shells! See all the exciting showdowns in the conclusion to the only live-action series based on the iconic Ninja Turtles franchise!

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation - Vol. 2 DVD Review
By James Harvey

Well, if you picked up the first volume of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, expect more of the same here in this second – and final – collection of episodes from the short-lived 1990s live-action series. Everything from the first thirteen episodes remains present here – a small budget, unconvincing costumes, laughable fights, and a large amount of camp. In short, it suffers from a host of problems but, miraculously, remains watchable. However, something really important starts to happen in these final thirteen episodes that actually makes me wish the series got a shot at a second season.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

So, basically, if you’re reading this review, you should have a basic idea of what to expect here. Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation is a low-budgeted attempt to keep the Ninja Turtle franchise going once its popularity started to drift in the mid-1990s. Given the success of the Power Rangers franchise, it did make sense to give the Ninja Turtles a makeover using a similar approach. Plus, the big-screen live-action films likely helped in selling the idea. The ambition was there, but the means were not, and what we fans got was a considerably low-budget take on the franchise that not too many fans actually enjoyed. It lasted but a season. Still, there’s something so enjoyably watchable about Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.

For example, I enjoyed the four-part episode “Unchain my Heart,” which felt like an actual season finale event. The stakes get pretty high and, at least for me, went in a few directions I wasn’t expecting. Granted, the focus on Venus can get a bit grating at times, but it’s part of the package when it comes with this show. And “Like Brothers” brought in some nice conflict between Raphael and Leonardo, always great fodder for the Turtles story, even if there wasn’t any new real ground covered. “Enemy of my Enemy,” featuring Shredder, and “Mutant Reflections,” with a bunch of clones, are enjoyable little yarns. Now, I’m not going to pretend these episodes are works of art, but they are relatively competent and pretty entertaining. These episodes suffer from the same problems as the rest of them, but having a specific, focused multi-part episode like “Unchain my Heart” does actually allow the series to hone in and concentrate on telling a story on a bigger scale.

Now, if only they would get rid of those unnecessary goofy sounds…

I will say, after a solid four-part story, which did drag a little to be completely honest, ending the first season on a clip show did feel like a bit of a cheat. I understand why it was done, but that seems like something that would happen in an early second season episodes (or just … not at all). Having the last episode be a clip show robs the viewers of a story.

Even as the show heads toward its final episodes, there’s a slight sense of improvement to the overall quality. Nothing big, but it seemed like the creative team was starting to see what worked and what didn’t as it hits its final stretch. The effort is there, but it’s hindered by continued mediocre writing, cheap costumes, and weak special effects. The fight choreography is pretty shoddy, with the battles consisting mostly of kicks and use of what are supposed to be comical props (actual weapons are barely used). Even with all those problems, the episodes do remain watchable, oddly enough. There’s this bizarre campy charm that helps the series overcome its many, many shortcomings, though even then you will find yourself pushed to the limit of what you can tolerate from time to time. 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.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

Still, what the show was able to do with a limited budget is quite surprising. There’s 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 – you will see the same footage of the Turtles leaving their liar in a jeep and motorbike over and over – 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. Trying to keep true to the lore while putting their own stamp on it. 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, it’s 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 O’Neil and Karai – so adding one that happened to be a Turtle seemed redundant and gimmicky. It also didn’t help that her character was pretty flat and stale. I get the purpose behind her character, but I just don’t find that it was pulled off successfully.

As someone who missed this series when it first aired, I actually enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the Turtles fan in me, but I got a kick out of the show, even if the quality gets extremely questionable and borderline impossible to endure at times. Still, I found the thirteen episodes on this release better than the thirteen episodes on Volume One. 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 it’s 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. It’s true – it happens! But it’s usually buried under some tired one-liners, un-engaging fights, and whatever “wisdom” Venus is trying to spout out.

Moving on, Shout! Factory has provided a good release for Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation – Volume Two. First up, the presentation is fantastic. The video is surprisingly great given the age of the material here. Sure the image isn’t perfectly crisp, but it’s likely the best this show has ever looked. It’s clear with a hint of softness and some occasionally video artifacting. It looks pretty excellent. The sound is as you’d expect – good, loud, and clear. Action sounds just as audible and clear as some of the rare quiet scenes. Don’t expect a top-of-the-line 5.1 mix, but what we get here is respectable to what’s on screen. Much like the first volume release, the quality remains pretty sharp for this spin. The final thirteen episodes get a solid presentation.

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This two-disc set also comes with a small helping of bonus features. Added to the release are two bonus episodes of Power Rangers in Space that feature the Ninja Turtles and a bonus music video. The two Power Ranger episodes should be great nostalgia trips for fans plus – amazingly – the Turtles get to flex their action muscle a bit more here than they do on their actual show. Just note that in the first of the two bonus episodes, the Turtles don’t show up until the closing minutes. The bonus music video runs for about a minute and basically features an extended version of the show’s original theme song. Why the original theme song isn’t used on the actual episodes is a bit of a mystery to me, but at least fans will get to see the whole thing here.

And, much like Volume One, the cover art is basically the same horrible Photoshop job as the first volume, but with a different colored border. How this cover art got approved, given how hastily slapped together it seems, is a total baffling.

If you enjoyed or purchased the first collection, it’s a safe bet that you’ll do the same here. It’s thirteen more episodes of Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation craziness. Be warned, if you’re not flexible and able to accept changes to established mythos, then this show is not for you. I can completely understand it, too, but I’m 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 – a new take on established material. Plus, it’s great to see the whole series released to DVD, something many fans never expected to happen. Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation – Volume Two is flawed and ultimately forgettable, but I think it’s worth checking out for fans of the decades-old franchise.