Two Mini Movies In One. One Being A Loving Origin Story, The Other A Love Letter To Merchandising, Both Missing Any Back Story Of The Mythology & Nowhere Near Enough Exploration Into The Films.
The timing of this direct to home entertainment release was totally to coincide with the release of the Michael Bay produced newbie that’s currently kicking the box office all over the place. Thankfully this documentary, by Randall Lobb, doesn’t even talk of the new film bar seeing a couple of the teaser posters on the timeline as you go through the history. Seeing where the whole franchise came from is such a novel idea and, whilst Lobb’s approach is quite linear, the result is a ‘splintered’ (pardon the pun) film.
Borne out of a pair of indy comic book creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman back in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would go on to become one of the worlds most successful merchandising franchises that still lives on 30 years later. After an auspicious debut with a comic that was too big for the racks, financed by Laird & Eastman borrowing money from family members, the comic gathered momentum until it eventually fell into the lap of an intellectual property agent who quickly sold it to a toy manufacturer. From there the toy range warranted a cartoon series and then, as long as you were alive back then, the rest is a marketing wet dream.
The front half of Turtle Power: The Definitive History Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an energetic and robust rags to riches story. Spending time with both Laird and Eastman, who are now obscenely wealthy because of it, is a fun experience as their fondest for TMNT is as strong today as it always was. The Latter half is more of a marketing managers gloating over how much money they milked out of the franchise. If you’re interested in how they made the toys and the conceptualizing behind it, you’re gonna love it. If you’re looking for something that is going to delve into the characters and mythology of TMNT, you’re not going to find it here.
The documentary has problems, especially when it comes to dealing with the film franchise portion. Much time is spent on the set up of the 1990 original and how no-one wanted to make it. It delves into the animatronic suits, how problematic they were and how it was a relatively low-budget flick. We learn of the international box office smash that TNMT was (yet no actual figures are provided – which was $202m internationally in 1990 – or – $326.1m today) and yet no time is spent on Secret Of The Ooze, Turtles In Time or TMNT 2014. They are just summarily dismissed.
The TV series (1987) is the only one referenced, the TMNT live tour & album are brushed over, far too much time is spent with the voice artists repeating the same story and there’s no real sense of direction given to the franchise – there’s something missing in this definitive history. It’s the other half of the actual franchise history.
No time is spent delving into Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Splinter, Shredder, The Foot, April O’Neil or Casey Jones. There’s no fan boy pondering of the mythology of the turtles, no writer exposition into storylines or development at all. This is the Achilles heel of the documentary.
This is a real hit and miss affair and far too reliant on people patting themselves on the back rather than exploring the machinations of what really made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the perennial hit that they are.
TURTLE POWER: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES is out now on HOME ENTERTAINMENT