The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or ‘Hero Turtles‘, if you lived under the iron thumb of British and Irish censorship) have been a mainstay of of many a childhood since they first appeared in cartoon form back in 1987 (the comic book version appeared three years before that, but wasn’t particularly child friendly). Since then, every generation has had a Turtles TV show to call its own, along with the occasional movie thrown in for good measure. Half-Shell Heroes: Blast to the Past is the newest incarnation of the Turtles franchise, bringing us a feature length adventure in glorious 2D (the TV show it is based on is done in 3D-style computer animation).
Bast to the Past sees the reptilian foursome of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo transported one hundred million years into the past when gigantic dinosaurs ruled the Earth (or, more specifically, the Cretaceous period). In addition to surviving the attentions of hungry predatory dinosaurs while not messing up the space-time continuum too much (it’s not easy – ever watched A Sound of Thunder? – me neither, should probably add it to the Bargain Bin Challenge at some point), there is also the small matter of foiling a scheme by the Triceratons (humanoid aliens with Triceratops-like features) and rescuing Bebop and Rocksteady, who blundered into the time warp.
While there is a lot going on in Blast to the Past, to the film’s great credit, it never manages to feel rushed despite only having a meager running time of 44 minutes. There’s plenty of action and comedy as well as a fairly cohesive plot – not bad for a short feature which was initially conceived to sell a few Turtles toys. The numerous action sequences are fun, with plenty of action and panache on display, without being too violent or intense for little kids, proving that you can put together an action-packed adventure without having to traumatise anyone’s fragile little mind (take note Marvel…).
The animation seen in Half-Shell Heroes is bright, vibrant and full of character, much more appealing than the 3D modelling seen in the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series which the film shares continuity with, which can look a bit bland and soulless by times. The dinosaurs in particular are well animated, combining a nice blend of detail and cartoon aesthetic, even if they aren’t the most scientifically accurate (for example, none of the dinosaurs have feathers, but at least a small Compsognathus-like critter is referred to as a ‘chicken-iguana’, so at least the dino-bird connection is acknowledged). There is also a nice variety of dinosaur on display including Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Brachiosaurus and, of course, T. rex (pedants will point out that some of these dinosaurs lived in the Jurassic as opposed to the Cretaceous,but such is the way with dinosaur films alas).
Blast to the Past has a strong sense of humour running throughout, much of which comes from the Turtles bickering amongst themselves (Raphael in particular gives Donatello a hard time when he gets carried away with his science talk) or freaking out when under attack from rampaging dinosaurs (which happens quite frequently). Bebop and Rocksteady offer quite a few laughs too, the former in particular being quite prone to making Michael Jackson noises for whatever reason. The voice acting is very strong throughout, with Kate Mukgrew (that’s Captain Janeway to you!) adding an aura of gravitas to the film’s head villain, while Seth Green uses his many years’ worth of voice acting experience to give us a fun take on Leonardo who tries to act like a strong leader, but is in actuality every bit as lost and frightened as the other Turtles.
As a piece of ‘for kids’ entertainment, there is very little to criticise Half-Shell Heroes: Blast to the Past for. As it is already in an established continuity, some references like the Ice Cream Kitty may leave the uninitiated utterly bamboozled (seriously, what the hell is that?!) and the running time is all to brief considering just how much fun the adventure. All in all though, Turtles fans, old and new, couldn’t really have asked for a whole lot more!
[Image: Action Figure Insider]