Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

If you grew up or were born in the 80s, that chances are you watched the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles at some point. Me and my brother, we were huge fans out mum even made a turtle costume for us to play turtles with. Here’s the photo to prove it.  little me

In the UK they were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, just incase kids were corrupted by ancient martial arts and nunchucks or something like that. The reasons are a little hazy.

I haven’t seen this since I was a young kid, and I remember it being… Not great, but then what did I know, I thought  . When it was my turn to choose the movie for  my regular bucket o’ chicken night with my friend I had a hankering for some nostalgia, and I wanted to wipe the Michael Bay effort from my mind.

So, the movie starts out with various news outlets reporting about a spate of break ins and gang activity in New York, which has been linked to a Foot Clan, which originated in Japan.

A plucky young reporter by the name of April O’Neil comes under attack in the Subway after some super sleuthing  led her to talk about the Foot Clan on television. After she gets knocked unconscious a mysterious turtle like figure comes to the rescue and takes her back to his sewer.

turtlesHere April meets the rest of the Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo (Raphael being the one who rescued her), as well as their master, Splinter.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that the characterisations are spot on. Even through those strange rubber suits, they’re all just as I remember them from the show. Raph is the wise-ass, Mikey’s the party dude, Donatello’s the techy guy and Leonardo is the natural leader of the gang. Even dear old splinter is full of Eastern wisdom and serenity just like the old days. Most important of all, they’re still obsessed with pizza!

april oneillThe best character, though is April. She goes out there and follows her heart even though she could get in trouble or lose her job. The truth is what is important to her. Best of all, she has not been overly sexualised. She’s just a regular woman trying to do her job well. She’s not some glamazon, she’s not doing it for revenge or some convoluted reasons about her dad. She’s trying to be a good reporter who is accountable for her own actions. Though sometimes she’s a little left out of the action sequences she still kicks ass in her own way.  

After the introductions it becomes clear that a Foot Soldier has followed Raph back to the turtle lair, after some (intentionally) comedic fighting they all manage to escape, apart from Splinter who gets kidnapped and taken back to meet the leader of the Foot Clan, the evil Shredder.

shredderShredder doesn’t really have that much to do in the film, apart from skulk about and make threats. He also has a hat that looks like a bicycle helmet with bits stuck on and wears a top that looks like he stole it from Prince’s wardrobe, but he does a good job of skulking about.

The turtles and April team up with Casey Jones and start to prepare to take on the foot clan, and ultimately Shredder to take back the city, and their Master from the evil scourge.

I was really expecting this to be really, really terrible. Like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter terrible. Actually, it wasn’t nearly half as bad as I remember it.

Yes, it was pretty cheesy, but so was the cartoon. If you just go with it you’ll love it. There’s plenty of bad puns and dad jokes to give you a good groan, with a secret ‘that was pretty funny’ smile. As well as some great slapstick moments.

Speaking of which, the choreography is done pretty well. When you consider they were four guys in rubber turtle suits it’s actually kind of impressive. The fight scenes are al interesting and provide a good mix of cheesy puns and actual fighting, which is never too violent as this is a PG.

splinter gif.gifThe puppetry works well even if they couldn’t quite get the hang of lip synching and Donatello has this weird thing where his lip keeps going up at the end of every sentence. Though it has to be said, the scene with a pre-mutated Splinter practising ninja moves whilst watching his own Master, Yoshi. It truly is something to behold.

 

Something else I really loved about this is that it really encapsulates the feeling of New York in the late 80s/early 90s when the city was still years away from becoming the relatively safe tourist destination it is today. It feels grimy and dirty, even though it has that PG rating it feels like there is danger in the air every time it ventures into the street of New York.

Even though it has been watered down and made acceptable for children it’s also a great showcase for how gangs operate by finding vulnerable people and giving them a place and people to call their own, a substitute family.

turtle wax

Overall this is a bit cheesy, and maybe a bit naff in parts. Sometimes the story becomes a little confused, but you still get the jist of what’s going on. It might not make a greatest ever movie list, but for what it is, it is great. A piece of nostalgia you can let wash over you like snuggling up to a favourite childhood blankie.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review 

Rating 12, Runtime 100 minutes

In 2007 Michael Bay broke my heart with the release of Transformers. He took characters that I’d been in love with since I was a child and turned them into unrecognisable walking piles of scrap metal. So when I heard he was going to tackle the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles next what was left of my inner child’s heart sank again, so I just ignored it. Then I see an announcement for a sequel and that they’re adding Rocksteady, Bebop and Krang who’re my 3 favourite TMNT characters. I just had to know, everything in the universe was telling me not to watch this movie but I did and guess what? I liked it.

TMNT Begins

As you can probably imagine I was watching this movie with a very critical eye, trying to find faults. I was initially worried they were trying to do a gritty reboot and in doing so would lose TMNT’s charm. The first warning bells started going off when I saw this movies version of The Foot Clan. Instead of ninjas they’re more of a masked private army with assault rifles and grenades. They probably thought people weren’t ready to accept a criminal ninja group in a realistic setting (luckily that didn’t stop the guys over at Netflix’s Daredevil).

We get our first glimpse of a Ninja Turtle at the docks as a bunch of armed thugs are taken out 1 by one by a shadowy figure amongst a bunch of shipping containers (just like Batman Begins). This is witnessed by junior reporter April O’neil (Megan Fox) who’s the only one in town trying to get evidence on the evil ninja gang apparently. She’s followed around by Vernon played by Will Arnett doing a low key Gob Bluth impression. She eventually meets the turtles on a rooftop as they celebrate successfully stopping our heavily armoured Foot Clan again but she faints once she realises what she’s looking at.

The turtles look hideous, which I think is great. Honestly that’s what I would expect a bunch of mutants who grew up in a sewer to look like. Their individual characters were pretty much spot on too. Leonardo leads the group as he always did and tries to enforce Splinter’s (the turtle’s radical rat father) teachings. Donatello is the tech nerd of the group, he does machines and helps them with any computer problems they face. Raphael is cool but crude (gimmie a break), he’s the tough guy who always wants to run headlong into battle and is constantly butting heads with Leo. Lastly we have Michelangelo the resident party dude, he’s the baby of the group and is usually more concerned with cracking jokes and eating pizza than fighting. One thing that weirded me out was that Michelangelo was always trying to hit on April. It would have been fine as a throw away line here or there but he just didn’t let up, even in the face of grave danger the bad pickup lines just kept coming.

Turtle Soup

Speaking of danger, we do have a classic TMNT villain in this movie too. The Shredder!

And he’s got a giant robot suit made of knives! This was another part that worried me about this movie when I saw early pictures. He kinda does look like a Transformer but in the actual movie he’s pretty terrifying. There were actually times I thought he was going to murder Splinter, some of the fight scenes were pretty brutal which I wasn’t really a fan of. I get that they want to create suspense and real life consequences but I didn’t ever want to see Splinter get beaten half to death or see Shredder step on Raph so hard that his shell starts to crack.

For the next movie I hope they let us see a bit of Shredder’s more goofy side that we saw in the 80s cartoon. Krang and Shredder were great together, they would bicker like an old married couple that were stuck with each other forever. Shredder does actually say his classic “Tonight I dine on turtle soup” line but it’s in Japanese and without a hint of levity.


Out of the Shadows

I genuinely liked this movie, it was by no means perfect and you won’t see any oscar worthy performances here but there is some fun to be had. The fight choreography was pretty good as well, the highlight for me being when Splinter got involved, never has he looked so cool beating people up and using his rat tail to throw people around.

I can only hope that this movie was them getting all their semi-serious backstory out of the way so they can focus on stupid fun in the sequel. I want to see all the dumb stuff from the cartoon in live action: Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang and his robot suit that looks like a giant baby with sunglasses, Baxter Stockman as a mutant fly, Casey Jones, alien triceratops people, mouser robots, the turtle blimp, mutant pizza monsters, the Technodrome and anything else they’ve got the rights to. 

★★★☆☆