Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I’ll be revisiting my childhood and reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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“For 15 years now, we have lived here. Before that time, I was a pet of my master Yoshi. When we were forced to come to New York, I found myself for the first time without a home, wandering thew sewers, scavaging for whatever I could find. And then, one day, I came upon a shattered glass jar and four baby turtles.  The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can and when I awoke the next morning, I received a shock. For they had doubled in size. I, too, was growing. Particularly in intellect. I was amazed by how intelligent they seemed.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the popular Nintendo video game and cartoon series, brings to life four mutated turtles and a mutated rat who have lived in the New York City sewers for fifteen years following exposure to radioactive ooze.  Splinter, the rat, is the father figure and mentor to Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael, and he has taught them the ninja fighting style and way of life.  They fight The Foot, an organized crime family targeting teenage men and causing all sorts of criminal problems for the city.

I’ll do my best to be impartial, but since this is probably one of my favorite movies from my childhood, that’s probably not going to happen.

Making a movie like this work is very difficult.  Since it was made in 1990, CGI was still in its infancy, so puppeteer effects are used in bringing the turtles to live action.  A problem with this was the mouth movements with dialogue.  It’s forgivable because a movie like this is targeted towards kids, but I can’t overlook it.  The puppeteer crew does an admirable job in bringing the turtles to life.

Each turtles represents an element in team chemistry.  Leonardo is the leader, Michaelangelo is the comic relief, Donatello is the intellectual who is also socially awkward, and Raphael is the angry loner in the group.

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“Wise men say, ‘Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for a late pizza.'”

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” Yeah? Well, you act like a JERK sometimes, you know that? And this attitude of yours isn’t helping anything.”

Something I enjoy about this movie, besides the fact that I can quote it almost verbatim, is the various relationships the movie showcases.  Though the characters roles become oversimplified in later films, here it’s interesting to see the balance and conflict as it plays out between the various characters.  The back-and-forth between Leonardo’s calm leadership with Raphael’s temper, Raphael’s and Casey Jones’ (Elias Koteas) anger issues, Casey and April O’Neil’s (Judith Hoag) back-and-forth, and Splinter and Shredder’s history, among others, provided some great lines and contrasting personalities.  They’re all entertaining, and none of them overpowers all the others in dominating the storyline.

I also like how the film takes a step back in assessing what is going on.  April’s reflection out on the farm helps sort the various layers of conflict and circumstance.  Splinter does fantastic as a voice of reason and demonstrates the fatherly elements both with the turtles and with Danny Pennington (Michael Turney).

 

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“A Jose Canseco bat? Tell me, you didn’t pay money for this?”

At its core, this movie is fun.  The scene when Raphael and Casey Jones meet for the first time is incredibly funny, and I like how they develop a mutual respect for one another.  Each of the fight scenes is complemented by a good amount of bad clichés, most coming from Michaelangelo, others coming from Donatello.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles works as a film adaptation for the popular television and video game series.  Since the formulas haven’t been set just yet with the film series, this film balances comedy with storytelling and developing the various characters history and relationship with one another.  Of all the films, this one is probably my favorite, and though I can quote most of the movie, I still enjoy watching it every time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

With regards to the new film:

One of my fears with the new film has to do with casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil.  Judith Hoag, and Paige Turco in the second and third film, are both strong characters who roll with the punches and handle themselves professionally.  Megan Fox is eye candy, and nothing more.  I think it’s very telling that she had no dialogue in the first trailer for the film, and she has a very limited role in the extended trailer.  We’ll see, but like I said, this is one of a few things I have serious doubts about with the upcoming film.

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