Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

tn_tmntTEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990) is a martial arts fantasy produced by Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest (ENTER THE DRAGON), with excellent animatronic and puppet effects by Jim Henson, and impressively agile fight and stunt sequences involving people in full body rubber creature suits. It has early performances by Elias Koteas and Sam Rockwell, and stuntwork by Ernie Reyes Jr. One major problem, though: it’s about teenage mutant ninja turtles.

This is one of those weird pop culture phenomenon that, removed from its original context, turns out to make no god damn sense. The story is about a New York City (shot in North Carolina) overrun by teen pickpockets trained by ninjas in an underground lair. When four muscular humanoid talking turtle ninja stoners who live in a sewer raised by a wise human-sized talking rat take in an unconscious TV reporter, the ninjas kidnap and torture the rat. So the turtles go into hiding on the reporter’s farm for a while, then come back to where they were before and get attacked by the ninjas again.

mp_tmntLet me ask you this. Why should this story be about turtles? Well, because in one part they use their shells to bash a guy, and in one other part one of them ducks his head into his shell. Otherwise they could be humans or kangaroos or talking pants, it really makes no difference. Why is it cooler for it to be a turtle than for it to be any of those other things? I don’t think it is. I’m not sure. Actually I’m a little creeped out by the turtles looking like muscular humans. There’s something unnatural about it. Like Howard the Duck on human growth hormones.

From what I understand this is because the original comic book was not meant to take over the world, it was just a throw-away parody of Marvel Comics stories of the time. Ha ha, what if instead of a guy it was a turtle? Ha ha, stoopid. But it caught on, it stuck around, it was turned into a cartoon that was a surprise hit, so millions of dollars of merchandising later everybody forgot it was stupid and went along with this muscle-turtles concept as if it was actually a good idea.

I decided to watch this movie after the recent hoopla about Platinum Dunes doing a new version. Producer Michael Bay hilariously lived up to his reputation by accidentally revealing in an interview that they’re gonna change it so they’re aliens instead of mutant turtles. When nostalgic nerds got upset at the blatant disregard for title accuracy, Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman spoke publicly to assure them that everything was gonna be okay, without denying that they were gonna do that. Then Bay admitted that “Teenage Mutant” had been dropped from the title, and blamed the studio. The fuckin man, always cramping his style. Is this Hollywood, or the gulag? Give Michael Bay his freedom!

But after watching the old movie I think I see more where Bay is coming from. He knew that “ninja turtles” was a thing that had money involved so he bought it, but he failed to do the research to find out what it was. When this original movie was made the cartoon was so popular that it wasn’t necessary to make heads or tails out of it for a movie version. They just assume you already love these “characters” so they just show up as is and you gotta accept them. Until they get attacked they don’t really do much except watch TV and eat.

What are they all about? We learn from a flashback that they’re 15 years old, and we can notice other things about them throughout the movie:

foods: pizza, pork rinds

sexuality: they call the human woman April O’Neil (not the porn star) a “fox.” One of them kisses the TV screen when she’s on. But they get excited when she kisses their human friend Casey, so they must not want her for themselves.

etiquette: when a pizza deliveryman is 2 minutes late (their fault – they didn’t specify they were in the sewer) they refuse to pay full price or tip and then laugh about it like they really showed that asshole a thing or two

cultural knowledge: They are familiar with War and Peace and the movie version of Grapes of Wrath. Also Moonlighting and ROCKY. One of them goes to see CRITTERS and says “Ahch. Where do they come up with this stuff?”

They have different colored head bands so if you were going through it carefully you could probly even figure out what the differences were between the four turtles, which one was which. They are named after Renaissance painters, one of them is more into skateboarding, one has nunchakas.

Director Steve Barron (“Billy Jean” video, CONEHEADS) I think is going for an action-comedy tone as opposed to comedy-action. They take the story itself seriously, but then the characters make wiseass comments to each other that are supposed to be funny. But they don’t do enough to make me take the asinine concepts seriously and the “jokes” sure aren’t as funny as the “serious” parts like the camera rotating dramatically around a turtle screaming in anguish that his rat-dad has been kidnapped. Alot of it is the type of lines where you can tell by the timing and intonation that it’s supposed to be a funny part but you can sit there and analyze it all day and not figure out what’s supposed to be funny about it.

For example, what does it mean when one of them says “Now I know what it’s like to travel without a green card”? Is it supposed to be funny that turtles are green and green cards are called green? Maybe I missed something there.

When ninjas attack, a turtle says, “Whoah – and I thought insurance salesmen were pushy!” Think about that. Why would a mutant turtle have any experience with insurance salesmen? Or why would the kids the movie is made for be expected to hate insurance salesmen? Does this mean it was made during an era of heavy anti-insurance salesman sentiment? No, it just means it was written by a guy whose previous scripts were for Diff’rent Strokes, The Jeffersons and Small Wonder.

Another great one: seeing a bunch of ninjas a turtle says, “What, am I behind on my Sony payments again?” Forget about the issues with a turtle raised under ancient Japanese traditions using mildly racist stereotypes against Asians. That might be a tribute to Chris Penn’s character Travis Brickley in BEST OF THE BEST. My issue is, I want to know what “Sony payments” are. Is it like car payments? A Google search tells me it’s not a common phrase, at least not in that usage. It brings up references to online Sony services that did not exist back then. Maybe the turtle predicted the future.


Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.36.24 PM

Thanks Rowland!

The turtles’s interaction with human society isn’t very well thought out. One of the turtles likes to go around disguised in trenchcoat and fedora commiting vigilante actions, and they have to hide in the sewer. But also they can walk openly at night and nobody is ever around to see them. When humans do see them they usually don’t freak out. Maybe they should just come out of the closet.

The funniest part of the movie is the rat’s flashback to when he was a normal pet rat. He learned ninjitsu by watching his owner practice (kind of like the girl in CHOCOLATE learning muay thai by watching Tony Jaa movies). He lived inside a hanging cage and also witnessed the double murder of his owner and his owner’s woman by a jealous rival for her affections (James Saito, “Korean Proprietor,” DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE). During the murder his cage was bumped and he jumped out and scratched the guy, who swung a sword at him but only got his ear.

Later the rat was exposed to glowing green liquid in a sewer, which back then always mutated things. He turned into the size of a small human and could talk in a wise voice (Kevin Clash of Elmo fame) and found the turtles who also were mutated by the stuff. The murderer went on to become “Shredder,” leader of the “Foot Clan” ninjas and the army of homeless teen pickpockets, who he lures in with a sort of Ninja Chuck E. Cheese where they can come to smoke, play cards, pool or video games, drink unlmited Pepsi, spray paint, ride skateboard ramps, DJ and learn martial arts. He also wears a suit of spikey armor that’s sort of cool in a BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA way except (at least on the blu-ray) it looks kind of sissy when you notice the glittery purple shirt.

After having had the rat tied up for most of the movie, the rat reveals to Shredder his past, that he was a pet rat that jumped on him one time 15 years ago. This scene is odd because Shredder does remember the details of the pet rat incident, including that he chopped off its ear, and lustfully says “You! Now I will finish what I began with your ear!” Also it’s weird because it turns out he still has deep scars across his face and has always held a grudge against the pet rat that jumped on his face, even though he didn’t know it was this same humanoid rat he abducted. We gotta wonder if he would even be leading this army of crime if not for the pet rat jumping on his face 15 years ago incident. It’s like the “you made me” Batman/Joker relationship in the 1989 Batman picture by Tim Burton and Prince.

A long-haired Elias Koteas (CRASH) plays Casey Jones, a human who beats up some street thugs at the same time as one of the turtles and then decides he lives with them, and nobody questions it. The reporter falls in love with him. He argues about Gilligan’s Island with one of the turtles (that’s probly where Tarantino got the idea to have his characters talk about old TV shows) and calls him “barfaroni.” When a turtle says he’s claustrophobic he thinks they’re calling him gay and gets mad. He’s supposed to be kind of an edgy Paul Kersey type, but it’s played for laughs at the end when he crushes the incapacitated Shredder in a garbage compactor and says “oops.”

One of the disaffected teen pickpockets wears a Sid Vicious t-shirt that he never seems to change, until halfway through the movie when he changes to a shirt with both Sid and Nancy, and then he wears that for the rest of the movie. This brings up the question of how bad these fuckin kids smell. I am guessing that like some of the other subcultures such as Juggalos they do not place a high value on clean laundry. I bet all that free Pepsi in their hangout is kind of ruined by how homeless everybody smells. Anyway, the kid accidentally sees the turtles so he becomes a good guy.

When the kids grow up they can be thugs and then ninjas with bug-eyed masks. “Head Thug” is played by Sam Rockwell with a cool shaved eyebrow. It was his third movie after CLOWNHOUSE and LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN.

To seal the deal, the end credits have the most appalling rap theme I’ve heard in a while, something called “T-U-R-T-L-E POWER!” by “Partners in Kryme.” The guy has a deep voice but very simplistic lyrics and an unacceptable amount of seriousness for a dude rapping about god damn turtles. So he makes it sound very dramatic when he says:

“Since you’ve been born you’ve been willing and able /

To defeat the (sneak?), protect the weak /

Fight for rights and your freedom to speak!”

What the fuck is he talking about? He thinks these turtle ninjas are fighting for their first amendment rights? I thought Shredder was just training skateboarders to steal purses, he wasn’t censoring anybody. I don’t get it. So it’s a pretty good microcosm of the movie itself. It seems a little too confident that I’m on its wavelength.

If you like this type of shit though you should definitely watch this, since it’s pretty much the only example of this type of shit. Enjoy.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 1:46 pm and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Family, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

137 Responses to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

  1. I think this falls under the “because it’s awesome” rule. Why are they turtles? Because it’s awesome to have turtles do Kung fu with ninja weapons.

    Remember this was the first comic book movie post Tim Burton’s BATMAN and really fit the sort of real world gritty but still surreal fantasy feeling that you were supposed to do back then. I think the plot points are no worse than the average Seagal or Van Damme movie (not HARD TO KILL or OUT FOR JUSTICE but the average ones) but the depth to which Vern analyzes them is awesome.

    Btw: the reason he watches CRiTTERS is because its another New Line movie, probably the only PG friendly creature feature they had at the time that would fit the joke. I even like SECRET OF THE OOZE with Vanilla Ice. It just adds to the ridiculousness it still great martial arts. TURTLES IN TIME is ass though. I mean I didn’t pay to see teenage mutant ninja turtles not in modern day New York.

  2. Your bewilderment is hysterical, if sadly only vaguely understable tp ,e. This movie makes perfect sense to me because I grew up with it, but then I said the same of Howard The Duck and that movie is totally screwed up. At least this one didn’t have weird sex stuff in it. (There’s a porn star named April O’Neil?)

  3. I can’t believe I’m actually seeing this. I was actually thinking about sending you an email to request a review for this a few months ago when I rewatched the first two movies.

    “For example, what does it mean when one of them says “Now I know what it’s like to travel without a green card”? Is it supposed to be funny that turtles are green and green cards are called green? Maybe I missed something there.”

    It’s an illegal immigration joke. They were hiding in the back of the truck all smushed together, remember?

  4. After reading this I kind of want to go back in time, kidnap a blacksmith or bootblack, bring him back to the current century and have him review The Dark Knight or Transformers just to see him be unable to make any sense out of the images that are being projected at him.

  5. That breakdown of the end credits song was funny as hell. I remember being a kid and seeing this in an old United Artists theater in Dinkin’s era Times Square. I mean walking to the movies through 8th avenue with my family all you saw was pimps, punks and junkies with hookers chillin outside the MILFORD PLAZA (“lullaby of broadway”) looking for Johns.

    It was refreshing to see a dilapidated look at NYC on the screen because it added to the “realism”. Like what the Burton Batman did when it aped NYC elements within it’s Gotham City.

    A great juxtaposition when I think back to it because up to that point outside of the Plissken movie and DEATH WISH everytime I saw my city in the movies it was only the really nice parts (I was like 6 so movies were still kinda new to me). Personally I always thought it was a nice touch myself how Casey Jones had no problem crushing the fucking guy to death even if he was still alive. It was enough to show that the guy had no problem crossing lines if it means putting a dent on crime.

  6. I watched this movie so many times growing up that I’m pretty sure I love every single part you mention, regardless of its stupidity. Even the horrible music over the credits. Also, April is the one who says “What? Am I behind on my Sony payments again?”

  7. Jon Abrams – It’s the same with me but when I look at it from Vern’s POV I also understand how it’s gotta be odd to see movies like this and HOWARD THE DUCK as an adult for the first time. This one is much better than HOWARD THE DUCK though. It’s actually aged pretty well compared to a lot of the older comic book movies.

  8. I was just about the right age for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but somehow I ended up missing the craze. I remember watching the movie much later in life, and it’s just as confusing as Vern makes it out to be. I do remember thinking the turtles as children was pretty damn funny. I love how, randomly, their first words are “radical” and “pizza.” There are some properties from my childhood that I still have genuine affection for and would be interested in seeing a big screen adaptation, so I can sympathize a little with nostalgia nerds to an extent. But, at the same times, I have little emotional connection to TMNT, so Michael Bay can have his way with the turtles. I won’t stand in his way.

  9. The Splinter character from the cartoon and comic books he was not a rat originally. He was Oroku “Shredder” Sakis human nemesis Hamato Yoshi.
    Yoshi was originally a human being leaving Japan because of a schism with said Saki if I remember correctly. Taking refuge in the NY sewers with his pet turtles and turned into a rat after exposure to the “mutagen” ( in TMNT 2 referred to as “ooze”.) As someone growing up with this strange shit it makes perfect sense to me.

    Come to think of it, was not Oroku Saki, Yoshis pupil…?

  10. As an ever-smart, precocious child, TMNT inexplicably was the one cartoon & action figure universe that entertained me as a 5-6-7 year old. There was a really fun TMNT arcade & Nintendo game, too.

    I liked the movie okay, mainly because of the nunchaku and the general attitude of the Turtles, especially Michelangelo. Party all the time, skateboard & dance, beat up bad guys, eat pizza, quote old movies, talk shit to your buddies, practice your weapons & fighting, all for fun and self-improvement and enjoying life. What’s not to love?

    I rewatched this movie on VHS several times when I was at college, usually because someone would see the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES VHS below my tv and go, “Dude, I haven’t seen this since I was a little kid. We have to watch this right now!”

    It holds up better than Tim Burton’s first BATMAN, in my opinion, which appears to differ from Vern’s verdict, sadly, so I’ll stick with my awesome fuzzy VHS memories and leave the futuristic blu ray-based bafflement to him.

  11. Splinter was only originally a human in the cartoon. In the comics he was always a rat.

    Also as for why they’re turtles. The guys who created TMNT were big fans of the comic Cerebus, which some of you might be familiar with. Cerebus eventually evolved into something else but it started out as a Conan The Barbarian parody featuring a talking Aardvark. They basically just did the same thing except they took turtles and put them into a Frank Miller(who was huge at the time) parody. Specifically his Daredevil run. There’s also a bit of the New Mutants in there as well.

  12. odo19 – Are we talking about the original TMNT comics regarding Splinter´s origin? I never read the earlier darker original version although I´ve seen pages of it. The lore of the later comic books I´ve read seemed more in tune with the cartoon, but I can´t really be sure of that. Maybe you can fill me in on that. You do specify that he always was a rat though.

  13. Until 30 minutes ago, I always thought the cartoon was where TMNT originated. Now y’all are telling me there were Ninja Turtle comic books before that? And you’re trying to determine the precise origins & earliest form of a man-sized talking rat who teaches kung fu to fellow giant animal inhabitants of the NYC sewers?

    I prefer ignorance.

  14. There are flaws with TMNT, but like Broddie and Mouth it doesn’t offend me. It’s like THOR in that it doesn’t quite work, but it’s certainly watchable with the elements that do click. It tries to have a plot when so many mindless kiddie-oriented movies don’t even bother.

    And yes, I liked that this is old NYC, Travis Bickle’s neighborhood. Personally the idea of a Turtle going out to the movies in trenchcoat (as if that would disguise his legs) is tremendously funny to me.

    Also Vern, why is it a problem if Casey Jones doesn’t have a problem with the Turtles? He’s not a racist, not once he gets over the fact that martial artist mutant pizza-eating reptiles exist and gets to know them. And visa versa. Vern, do YOU have a problem with “them kind”? Do you support Reptile Profiling by the cops? I bet you defended Greg Humanman.

    As someone who did go through the TMNT phenomenon, the TV cartoon and action figures were imagination-friendly as far as I was concerned. I mean the villain’s boss is a android with a see-through midsection containing the brain controlling it? AWESOME. Also, Bebop and Rocksteady are perfect incompetent henchmen names.

    Hell guys you remember that one TMNT cartoon episode* with one of those WHAT IF? plots (No kung fu turtles), where Shredder takes over the world (w/ shirt and tie over his armor) but he’s overwhelmed by the mundane responsibilities, asking somebody to take over the gig?

    *=I saw that years back on YouTube, and for a kids show it suggested without saying as much that Channel 4 News became a harem and April is the top slave girl. WOW.

  15. This is important shit, Mouth. Some people( like me) take my ninja/reptilian/rodent lore seriously.

  16. “It’s like the “you made me” Batman/Joker relationship in the 1989 Batman picture by Tim Burton and Prince.”

    Vern – you have to review that BATMAN one of these days. The locals who remembered summer ’89, the local nerds, me the Princephile…There Will Be Fun.

  17. Sadly, I don’t remember a single plot from any of the cartoon episodes. The action figures were all pretty badass, for kids’ toys. High quality plastics and movable limbs & different weapons & attachments. I liked the fly-guy, who appeared to wield an old-timey tennis racquet. And there was a sewer monster who had a sidekick he carried on his back in what appeared to be a trash can, I think.

    And there was a set of action figures on which you could wind up a little tab in the back to make Donatello’s feet do a kicking motion, either for fighting or for swimming. Mechanical & waterproof, plus it had a torpedo-like device that he could grab for guidance or extra horsepower or something.

    I think the Raphael wind-up one had rotating forearms, so he could windmill his sai and fuck shit up. It was awesome.

  18. As strange fate would have it both BATMAN and TMNT seem to intertwine in this thread.Because these two movies actrually made me the resentful and bitter adult I have become.Both these movies were restricted for kids to watch in cinemas here in Sweden Restricted to 15 years of age! Can you believe that bullshit? Two of my favourite franchises as a kid made it into the big screen and I was unable to see them in all their theatrical glory. Lately there was whining about one of the TWILIGHT-movies being restricted and as a resukt of that whining they lowered the rating for that.

    They DID lower the rating for TMNT2 so at least I saw that in theaters….

  19. But TMNT2 was pretty much bullshit in a lot of ways. Too jokey and the Super-Shredder at the end lasted for 15 seconds. What the fuck was up with that? Most anti-climactic end battle in my cinema going history.

  20. I’m with Mouth, Broddie and Jon Abrams- It’s a fun movie, but you kinda had to be there at the time to understand. The sequel (which ups the theme music stupidity by having its creator Vanilla Ice appear in the movie as himself during the climax) furthers the “Shredder’s ineptitude” theme by having him basically be killed by taking too much mutagen and becoming “Super”(being played by professional wrestler and one time PUNISHER goon Kevin Nash), but he’s so roided out, he just brings a dock down on top of his head without the Turtles having to do anything. The third one is pretty lame though, involving time travel to old Japan, which isn’t as awesome as it sounds as the Turtles pose as samurai and rely on slapstick more than actual fighting ability to get the job done.

  21. Oh, and Shredder in the cartoon was voiced by Uncle Phil from FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR.

  22. The worst of the bunch has to be TMNT 3. How do you screw up the idea of sending the turtles back to feudal Japan? This was actually the first of the TMNT movies I watched. At this point the height of turtle mania had passed me by, and I was a hair too old for this crap. If I remember correctly (and I’m not certain that I do), there was a bunch of didactic nonsense where the turtles tell one of the village children how awful violence is. Even as a youngster, this was too much for me.

  23. I’ve always felt that John Cena looks like Matt Damon if he overdosed on ooze like Shredder at the end of TMNT2.

  24. I never bothered with TMNT3. It came at a time when I kind of got over the whole craze. I still hold great affection for the franchise, but I don´t really give a shit what Bay does in a new movie. Its great taking it into a new direction,but for someone who grew up with the phenomenon as a kid and is fine with its crazy premise thinks that the turtles being aliens is really stupid. I can see why “outsiders” kind of thinks it makes more sense but it really takes a special kind of idiot to actually in a serious way try to make sense out of something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  25. Mr. M – Gold!

    Mouth – did you get the Turtle blimp?

  26. I always wanted the Usagi Yojimbo action figure. Fuckin bad ass bunny!

  27. “that the turtles being aliens is really stupid. ”

    ShootMcKay – It’s like randomly turning Superman French (character, not actor). I mean why?

    In the end of the day, a title of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a sort of title that sells itself.

  28. Has the day come when us nerds can say “Michael Bay raped my childhood”? I´m afraid to say that day is close at hand.

  29. “I always wanted the Usagi Yojimbo action figure. Fuckin bad ass bunny!”

    I had that. Na na na! :)

    “Has the day come when us nerds can say “Michael Bay raped my childhood”? I´m afraid to say that day is close at hand.”

    Well considering his movies feel like I’m getting cornholed, I’m used to it. Seriously his action cinematography beats your ass into submission, without any fondling or fun.

    (Again why I remind why I like Liu. He makes love, not rape.)

  30. Look on the bright side. If the Michael Bay’s turtles are aliens, then that means we are that much closer to a Howard the Duck cameo in the new film.

  31. RBatty024 – Plus a a cameo from Mac (from MAC & ME) too and McDonalds and Coke for everybody!

  32. I did have TWO sets of the four Ninja Turtles+ Shredder, Bebop,Rocksteady and a Footski
    (which our family asshole dog chewed to bits). The first four turtles I purchased looked pretty shitty, so when I saw a much better looking newly released batch of action figures I got those. I did not have those that rotated shit,though. Nor did I have that fancy sewer HQ. That shit looked pretty epic, I admit. I did buy a can of “ooze”, which just was green slime ( I did not mutate from touching it,not to my knowledge at least …)

  33. I saw this movie opening night, and being a New Line release there was a trailer for a little film called Basket Case 2. I’ll never forget the sound of the massive scream that erupted from a theater full of 4-10 year old kids when Belial hit the screen. They had to shut off the projector so parents could calm down their kids and go bitch at the management.

    The worst offense of the rap song is the line “Raphael / he’s the leader of the group / transformed from the norm by the nuclear goop.” That’s just bullshit because everyone knows Leonardo is leader. Duh. Do your Goddamn homework Partners in Kryme.

  34. RRA — Hollywood needs to make one big movie crossover of every cartoon and movie from the eighties and early nineties geared towards kids. Everything from Goonies and Monster Squad to Mask and Care Bears. And then they can transform the origin of each monster so they are all aliens and change the design of each car so that they have flame decals (yes, even that Care Bear cloud car will have flames on it). While we’re at it, there needs to be a scene where some of the characters survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. It’ll be nerd Armageddon, a virtual geekacide.

  35. Even though “I was there at the time” and enjoyed the cartoon, even as a kid I didn’t like the movie. Partly because it was trying way too hard to seem cool and funny and it really annoyed me, partly because even back then I thought the TMNT just didn’t work at all as live action characters. As good as the animatronics were, they just looked wrong. They were just 4 dudes in weird looking rubber suits that didn’t blend in at all with the human characters and their environment. They were like people in Mickey Mouse costumes at Disneyland or something. Some things are perfectly fine in comic books and cartoon but simply don’t translate well to live action, like Wolverine’s yellow jumpsuit, The Thing from the Fantastic Four, and talking humanoid turtles.

  36. I think the only time the suits pissed me off was in the third one. I walked out of that movie really pissed and the cheap looking costumes was one of the reasons. In the other movies it was all kinda seamless and believable.

    It was also very awesome that it added for mobility that wasn’t so damn limited. Especially impressive because Batman couldn’t have fight scenes as cool as the guys in the turtle costume cause of the construction of the bat suit and it was around the same time.

    Even though I don’t think much of the second one at least it retained Henson’s creature shop. It also had one of my favorite movie quotes of all time (“A little too Raph”) and made for a fun double bill with OUT FOR JUSTICE the day I saw them both at the cinema since I’ve never forgotten that.

    I actually was into the cartoon at first too. Which in retrospect as RRA mentioned had some shit that when you see it through adult eyes you go WTF. I mean there was an implication of April being raped every other episode; coupled with an implication that she may be enabling this to happen. Weird shit.

    Still the cartoon was so cornball and off beat that the movie was an even greater surprise because it was much darker and action movie like than I would’ve ever expected. It was so cool at that time to see Raph not just be sarcastic all the time but a true genuine badass. It was so new to me that it floored me.

    I tracked down the original Mirage comics (Shoot is remembering the comic series published by Archie) thanks to this movie which is a pretty faithful adaptation of them opening my eyes to them and it’s still my favorite incarnation of the turtles in media.

    I’d definitely add this one to the collection if I ever decide to upgrade to another proprietary media (still on DVD and proud of it). It’s to me in the top 5 of late 80’s and early 90’s comic book adaptations along with THE CROW, BLADE and the 2 Burton Batmans.

    I won’t be bothering with the new movie because I refuse to ever watch anything new from Platinum Dunes. IDW is publishing an ongoing Turtles comic book series right now that does more than enough to give me my TMNT fix.

  37. It was also cool to see Casey Jones not be a fucking schizo lunatic like he was in the cartoon. He was a PG rated Travis Bickle in the damn cartoon. In the movie he is still kinda manic but at least he talked sense and not just crazy ramblings.

    Though the cartoon Casey was great in it’s own right and an even better parody of Miller’s effect on comic books than the comics later were; it hit the hard edged antihero seeking justice for all wrongs archetype right on the nose. No matter how petty the infraction of the law it was still BREAKING THE LAW so you had to PAY. I remember one episode where he was stalking and harrasing a guy for jay walking with no let up. Classic shit.

  38. People forget that there was the “original” TMNT cartoon which lasted 9 years, then there was a newer one from this past decade which lasted 6 years. (That’s damn impressive longevity on both counts for saturday morning toons.)

    Anyway they even produced a cross-over TV special between the two versions and of course jokes/references to both different mythologies, enemies, and attitude (old TMNT was campy, the newer TMNT was down to Earth.) They even include the 80s B&W comic book versions. I enjoyed it.

    But one big FAIL: No Uncle Phil back for Shredder. REALLY?!?!? Yes Miz I agree, REALLY?!? (Apparently was an acting union issue or something mundane that kept the original TMNT voice cast from working on the special.)


  39. This was the movie that destryoed my child paradigm in movie watching. I remember seeing the trailers for this coming out and because I played the shit out of the Nintendo game, I was excited.

    I was sent to stay with my aunt for the weekend (I forget why), but it was all cool because she loved movies. And she promised me a double feature that weekend.

    So she bargained with me to watch Hunt for Red October on Friday night. I had already read the book and still don’t understand the fascination for the movie. (I do not consider this one of John McTiernan’s good movies, seriously, watch it again objectively)

    So Saturday came and I had carte blanche and I was 11 and super stoked about TNMT. When we got to the ticket window though, I could not say the words. Instead, when the pimply faced teenager asked me what we were seeing, I said “Hard to Kill”. I don’t regret it one bit. I know Hard to Kill may not be one of the masterpieces (although for me it is), but in contrast to Hunt for Red October, it tickled an itch I did not know existed.

    I did ultimately watch TMNT and thought it was goofy as fuck and enjoyable for that reason alone. But I mostly remember this movie for the tandem of Red October and Hard to Kill, the juxtaposition of which has shaped the way I think of and analyze movies twenty plus years later.

  40. “destroyed”. Sorry for the poor proofreading.

  41. “(I do not consider this one of John McTiernan’s good movies, seriously, watch it again objectively)”

    As opposed to what, ROLLERBALL? Of course I liked BASIC, so sue me.

    I dunno, I guess I’m in the evil majority who thought HUNT was a pretty good popcorn thriller. The best of those damn Tom Clancy movies. (Though I quite enjoyed CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER too.) Good cast, good premise, good adaptation, captivating, not too logic/physics fucking (or not too noticeably at least) and so on.

    But yeah, nobody should have to apologize for watching HARD TO KILL. Nobody!

  42. According to wikipedia, Nickelodeon is producing this year a new TMNT series with Sean Astin and Jason Biggs in the voice cast. Also includes Rob Paulsen, who voices Raphael in the original TMNT toon but now is voicing one of the others.

  43. MDM, you read Tom Clancy novels at the age of 11?

  44. FINALLY! TMNT! I’ve been waiting for this review for years now. I’m afraid of reading it. What would I be living for next? Should I get a good glass of wine before reading it? So many questions.

  45. According to wikipedia longtime Tarantino collaborator Sally Menke edited this.

  46. pegsman – Well when I was 11 I had already read quite a bit of Hunter S. Thompson and got into the works of George Orwell as well. You’d be surprise at how precocious some of us were at younger ages. Those Clancy books were also quite popular during that time (like how hungry games and it’s ilk are today) So I’m not surprised by that statement at all.

    It may be a generational thing. Reading was a regular past time back then & you used to find these books in your parents or uncle’s bookshelves and read them out of curiosity. Even the generation that came after mine (late 80’s babies) I would say still gave a fuck somewhat about reading random books for the sake of reading. Reading is not a hobby anymore today though. Kids today don’t even have bookshelves to look at they probably peruse through their parents tablets and just start fucking with the apps and ignore the e-books.

  47. odo19 – Whoa that’s a pretty cool tidbit. No wonder this movie had such a great pace.

  48. RRA – I don’t know I found TURTLES FOREVER kind of insulting TBH to the point of annoyance. I get it, the ’03 Turtles are very different from the ’87 Turtles but the older turtles were also pretty competent.

    That special made them such incompetent pussies that it didn’t even work as parody; it was just downright insulting. Even the ’87 Shredder was just completely shat on to prop up the cornball alien Shredder from the ’03 series like he was some kinda hot shit.

    That never sat right with me. I’ll give them this though that bit where they go to the ’87 Turtles universe and it’s all “WE GOTTA SAVE APRIL” then after the save when the turtles leave the mutant monsters just pick up April and run off with her somewhere cracked me up cause it was yet another implied violation of that version of April like the type you’d see all over the older show. Some things never change.

  49. Thank you thank you thank you for this review Vern. Awesome. I owned these on VHS as a child and a few years back my friend gave me the trilogy box set on DVD. I can’t not love these movies. Well. The first two. The third even 7 year old me was skeptical of. But the second, with Toka (sp?) and Razor is pretty great.

    This was one of the funniest reviews I’ve ever read here because I could see everything you were talking about play out in my head. You pointed out some funny shit I’d never noticed before. That made my night. Thanks.

  50. Ohhhh and the TOYS! I had all four turtles (multiples, I was hard on my toys), Bebop and Rocksteady, and the crowning jewel, Shredder’s Car! Looked like a purple Cadillac convertible, and the wheels rotated inward to make it a hover craft. Fucking A.

    I don’t think I’d ever have thought of that car again without reading all these comments talking about 90’s Ninja Turtles merchandise. Thanks boys.

  51. Please review TMNT 2 and 3, Vern. Don’t stop short on this one.

    I still remember the third movie and how it came out far too late to capitalize on whatever goodwill was left regarding the franchise. Considering all the possible stories they could have come up with, time travelling back to feudal Japan was possibly one of the strangest choices to make. Was the alien brain guy taken?

    I read the original TMNT comics, at least the first 12 issues of it collected in some UK book form and those were far better than the cartoon or the movies. The cartoon had a goofy charm about them so the darker look to the movies was a weird turn to take even though the tone was probably closer to the comics at the time.

  52. To me the first TNMT movie is the perfect time capsule for all things awesome in the 90s. The second one was good too, and it all went downhill after the third one – I think they go back in time to feudal Japan in that one. Reading the article I was surprised to learn that Elias Koteas was Casey Jones in the TNMT films – I must have seen it dozens of times as a kid and never realized it. I can’t picture Koteas as anything other than the captain from the Thin Red Line.

  53. I’m curious – what are the things that are awesome in the ’90s that are time-capsuled in the movie? Partners in Kryme better not be on the list.

  54. Broddie, I have no problem with the reading part – hell, when I was young we didn’t even have VCRs – it’s the Clancy part I find strange. I mean, the mix of right wing politics and mindnumbingly boring technical information put me off even as an adult.

    Vern, I guess we are talking about designer sideburns, trimmed goatee, black vest over a white t-shirt, stone washed jeans, colorful blazers, FM rock and…eh, turtles voiced by has been child actors?

  55. Vern, I think this is a very harsh review for a movie with such great Henson-made costumes (I think it’s the last movie he worked on before he died) and such good PG martial art fight scenes, plus the overall “gritty” look & feel, and the effort to stick with the comic lore rather than the cartoon lore.

    Yeah, the “radical” and “pizza” stuff are juvenile and do not age well, but I think I speak for most 30-something turtle fans (especially those who read the graphic novels) when I say that the ’90 TMNT movie was enjoyable for us. We all wanted to be ninjas and could put ourselves in those headbands – especially if we were weak, awkward dorks,like I was.

    I still think of it fondly. Not a 4 star movie – but a good effort to put something we loved on film (it’s fucking WAY better than TRANSFORMERS). Plus, for a long time it was the top-grossing martial arts movie of all time (I think THE MATRIX beat it but I could be wrong).

    Bottom line: some good fight scenes, and Pat E. Johnson was the fight choreographer.

  56. Was never a really big fan of the cartoon or the movies, but the action figures had some serious winners among them.

    One of the more bizarre series included turtles whose shells were hinged, and could be opened like a cabinet. More importantly than that though, was the fact that inside the shells was a fucking arsenal of weapons! Weird, but totally badass.

    I know at least one of the figures I had included one of the more bizarre weapons I’ve came across as well. It was round, with serrated, saw blade like edges. It basically looked like a buzz saw blade, and I assume it was meant to be a thrown weapon…except the top of it had a sticker that made it appear to be an actual, edible pizza. To this day I’m not sure if the thing was meant to be a pizza when the figure was released, then somewhere before production someone else decided the figure needed another weapon and decided to just weaponize the pizza, or if it was originally MEANT as a weapon then someone else thought it was supposed to be a pizza and slapped the sticker on there, or if was meant to be some weird weapon/food hybrid from the get go.

  57. Pegsman,

    What can I say, I was young and did not know better. I remember thinking Clancy was pretty decent at the time but as I grew older, he became unreadable. Not because of any idealogical belief but because he could not write his way out of a wet paper bag. He could plot like crazy, but prose was not his forte. And I lived out in the country with two and a half channels of television. There wasn’t a fuck lot else to do except read.

    As for the McTiernan comment, Hunt just always felt a little flat. And I laughed at the Basic comment. Basically (groan), the guy’s made two masterpieces and one damn fine movie. The rest are all bringing up the rear.

  58. the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a cultural phenomena that I juuuuuuust missed (I was born in September 1989) and like Vern, I’ve never really gotten it, nor have I ever seen any of the movies or the cartoons, but we can all agree the 90’s was a ball smashingly awesome decade right? to me the early 90’s literally seem like some sort of magical, mythical place because it’s the era my earliest memories stretch back to

    by the way, you know what cultural phenomena I did fall for? Pokemon, and ironically I’m probably the only one here that knows anything about it

  59. and I have damn good memory I should add, I have memories dating all the way back to 1992

  60. In hindsight, the Nintendo TMNT game was pretty fuckin sadistic at times. The game just threw shit at you, especially in the last part before you got to Shredder. Those lasers were impossible to dodge, meaning your lifebar was pretty much drained before fighting that canned asshole.
    You could switch turtles at any given time, otherwise the game would have been impossible to beat.
    Still, great game.

  61. Vern, what ever you think of the Turtles, the search for the next Turtles lead back to Massachusetts, to The Tick, to a young Ben Edlund. If Bay’s masters degree were legit, he would know to let Edlund loose on the Turtle concept. If people liked Whedon’s Avengers, then Warners/DC should hand Edlund Justice League, or New Gods, etc.

  62. As far back as I can remember I always wondered why Partners In Kryme spelt crime as kryme.

  63. 1) April O’Neil the porn star is great. Really enthusiastic, and beautiful but kinda attainable-looking. Plus I give her bonus points for having a cute official website – http://www.heyitsapril.com/ that’s safe for work and shows how charming she is. Her scene in Legs Up, Hose Down is a classic. I would suddenly love Michael Bay if he cast her as April O’Neil in the reboot; she’s a better actress than Megan Fox or Rosie-Huntington Whitely (my money’s on Kate Upton though)

    2) I don’t want to get into TMNT II too much b/c I hope that review is coming up next, but I think it was universally agreed by all boys that the second April (Paige Turco) looked superficially hotter, but everyone preferred the first one (Judith Hoag). She was just a better actress and character, and not having Casey in the second one really hurt her character too. It was weird as a kid totally making the distinction between looks and talent. (Btw – the only notable movies Hoag appeared in later were all Bay-related – she was Will Patton’s ex-wife in Armageddon, and was in I Am Number Four and the NOES remake)

    3) I still love this movie – it holds up in its own cheesy way, the fight scenes are pretty good, I like the scrappy low-budget look of it. And I’m a sucker for the Casey garbage compactor “OOOPS!” gag. It was nothing I had seen in a kid’s movie at the time.

  64. Griff – I think at age 3 is when memory really starts building up for most people. I could remember memories as far back as 1987 and I was only 3 and later 4 during that year.

    ShootMcKay – And to think that people act like I bullshit when I tell them that game was way tougher than NINJA GAIDEN.

    Bart – Man a NEW GODS movie could be the best thing ever. I’m still mad that they didn’t get Brad Bird for Superman. Talk about a pairing that speaks for itself.

  65. For some reason the cartoon was called Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles in the UK. Also, I understand use of the Nunchuks was edited for us because they were illegal weapons in the UK during the 90s and I think still are. Censorship of them’s eased up though nowadays.

  66. Stu – No offense to our anglo-locals, but the UK can be total fucking pussies when it comes to what is “acceptable” violent content.

    I’m reminded of THE MATRIX when that one shot of Fishburne headbutting Hugo Weaving was trimmed out, even though this created a continuity gaffe when Weaving was missing his glasses.

    Also I believe James Cameron talked about scenes in T2 on his commentary track that were either deleted or tried to be cut because of UK censorship. If I remember right, one was Linda Hamilton picking the lock and the other was Arnold knee-caping the SWAT team. The latter especially because apparently the IRA were fond of that tactic or some shit like that.

    neal2zod – I saw TMNT 2 on Netflix some years back, and…it sucked. Not even in a saturday morning escapist or kid fare silly. Yet TMNT 3 was even worse. Urgh. Still I’ll give TMNT 2 this: It introduced me to David Warner. He’s always awesome, even in crap.

  67. “Stu – No offense to our anglo-locals, but the UK can be total fucking pussies when it comes to what is “acceptable” violent content. ”
    Yeah, but we’re more liberal with the nudity on network tv. I think it’s a fair tradeoff. Though Mary Whitehouse clearly put us back by a few decades in what we could see on tv. I remember the headbutting edits from The Matrix. My VHS copy had moments where they removed the impact, but still kept in weird head jerking motion. The TV premiere had the moves reinstated though.

  68. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    May 22nd, 2012 at 8:41 am

    RRA – you have to understand, head-butting is so much of a phenomenon here, it even has its own name (the “Glasgow Kiss”).

    Knee-capping the SWAT team was most definitely not edited out of T2 in the UK. Not the TV version that I saw originally anyway. Whether they edited it out of the DVD copies (I have the “extended edition”, together with Kyle Reese dream-sequence and malfunctioning liquid metal legs) I don’t know. They didn’t edit it out of mine.

    I find it freakin’ hilarious that they can show people being attacked by giant poles, swords and daggers, but not nunchuks.

    TMNT is an interesting one for me because the cartoon was probably the earliest instance of me being… well… me. I was the only kid who didn’t like it, and because everyone else talked about nothing else for a period of two years ago, I pretty much ended up zoning it out. I watched it at times because it was impossible to avoid – if you went to another kid’s house, it would probably be on the tellybox. I remember in particular the incessant faux-teenage slang just bugging the hell out of me. Even as an eleven-year-old I knew that was bullshit.

    There’s an ironic twist in the tale, though, because YEARS later – literally, it can’t be more than five or six years ago – I watched the three films back-to-back and kinda liked them. Yep, even the third one. They all had their flaws. I remember being quite impressed by what a genuine thread Shredder seemed to be in the first movie. It was disappointing that they brought him back for the first sequel though (it’s the old chestnut of the villain getting killed off in the first movie, probably because nobody was quite sure there’d be a second one; then they discovered everybody liked the villain, so they brought him back with new, more awesome powers. The trouble being, his story arc had been completed in the first movie so he ended up being an infinitely less interesting character than in the original movie. I christen this “Agent Smith” syndrome, since I can’t think of a better example of it than that.) Find a new, better villain!

  69. Vern doesn’t give Splinter enough credit for being badass in this movie. He’s always cool, calm, & collected. He has the mystical ability to reach his protégés even when he’s not physically present to teach them stuff.

    And in his final showdown with Shredder he carries on a half-whispered conversation with his enemy and the world, demonstrating a remarkable inner-peace and willingness to try to change the vengeful essence of the man he fights. He talks of honor and death, then he reluctantly cracks a joke once his opponent is crushed.

    Splinter is a very Seagalian character, the more I think about it. Except for the being a mutated rat thing.

  70. Mouth – “He has the mystical ability to reach his protégés even when he’s not physically present to teach them stuff. ”

    Oh shit. That reminds me of something that happened some time back. I’m hanging around a friend’s house and this movie is playing in the background while we’re all playing cards and drinking beers then this scene comes up and some football player friend of his who is a 6’4 hulking black dude who weighs about as much as 2 of me combined out of nowhere is completely mesmerized by that shit.

    Like it was one of the most powerful things he’s ever seen. I nearly choked on my beer from laughter because he was genuinely moved like he was watching a nicely framed and drawn out scene in a Malick movie or something. That’s why I say that this movie has aged well because if it still could grab the attention of an early 30’s guy who had no nostalgic connection to it in the first place in 2012 and make them feel fully engrossed in it’s happenings if even for a moment then it’s pretty damn magical.

  71. mouth – all things considered, I seem to remember the TMNT climax to be solidly crafted. I mean I even liked that Shredder kicks the Turtles’ asses, even when they gang up on him.

    Also, as stupid as it was…I did laugh at Splinter’s last line.

  72. This movie actually always reminded of a Seagal film (Hard to Kill?), or Best of the Best 2, where the heroes take a break and go out to the country to train before coming back to the city for a final show down.

    They screened Turtles at the New Beverly last year with Kevin Eastman and he said that there was a PG-13 cut (or maybe it was R) with more violence.

  73. I love movies with a “recuperation intermission” built into the story structure, like ROCKY III or UNFORGIVEN. It shows that our heroes can be defeated, gives them a chance to bond and evolve in a new context, and of course the “It’s time to go back” scene is always awesome because that’s when you know it’s on. They could have just stayed out in the country, practicing tai chi while silhouetted against the sunset, but honor dictates that it’s time to kick some ass.

    Also, if there are going to be titties, this is the part of the movie where there will be titties.

  74. The next Batman seems to be going that same route. Too bad it won’t have Anne Hathaway titties though.

  75. I have really fond childhood memories of this because my dad surprised me in the middle of a school day with free tickets to see the film.

    Don’t remember a damn thing about the movie itself, though.

  76. I don’t think I realized that this movie was such a touchstone. To me it seems like it’s to the ’90s kids what GOONIES is to the ’80s kids, although I think I get the Goonies thing a little more. I don’t want to blame it entirely on nostalgia, but you guys are talking about a good movie with some bad parts, to me it’s very much the reverse. I listed all the good parts in the opening paragraph. But yes, the martial arts choreography is superior to the quack fu in Howard the Duck.

  77. Since we just got a Howard the Duck review and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review, will a Super Mario Brothers movie review be coming in future? I feel like that movie belongs in the same mini-genre somehow–“big budget glossy late 80s/early 90s action/adventure movies based on preexisting properties that involved funny animals, but were just edgy enough to be popular with 13-year-old-boys”, something along those lines (also, like Howard the Duck, it features a bunch of famous actors you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in a movie like that). Even though it’s less popular nowadays than the other two, I think I like it best of the three because of the crazy setting–it’s kind of like if 90% of Howard the Duck had been set on Duckworld.

  78. Any love for the CGI TMNT from 2007?

  79. hypnosifl, I’m sorry, but if you were a 13 year old boy who liked Howard the Duck, Ninja Turtles, and Super Mario, then I’m retroactively making fun of you right now.

    And I’m retroactively only 10 in this time-warping hypothetical. That’s pathetic. I hope I’m cooler than you when I make it to 7th grade 16 years ago.

    And I’m not gonna allow myself to be umbrellaed under Vern’s “liking TMNT=Goonies nostalgia” rubric, either. I said “I liked the movie okay.” Also, fuck THE GOONIES.

    And I hope Vern’s not offended by my Splinter-Seagal comparison.

  80. Jim Henson’s son, Brian, was the second unit director (Barron handed him a Super 8mm camera, let him do what he wanted with the origin scene, and got back some Three Kings-looking adorabull!). If Jim had not died, I bet Brian would have been their top choice for the parent friendly sequel, but he had to lead the effort to hold his father’s company together with the almost Disney purchase.

  81. Ninja Turtles seems to be the stuff that continues to live on. I´ve been talking to people at campus born in ´91 or ´92 that could not possibly have any kind of nostalgic feelings towards that phenomenon, but they are still very knowledgable about the mythology (according to the cartoon that is). Maybe because there has been several other incarnations in later years. Does this make the Turtles timeless because future generations can enjoy them? Unless Michael Bay completely fucks it up, I´d like to think so. The inherited craziness of the concept needs to be passed on. It´s too good to be forgotten.

  82. “but if you were a 13 year old boy who liked Howard the Duck, Ninja Turtles, and Super Mario, then I’m retroactively making fun of you right now.”

    I was into much geekier things, but I feel like Ninja Turtles & Mario Bros (in their pre-movie incarnations) were popular with kids I knew back in late elementary school days (maybe I shoulda dropped the age by a couple years or so, but the point is this stuff was liked by kids that would otherwise consider themselves too old for the “funny animal” genre). Admittedly Howard the Duck is kind of a stretch since not many people were probably aware of that character before the movie, but from what I’ve heard about the comic I feel like the target audience would have been the older kids who were reading Mad Magazine, not the younger ones who watched cartoons about talking animals.

  83. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    May 22nd, 2012 at 2:06 pm


    “Any love for the CGI TMNT from 2007?”


    Broddie: “The next Batman seems to be going that same route. Too bad it won’t have Anne Hathaway titties though.”



    “Also, fuck THE GOONIES.”


  84. I have to agree with Vern on this one. The movie has its moments, but overall it’s not very good. It’s not a bad nostalgia trip, but that’s all I can say for it. Of course, I never got on the turtles train, so maybe I’m just jealous. Still, Goonies rulez! (And you know I mean this, because I spelled rules with a “z”).

  85. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    May 22nd, 2012 at 2:14 pm


    “Admittedly Howard the Duck is kind of a stretch since not many people were probably aware of that character before the movie.”

    As opposed to…? I’d be genuinely impressed if you could find me somebody who will admit now that they saw that movie and thought “well, this is great, I really want to find out more about Howard the Duck”.

    My friends and I were raised on Sega. So instead of Super Mario Bros, we got Sonic the Hedgehog. We were screwed.

    (On the other hand, the Genesis version of Jungle Strike was the best out there. So yay!)

    The one part of the TMNT craze I actually liked as a child was the videogames – at least the 16-bit and arcade versions. You could play Michaelangelo, nunchuks and all. And the game was “Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles”. None of this “hero” business. Unfortunately us Sega Megadrive owners only got the “Hyperstone Heist” game whereas the SNES kids all got “Turtles in Time”. Again – we were screwed.

  86. Ian – I really don’t remember ANYTHING about the CGI TMNT movie, even though it’s probably the most recent one i’ve seen. But that brings me to another topic – I do hope the Michael Bay one will have all the crazy elements of the cartoon show – Baxter Stockman, Krang, those robotic rat things, the Terrordome(?) and all that huge big-budget shit that just technically couldn’t have been possible in the 90s without animation. I like how the first movie was practically a stripped down, gritty reboot of the show (For Your Eyes Only/Casino Royale-style) – it eliminated almost all the huge kid-pleasing sci-fi shenanigans but it was good so I don’t think a single kid cared.

  87. Wait a minute, I think I just suggested that TMNT ’90 is the first of the Nolan-ized gritty reboots. That might actually be sorta accurate.

  88. “As opposed to…? I’d be genuinely impressed if you could find me somebody who will admit now that they saw that movie and thought “well, this is great, I really want to find out more about Howard the Duck”.”

    “Before the movie” wasn’t meant to be opposed to “after the movie”, I was just talking about why Mario/TMNT/Howard the Duck all seemed like examples the same mini-genre to me, and one of the reasons was that they were all adaptations of preexisting stuff (that’s what “before the movie” was referring to) that was cartoony-looking but aimed at an older audience than the kids who would be watching Alvin & the Chipmunks or whatever, so the movies have the feel of being pitched at the same kind of audience.

  89. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    May 22nd, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Hypnosifi – I wasn’t being facetious, I really really want to meet that guy!

    I don’t know if I would agree about Mario or TMNT being aimed at older kids than those watching Alvin and the Chipmunks though. And “Howard the Duck” wasn’t meant to be a kids’ movie at all (although that is part of its problem – it’s a movie without an audience. The “adult” humour is lost in translation but it’s too grown-up for the kids.

  90. neal2zod – It´s not a Terrordome, its a Technodrome! *sigh*

  91. The movie was the culmination of several awesome aspects of adolescent pop culture.

    1) You had the TV show. Everyone’s favourite at the time, on every morning before school/work and afternoon as well catching a huge range of ages. Hilarious stuff, but also the first truly violent children’s television show – 1st episode Bi-Bop and Rocksteady were unloading machineguns in crowds of running people, bullet casings flying everywhere. Bi-Bop and Rocksteady were also hilarious, and Krang upped it a notch as well. Very creative TV.

    2) You had the arcade game – the first 4 player arcade game to make it to every mall, cinema, bowling alley and pub. It was EPIC and everyone’s favourite and ALWAYS had a queue to play and crowd of onlookers.

    3) You had the comics. I missed those personally, but obviously a lot of kids were enjoying em.

    4) You had TMNT the Role Playing Game – Dungeons and Dragons version. Like comics, not for everyone, though saw it in every toy shop, k-mart etc.

    5) Figurines, soft toys, posters, Vanilla Ice GO NINJA GO NINJA GO!. OK Vanilla came after the movies, just a bonus.

    The first movie was recognition of how much fun and how pervasive this character set was. The characters were fun because they were rebellious and free, badass, fun loving, and fun. Shredder, Bi-Bop, Rocksteady, and Krang were all great fun villians. April was hot. Casey was hilarious and truly badass.

    Very clever creation.

  92. Glad to see AU bring up how violent the cartoon was. That must have been the reason I liked it.

    How did Vern fail to mention that Casey Jones rocks a hockey mask and stick? Missed a chance to trash his character compared to masked vigilantes, heroes, and killers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, V. F. Vendetta, Knifey McSCREAM, Detective John DRIVE, etc..

  93. I don’t know. One man’s adolescent pop culture is another man’s cynical corporate synergy. I don’t mean to be all negative here, but, while I see some of the appeal, I could never fully get into the TMNT. I appreciate the absurdist comic booky aspects of the characters and the world. But they also seemed cynically crafted to appeal to kids. Even as a child, it always bothered me when I felt I was being sold a product. I remember being infuriated by cereal commercials because they seemed aimed at an ADD addled kid, and I did not like being stereotyped as such. TMNT (or at least the cartoon version) at times struck me as condescending, especially with all of the “cool” language like “radical” and all of the references to pizza.

    To this day whenever I feel as if something is being sold to a demographic that I’m a part of, then I’m immediately put off. I recently caught a commercial for this sitcom called Men at Work, and it is so clearly marketed towards twenty-something guys, complete with a “dude” and “bro” attitude, that I was nearly sent into a rage.

  94. So Vern, what’s really the equivalent of TMNT for YOUR childhood viewing experience? I think the only reference you’ve ever made to something remotely like that was mentioning once that you saw MOONWALKER when you were 13?

  95. now I did see the Super Mario Brothers movie as a kid and enjoyed it

    I have not seen the whole thing since, but I would describe that one as a “well made bad movie” if you know what I mean

  96. Stu – Vern is a total mystery man, we don’t even know the guy’s age

    he’s like the superhero version of a movie critic

  97. Don’t make that comparison, Griff. That makes him sound like nerd shit.

  98. ” Vern is a total mystery man, we don’t even know the guy’s age ”

    Just How Badass Is This Guy?: “Our searched turned up nothing on him. He’s clean. TOO clean. He’s got black ops written all over him.”

    I’m just going to choose to believe that as a former Outlaw, Vern is living under witness protection, so can’t go too public. Either that, or there’s still some crimes he could be identified for and doesn’t want to risk it.

  99. you could drop Vern off at the Arctic Circle wearing a pair of bikini underwear, without his toothbrush, and tomorrow afternoon he’s going to show up at your pool side with a million dollar smile and fist full of pesos

  100. I’m surprised no one is really talking about the path the movie went down as opposed to the root source material. I use the word “root” here as the movie obviously drew inspiration from later incarnations rather than the original comic, but like Howard the Duck there was true source material that could have shaped a very different movie.

    Sure TMNT went after kids, as the comic’s original intentions were abandoned fairly early on as opposed to Howard, who Gerber kept in a very dark place his entire run. But unlike Vern’s tossed-off comment regarding a Marvel parody and some people more accurately calling it a riff on Miller’s Daredevil run, I was there when the first issue hit the shelves during the early days of the transition from newsstand to specialty shop comic distribution. While history can be in flux and memories adjusted to fit a more pleasing reality, at the time TMNT was a straight send-up of the later Miller Daredevil arc with Elektra. In fact the over-the-top violence was a pointed commentary on the darkness certain comics were turning to and the ridiculousness in particular of the Elektra backstory. It was meant as a quickie, joining the ranks of notable parodies of the time like Megaton Man (by far the funniest of the superhero deconstruction riffs).

    Imagine an R-rated TMNT. Whoops, could barely type that without falling to the floor. TMNT was a strange journey, sort of like how the purposefully violent and sarcastic Robocop became a fascination to children (which of course gave us the cinematic masterpiece that was Robocop 3 blergggg). Ah, creative evolution. And selling out. Someone should write a book!

  101. There’s a weird synergy between the TMNT and Back to the Future trilogies.

    First movie – Character focused, spends much time gawking wide-eyed at the concept. (Marty is a rebellious future rock star, the Turtles like Pizza, etc).

    Second film – Does all the gimmicky, crazy shit you fantasized about after seeing the first one (skipping around all over the place in time in one (and hoverboards), oozing different animals and then Shredder in the other).

    Third film – Now, even though BTTF 3 takes place in Hill Valley, it’s the first Hill Valley that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the 4.5 or so versions of Hill Valley we experienced in the first two films. I’m saying it might as well be Feudal Japan as far as those movies are concerned. So both 3rd films take you far afield from the first two into the distant past.

    Also the third film is easily the worst in both cases. Anyway now that I try to quantify it maybe I’m full of shit, but I had a sense that they followed a similar Path.

    Now I don’t remember TMNT 1 too hot, but in the second one they make use of this HILARIOUS technique where they demonstrate the Foot soldiers’ menacing quality by: having the Feet not directly involved in a particular melee stand in a formation, off to the side, throwing random kicks and punches in the air. OMG! Where do they come up with that garbage?

    Last point, Broddie noted the following: “It also had one of my favorite movie quotes of all time (”A little too Raph”)”. I want to commend Broddie on his absolute correctness. It’s unbelievable to me that such a brilliant little gem of comedy could exist in so stupid of a franchise. Seriously, it’s a dumb pun on the surface, but has layers of sophistication that contribute to how profoundly funny it is.

  102. but the third Back To The Future is still pretty damn good, even if it’s still the weakest of the series

    however I’ve heard that the third Turtles movie is awful

  103. While I was a bit too old to get caught in the Turtlemania – I’m in the generation that got brainwashed by the cartoons that aired a few years before Turtles: TRANSFORMERS, HE-MAN and such – I can understand the appeal.

    Because as a kid, I loved the shit out of TRANSFORMERS. Of course, looking back at it now, I can definitely see it’s a very calculated corporate product cheaply made in Asia designed to sell another product. Any artistic merit it made have had were either completely unintentional or just casually thrown in to teach some simplistic message so not to appear entirely like an extended commercial (“hey, power of friendship, kids”). Same thing with Turtles. Even though the original comic was a crazy indie product, the franchise it spawned certainly wasn’t.

    But I don’t think it invalidates the impression it can leave into a young, impressionable child. When you’re a kid, despite blatant commercialism, transforming robots and mutant ninjas are fucking cool. They’re fantastic, colorful action parcels that spark the imagination to have your own adventures with your friends. Despite being pushed by corporate giants, I certainly don’t think there’s any harm the products inciting kids to imagine giant laser battles and ninja attacks. Expand their minds beyond the real world.

    Some people cling on to that childhood nostalgia, even to an unhealthy extent, and that’s an easy way to corporations to squeeze even more money out of the franchise later on. After all, childhood and the cartoons (and comics, and books and films) you saw then leave a very strong impression that will last a lifetime. Ranging from warm feeling when you see an old toy you used to have to a crazy obsession people build their lives around to when they really refuse to let it all go. And it doesn’t matter if the cartoon or whatever you saw was actually any good or not. When you’re a kid, you don’t analyze this shit on any sort of intellectual level.

    But, if you weren’t part of particular “thing”, it all can seem very bizarre and nonsensical. Parents probably shake their head in disbelief when their kids desperately want a toy starring a mutant laser ninja commando bird or whatever. Like I said, I was a bit too old for the Turtles. Not too old to not like them, but too old for being imprinted by them and obsess over them. And I certainly was way too old for Pokemon. For me, that show just looks like a seizure inducing injection of sugar and animal eugenics. But I understand why a kid would go crazy for it.

  104. the appeal of Pokemon for me was two things (ok three things to be honest)

    1. it was set in this whole fleshed out world that was not ours, the world of Pokemon had it’s own history and culture and geography, it seems really simple to me as an adult, but to my kid self I thought the idea of this whole world was really cool, it’s kind of like a kid version of D&D now that I think about it

    2. it was Japanese and the foreign aspect of it gave it this mysterious and exotic edge, I remember other kids always discussing these mysterious episodes that were only shown in Japan and always speculating as to why they were unacceptable for us America kids

    and of course Pokemon later led me to Dragon Ball Z and my anime fandom in general

    3. literally every other single kid was into it, so I figured “if you can’t beat them, join them”, trust me, there was no escaping Pokemon if you were a kid in 1999, it was EVERYWHERE

  105. Griff – “literally every other single kid was into it, so I figured “if you can’t beat them, join them”, trust me, there was no escaping Pokemon if you were a kid in 1999, it was EVERYWHERE”

    The same could be said of NINJA TURTLES in 1988. I was way too old to get into Pokemon thankfully but that’s cool that at least for you it was a gateway to anime.

  106. I loved the ninja turtles as a kid. I was into the comics, so I was really excited when they made a Ninja Turtles cartoon series, then action figures, and movies. The comics may have started as a gag, but they were fun. I always enjoyed the art, and they featured a lot of action and ninjas. I only have fond memories of the ninja turtles, and for that reason I have not rewatched any of the movies or read any of the comics in ages. I don’t want my memories to be tainted by how I would respond to the turtles now. Especially, when you consider the cartoon series and films were much campier than the comics and more geared towards children. I can understand Vern’s response to this film, without context this film has to seem as crazy as HOWARD THE DUCK just minus the undertones of bestiality.

    I don’t think Vern mentioned it in his review, but didn’t Jim Henson’s creature studio work on the turtles for these movies.

  107. “but the third Back To The Future is still pretty damn good, even if it’s still the weakest of the series

    however I’ve heard that the third Turtles movie is awful”

    Mos def Griff, the two franchises are worlds apart in terms of quality and endurance.

  108. Charles, Vern mentioned the Henson thing in the first sentence.

    I think I occasionally overcome the *corporatization-pandering-toy marketing to kids-tie-in to cheap cartoons & movies-subliminal brainwashing to like stuff so suits can get our parents’ money* thing that HT describes because of Fred Topel’s occasionally helpful maxim/excuse: “Because it’s awesome.”

    When I was a first-grader, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were awesome.

    Just look at that title. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.

    Break it down semantically. Diagram the linguistics & meanings and the wildly creative, bizarre artistry there.

    All four of those words have elements of awesomeness in them. Together, and when you add in the colorful, violent mutant bad guys and side characters, it’s awesome overload.

  109. Thanks, Mouth. Sorry everybody, that is what I get for multi tasking.

  110. “Pokemon thankfully but that’s cool that at least for you it was a gateway to anime.”

    Pokemon got the ball rolling, but what really sealed the deal was Toonami on Cartoon Network

  111. I watched this film when I was nine, a couple of months after it was released and I still think this movie is awesome; however, the sequels are shit. My favorite Uncle doesn’t quite have twenty years on me. He exposed me and my brother to classics of Badass cinema such as Predator, The Running Man and Roadhouse(against my parents wishes no less) all before I ever saw TMNT. I exposed my uncle to this film about a year after it came out, eager to show him something that I thought to be as badass as the films he’d shown me, even high as a kite (as he often was), he couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.

    I remember wondering what the hell was wrong with him. It wasn’t until a decade later, when one of my younger cousins was trying to make me realize the awesomeness of something that might’ve been Pokemon.

    In summation.
    Vern thanks for finding something nice to say about TMNT, even if it was only 1/20th of the review

  112. Nostalgia aside, TMNT 1990 is a very well made movie. It has that elusive property: you put it on, and suddenly 90 minutes have gone by, and you didn’t look at your watch once.

    This is a sign of excellent filmatic construction, in terms of design and pacing, and a credit to the director and editors; for similar “where did the time go?” experiences, see also MAD MAX II and the master class, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ. Compare with, say, DICK TRACEY 1990, also in thrall to BATMAN 1990, and much less absurd than a giant turtle concept, but you never forget that you’re watching a stupid movie.

    And Shredder is a wicked bad guy.

    So it’s not just a touchstone. It is a touchstone because it is a first rate piece of filmmaking. About giant turtles.

  113. If the turtles in the new Bay movie really originates from space, that kind of invalidates the Mutant part of the title. Instead Teenage Space Ninja Turtles…

  114. Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles….sorry.

  115. Hmmm. I definitely agreed with the people comparing this to Howard the Duck and Super Mario Brothers. I do not see how it has anything in common with Road Warrior.

  116. Since how little in common the SUPER MARIO BROTHERS-movie has with the source material comparing to the TMNT-movie I fail to see any real comparison. Both movies rely on animatronics and features reptilians in one form or the other, but clearly SMB is the biggest mess of an adaptation I have ever witnessed. The very idea to adapt something as abstract and downright trippy as a Super Mario brothers game is just stupid. I kind of like the movie for its cheesiness, but somehow I find it offensive comparing that failure of a an adapted piece of material to TMNT that actually got the basics right.

  117. Anyone seen the trailer for TMNT? I kind of like the ogre-ish and quite intimidating new look of the turtles.

  118. Yeah, I’m not against it either. Or at least I got used to it pretty fast.

  119. TMNT was before my time so I can’t get too worked up about the Bayiefied version

  120. Before your time? How young are you? The last one’s from 2007, man…

  121. There has also been a TMNT TV series and an ongoing comic book series that have been both going on for about 2 years now. I’ll stick with those. The trailer didn’t really do anything to show me that Liebsman is not sticking with his shaky cam style.

  122. People seem to REALLY hate that taking the mask off scene from the trailer…and I don’t get it.

    If anything, I think its like a joke on a similar scene from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, except the joke is that a masked turtle reveals himself to be….a turtle. If it was meant as a joke, it didn’t work but I understood the idea behind it.

  123. “Before your time? How young are you? The last one’s from 2007, man…”

    24, so I guess too young to have been around when the Turtles were first popular and too old to care when any of the 2000’s revivals hit

  124. “People seem to REALLY hate that taking the mask off scene from the trailer…and I don’t get it.”

    I was blissfully aware until now on such a minor detail. Some people sure put the effort into pre-hating a movie.

  125. The joke is that he thinks she’s freaked out because he’s wearing a mask, but it’s really because he is a talking humanoid turtle man. It’s more like a play on the scene in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU when the doctor thinks David Thewlis is freaked out about him wearing lots of sunblock but it’s actually because there are animal people and circus freaks at the dinner table.

  126. I sure hope Bay & co hired Partners in Kryme to do the end credits song on this one, as their song from the orginial is a bonafide classic. The best hip-hop act ever?

  127. We will probably get a remix of Vanilla Ice´s “Ninja Rap” from TMNT 2 instead…

  128. Vern – Its weird you explained that joke to me after I already explained it in my post. Regardless we both get the joke behind that snippet, which has apparently been lost on many folks.

    Anyway I didn’t hate or like the Bay-ized TMNT trailer. It basically played like a TRANSFORMERS film trailer….just with CGI turtles. I’m sure people who liked those Transformers films ate this up, and I guess good for them. I really didn’t have much interest in this in the first place and that trailer didn’t raise it.

    And no the little interest wasn’t because of Bay. (Though his involvement certainly doesn’t help this at all for me.) Its just that there were many things that I loved in my childhood. Some of them like Batman or video games, I still love as an adult. But stuff like Transformers or TMNT? ehhhh…I can’t get worked up about movies about them. And if I do, its because I didn’t like them as flms, not regarding them as adaptations.

    Weird though that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY involves a talking animal kicking ass, and the next week afterwards opens a movie about talking animals kicking ass.

  129. I must be the first person to have ever attended a SUNY school who read this review while also being familiar enough with this movie to recognize that Vern misheard the “Sony payment” joke that he didn’t understand. April joked that she was being ambushed in the subway by masked ninjas because she was behind on her SUNY payments, which would be the outstanding student debt she owes the State University of New York school system. It’s not a joke for kids, but as someone who still owes SUNY five digits, it was one of the few real laughs this film got out of me with a recent revisit.

  130. Thanks Rowland! I added your correction into the body of the review.

  131. The review of this movie’s sequel reminded me of a very good oral history from The Hollywood Reporter from about a year ago

    'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles': Untold Story of the Movie "Every Studio in Hollywood" Rejected - Hollywood Reporter

    The film, released 25 years ago this week, survived 70-pound costumes, a major studio pulling out at the last moment and rejection at every turn, with most of the industry asking its producers, "Are you guys out of your minds?"

  132. A few days ago I randomly found the TURTLE POWER single in a bargain bin and of course had to buy it. That’s all. There is nothing interesting about this story or the CD itself (although the song is pretty catchy and I like the SPLINTER’S TALE track on it, that is just Splinter telling his origin story over a piece of the movie score), but it fits nicely into my shelf next to the singles of MC Hammer’s and Tag Team’s respective ADDAMS FAMILY songs and the one of the WALK THE DINOSAUR cover that George Clinton did for the SUPER MARIO BROS movie.

  133. I appreciate you sharing this. These are all things I would like to have on vinyl for my Video Store Day DJ set. Especially Walk the Dinosaur. What I really want is the 12″ of Clinton’s HOWARD THE DUCK song. I was able to get a different song by the band from the movie but not his song.

  134. One day you have to record one of those sets and I don’t know, maybe put it on Patreon? Or just release it for everybody. Should be a fun thing to listen to.

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