Comic property reviews: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies

In the first quarter 2011 of Gaming Insurrection’s The Strip, we took a look at all three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Read on to see how we feel about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Before we start, a little bit of explaining:

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

A screenshot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles make an interesting discovery in their lair in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

TMNT movie origins great way to start franchise

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

New Line Cinema, 1990

Pulling from the comics to tell its origin story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does the franchise proud in its first stab at the movie business. With a few changes to some key elements, the movie Turtles still manage to convey the never-say-die attitude of the teen amphibians. Crucial fights and subtle humor are thrown in with great character development.

The casting is superb mostly. Judith Hoag was excellent as the plucky April O’Neil, and her pairing with Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones was enjoyable and believable. Shredder was menacing and imposing as well as his bodyguard, Tatsu (a movie only addition). The costuming looked great and so did the Turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Factory pulled out the stops to make the suits for the Turtles, and it shows. Our only quibble with the characterization was the inclusion and creation of April’s boss and his son. They weren’t wholly necessary to the story, and while they set up interesting subplots for the core group, they didn’t really add to the movie. In fact, it seems they dragged it down in parts.

We particularly enjoyed the fact that by the time the first movie was released, the cartoon was in full swing, thus making the movie possible. While the movie works to distance itself from the cartoon quite a bit, it still retains elements from it to draw in the younger crowd. Subtle nods to the franchise’s two origins (comics and cartoon) are featured throughout, helping the movie firmly ground itself as a sci-fi kung-fu flick. This is a must-own for the children of the ’80s crowd who remembers the days when Turtles fought with honor.

Like the comics: 7/10

Casting: 9.5/10

Plot: 9/10

Overall rating: 8.5

New character Keno joins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their quest to take on Shredder again in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

One liners’ add hilarity to Turtles’ movie sequel

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze”

New Line Cinema, 1991

What’s not to like about the sequel to one of the most successful independent movies of all time? Not much. Everything that made the first film a year earlier successful is back, though with a few changes. First, there’s no Casey Jones. And the actress playing April was changed. And there’s the addition of Ernie Reyes Jr. as the Turtles’ friend Keno and villains Tokka and Razhar. But other than that, the Turtles are still the Turtles.

There’s more action and more one-liners. And the return of Shredder makes it a little bit more believable that he’s a major villain for the Turtles than the comics would have you believe. It’s not very plausible that Shredder would be a one-note villain who only appears in a movie to try to kill the heroes, so it’s obvious that his role was increased here, tying in the various games AND cartoon.

Character development was handled in the first movie and not too much is dwelled on here. We wish more was written about Keno and why he was so proficient in martial arts and insistent upon helping the Turtles. His lack of explanation sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent tale for the Turtles. Also, is it too much to ask that Vanilla Ice should have been toned down? True, he doesn’t show up until the end, but really, Ninja Rap? It was odd and disconcerting as a child seeing him and that hasn’t changed in the 20 years since movie’s release. He does absolutely nothing for the film, and his cameo is beyond stupid. But, at least the Turtles got to dance.

Overall, watch the sequel if not for a laugh at the now-ancient fashions of the day, but for the ramped up humor that comes from creating a sequel for a TMNT movie.

Like the comics?: 5/10

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 7/10

Overall rating: 6.5

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles try to return home to their time in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

Boldly go where no Turtle should really ever go

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III”

New Line Cinema, 1992

A hackneyed plot and poor special effects make the third TMNT film the worst in the bunch. There isn’t much that could save the franchise from going downhill with the third movie. The plot of the Turtles time traveling literally doesn’t make much sense, and the first time that Lyndsey saw it in the theaters, she claims to have spent 20 minutes trying to make sure she was in the right movie.

The acting is garbage, the story is utter nonsense and has nothing to do with the TMNT universe, and there’s no mention of previous villains or characters that made an impact on the Turtles’ adventures. The bright spot in it all is the casting and return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones. He, despite some ham-fisted acting, is a beacon of hope in a movie that is far from shimmering.

There is nothing here that really resembles the TMNT universe save the abandoned train system home that the Turtles found in Secret of the Ooze and Jones. We had trouble understanding the point of adding the scepter and why even some of the strange plots from the cartoon universe weren’t expanded on, such as the Utroms or Rocksteady and Bebop. If the movie can introduce samurai that we’ve never heard of, the least the writers could do is include mutants that we have heard of. This is one sewer tale that should have stayed underground.

Like the comics?: 0/10

Casting: 2/10

Plot: 2/10

Overall rating: 1.5

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