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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