Property review: TMNT Vol. 1 (1987 animated series)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2004

Turtles fight bare bones DVD

True children of the ’80s will tell you that one of the things imprinted in their memory is what they watched on television. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were important then, and children soaked it up. So, imagine GI’s surprise when the DVDs were finally released for public consumption. Spanning nine seasons, some of the most important establishing material is found in the first season, and the DVDs provide a look at the opening five-part miniseries that launched the show. But, if you’re looking for a quality introduction to the Turtles, keep looking because this version isn’t all that great.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The quality of the presentation is terrible for starters. While it’s obvious this is a show from the ’80s and broadcast quality isn’t going to be as good as say 2004, when the disc was released, it still should be better than what’s here. Then, add in quite a few graphical errors, a lack of extras on the disc and the confusing inclusion of several episodes from the 10th and final season and you have a poor mess of a DVD.

Great voice acting and a killer soundtrack help, though. It’s something when a series can draw you in because of its soundtrack and perfect casting, and the first season of the show managed that greatly. Practically speaking, the first season’s merits save the DVD from most of its negative traits.

And, we can get around it all because it’s the Turtles, and having the series on DVD greatly increases the amount of problems we’re willing to put up with just to have the series in our collection. We can’t complain that much as children of the ’80s and as superfans of the series. We just wish the quality was a little better and some of the behind-the-scenes material had been added here. That would be have tubularly awesome.

Plot: 8

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 10

Total score: 21 out of 30 or 7

What to watch

The five episodes here are the five-part miniseries that introduced the Turtles in animated television.

1. Turtle Tracks: The introduction and origin story of the Turtles. Keep in mind that this origin story greatly differs from the comics and film.

2. Enter the Shredder: The introduction of Krang and Shredder, and also the creation of Rocksteady and Bebop.

3. A Thing About Rats: Baxter Stockman is introduced and joins with Shredder.

4. Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X: Krang’s partial backstory is given and Dimension X is named. Michaelangelo gains a love interest.

5. Shredded and Splintered: Shredder and Splinter switch bodies, and Splinter’s bond with Turtles is fleshed out.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 and 30 overall.

Top 5 list: Worst comic book movies

Chances are, if you’re comic book fanatics like we are at Gaming Insurrection, you’ve seen one of the movies on this list. If you soak up overacting, tired drama and nonsensical plots with hamfisted writing, you’ve seen everything on this list and probably have them memorized. These are five of the worst comic book movies ever made. This list is also not definitive because there are more where these came from.

 

Vincent Perez and Mia Kirschner star in The Crow: City of Angels.

The Crow: City of Angels (1996)

You know how the first Crow movie was awesome because Brandon Lee was in it and seemed to embody Eric? Unfortunately, someone thought making a second movie and continuing the franchise after the death of the star was a good idea. It wasn’t. Not only did the filmmakers manage to besmirch the memory of Lee with a terrible, unattached story, but they also made a mockery of the original screenplay and concept, which came from the pain of a tragic event in author James O’Barr’s life. And don’t get us started on the ridiculous acting from Vincent Perez, who has managed to ruin another favorite series of ours, too: Queen of the Damned.

 

Alicia Silverstone, George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell star in Batman & Robin.

Batman & Robin (1997)

The fourth Batman movie is among the list of the worst movies overall ever made. Nothing makes sense about the movie. Between Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger overacting and George Clooney underacting, nothing works. Even though we’re fans of Alicia Silverstone, an “it girl” of the day, she really didn’t do much for the film, either. Most tellingly, Clooney is NOT Batman. He’s not Batman material, and he never will be. As a matter of fact, we’d venture to say that this is the reason for the Batman reboot with Christian Bale. Clooney, an OK actor otherwise, will forever be known as the man who ran Batman into the ground.

 

Jennifer Garner stars in Elektra.

Elektra (2005)

If you can watch a trailer and nothing in those 30 seconds makes you want to watch a movie, you know it’s doomed to fail before it even gets started. That’s the case with Elektra. Jennifer Garner can’t act. That’s a fact, plain and simple, and she looks nothing like the Marvel character whatsoever. So, Elektra was a waste. And you know Hollywood knows it because there hasn’t been a sequel. At least she and her husband, Ben Affleck, have something in common: Both starred in bad comic movies.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 was released in 1992.

TMNT 3 (1992)

We’ve covered extensively why this movie was a failure on all fronts, but it bears repeating: The movie sucks. It has nothing to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in any way, shape or form. Lyndsey really did sit through the movie in theaters in 1992 when it was released and at no point in the first 20 minutes did she think she was in the correct movie. While we’re delighted with the return of Casey Jones in the film — after he was strangely missing in the second movie — there should have been something better for him to return to.

 

Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellan star in X-Men: The Last Stand.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Gaming Insurrection as a whole doesn’t get mad at movies often, but X3 managed that feat about half the way through. Nonsensical plot points, altered established canon, blink-and-you-missed-it character cameos and a disjointed focus make for one of the worst comic book films ever. We’re not asking for much, but DO NOT change character backstory for the sake of a lead actor. That is a cardinal rule for movies based on established properties, and the X-Men have a well-discussed history that should not be changed in a penultimate film. We love Hugh Jackman, but no. Double no for making a relationship that never happened in the comics a prominent focus of your film. And triple no for screwing over Professor X. Director Brett Ratner should be left atop an ant mound covered in sugar for the travesty that is X3.

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

Strip Talk #05: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were animated heroes, advertising juggernaut all rolled into one

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

The Teenage Mutant Turtles have dual personalities, quite frankly. They are among the few, if not the only, animated characters to have multiple versions within the consumer’s grasp that make them seem like the same old Turtles dressed up in the same old stories with different looks to them.

No one can dispute the juggernaut that was and still is the TMNT. Sure, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. Nowadays, you can’t walk down the street screaming “Cowabunga, dude!” without getting laughed at or possibly being evaluated for Bull Street or Patrick B. Harris. No, you can’t say you love being a turtle anymore without accusations of being stuck in a 1980s timewarp. But there was a time in America where it was hip to be a lean, green, turtle-loving pizza-eating machine. Those were the days when TMNT was king.

The franchise seemingly came out of nowhere with the comics book in 1984. It was as if there was nothing and then there were the Turtles. They were serious, starkly drawn characters who would fight and kill just as soon as they would be teens on the streets of New York looking for a little action. These are the classic times of the TMNT, where you could get a little blood mixed in with the culture of a gritty 1980s New York City scene rife with crime. And then it all exploded.

Cheesy on the one hand, wildly popular and inappropriate on the other, the 1987 animated show hit the scene and made mincemeat out of nearly every other franchise. The Turtles gained individual characteristics and with them came an increase in popularity that hadn’t been anticipated. The show took off with witty writing, superb voice acting and plots that made a lot of sense. The show worked hard to establish a base with children, though the seemingly innocuous writing is even risque for cartoons these days. Where else can a villain call a heroine of the show a bimbo?

Both pieces of the TMNT tale left a lasting impact. There’s a generation of grown folks that sang along with the opening theme of the ’87 show. Millions of “children of the ’80s” sink back into a coma of nostalgia now and then as they remember getting home from school, throwing off an acid-wash denim jacket, fixing a snack and plopping down in front of a TV to watch the four green dudes from Brooklyn take on a ninja master who “never has to look for a can opener” before tackling multiplication and long-division problems.

I am a child of the ’80s and I was once upon a time a pre-teenage mutant ninja turtle.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection and one of the biggest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans on the planet. She can be reached by e-mail at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com.

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