Oh boy, the second I popped in these discs I was instantly transported back to my childhood youth when not missing afternoon cartoons were the top priority. Nothing else mattered.
It’s hard to believe that the live-action adaptations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are really twenty-five years old, and it’s even harder to believe that I’m even older. I hope I don’t offend anyone considering I’m only in my mid-twenties, but these movies were ancient.
It seemed inevitable to film aficionados, but even this person is impressed that Warner Bros. went all out for the 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray complete with a comic book, signed sketch, character cards, and a seemingly one-size-fits-all “Radical Beanie,” in addition to the discs for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze (1991), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time (1993), and TMNT (2007).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
I haven’t seen this movie in years, and re-watching it in the midst of a comic book movie adaptation explosion has given me a greater appreciation for the original 1990 movie. Sure, it shows its age way back when New York used to be a crime-ridden city and when words like radical and totally tubular were cool (if ever?).
But what it does well is bring the comic book characters of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael into the real world without any true instance of non-believability or complete fantasy, other than the fact that the heroes comprise of four mutated turtles and one mutated rat. Even the villain Shredder seems plausible as the leader of an underground band of ninja thieves.
The truly independent Steve Barron-directed film maintains a strong balance between many genuine themes and many more silly moments and jokes in the story of a father’s great love for his sons. The best scene is when Splinter meets Danny (Michael Turney) for the first time and instantly tries to mentor the troubled teen. When Danny is unconvinced that his dad loves him, Splinter’s line “All fathers care for their sons” is extremely heartfelt.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze (1991)
The Secret Of The Ooze is the inevitable sequel that picks up (somewhat) right after the successful original left off. The Shredder is back, and he stands in the way of Slinter and the turtles finding out the truth to their origins.
I’m hesitant to mention more without revealing any potential spoilers, although the Blu-ray’s back cover ends up doing it anyway (think evil mutant counterparts). The sequel is an enjoyable follow-up, full of familiar jokes and similar light-heartedness from the original; however, both the depth and urgency are lacking from the first film, no doubt diluted in favor of more comedy and a cameo by Vanilla Ice.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time (1993)
You can tell from the title that the film’s story takes an even more unrealistic turn. While still enjoyable, Turtles In Time delves farther from the real world and has the turtles traveling back in time to feudal Japan to rescue April O’Neil (Paige Turco).
I hate to say that there’s really nothing more to the movie than that.
Hopefully, you can see the pattern here. Almost fifteen years since the last movie, TMNT does try to follow the same timeline and universe as the previous trilogy; however, it’s now a CGI-animated adventure that allows the story to take an even more wild turn.
The four turtles are no longer a team, but they will have to become one again to save New York City from an immortal tycoon (Winters), four 3,000-year-old stone warriors, and thirteen otherworldly monsters. Outside of a ridiculously hot animated April, there really isn’t much more to say except that it borrows some elements from The Lord Of The Rings and shamelessly sets itself up for a sequel.
The video quality for the first three films (show in 1:85:1 widescreen) is pretty sharp considering their age and low budget. It shouldn’t be surprising that TMNT (2:4:1) looks the best. Ditto for the sound quality, as all four have been re-mastered in Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1.
The three live-action films contain only theatrical trailers as their extras. TMNT contains a lot more in the form of a commentary track from writer/director Kevin Monroe; unfinished animations for an alternate opening (too wordy) and alternate ending (too long); deleted scenes; a side-by-side comparison of storyboards and the final CGI scenes (one with a longer Michelangelo introduction, and one with Raphael and Casey Jones meeting the monsters for the first time); and the promotional fluff First Look featuring interviews with Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Laurence Fishburne who provided the voices for Winters, April, and the Narrator, respectively.
Monroe provides commentary on virtually every extra, putting more emphasis on the storyboard and CGI sequences to better break down both their technological and storytelling aspects. In doing so, you get a better appreciation for how much thought and work he put into the movie, professing his love for the parts of the movie that ultimately got left out (Michelangelo secretly handing Splinter a piece of cake or a much bigger subplot involving the April and Casey romance) of the final cut.
[photos via Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.]