Thursday, March 27, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Review:

In the last half of the 1980s, comic book readers were introduced to the Ninja Turtles created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. As over the top and ludicrous as it sounded, it captivated many people and soon the 1987 cartoon was produced thus spreading the enthusiasm all over the place - soon after making movies about the famous characters in the 1990s and late 2000s. In light of today being the day Mr. Michael Bay releases his reboot trailer of his TMNT franchise, I thought it was a good idea to view the first theatrically released film of the TMNT back in 1990. There's good reason to see it too before the reboot. It's not by any means a highly developed piece of cinema but it definitely has a lot going for it.

High three? 
The story begins with reporter April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) who is covering an important story dealing with the city's crime rate sky rocketing and no one has any idea why. On her way home, some robbers almost mug her, if it weren't for a humanoid ninja turtle quartet. With them, O'Neil also meets Master Splinter, an old humanoid rat who is the trainer and caretaker of the TMNT group. Upon this journey they also make headway with self-proclaimed amateur vigilante named Casey Jones (Elias Koteas). Lastly, the leader behind the enormous crime spree is The Shredder, a mysterious villain who is proficient in martial arts as well.

For all of these characters, their development is even for the most part. The only thing that really had me thinking was how was The Shredder was able to persuade all of the youth in the city to rebel. How did he do this to begin with? Also, what exactly is his motive? What did he plan on doing once everything had been stolen? He obviously wanted to get rid of O'Neil for spreading the word about his operations, and he wanted to take out the ninja turtles but what was his overall intent? It never was expanded upon. Other than that though, the story has flow and doesn't bore.

The first time writers behind this movie created a decent script for the characters. All of the ninja turtles have their respective Italian Renaissance names and their own personality, which gives them a considerable amount of charm. Master Splinter is portrayed as a genuinely father like character with all the traits a good father should have. Casey Jones is probably one of the more underrated characters because of his spontaneity and improvising behavior. Even, O'Neil as a character develops in some ways. Maybe Hoag was a perfect choice to play April, but she has her moments. Even The Shredder is cool to watch in some scenes.

Casey Jones
Perhaps the most interesting element this film has to offer is the action material and practical effects. For 1990, the ninja turtle costumes are done extremely well. The facial expressions are accurate and are fairly consistent with voice and mouth coordination. Also, the use of costumes help make the film feel more realistic, instead of trying to make CGI look real altogether. The action scenes though are by far the most fun to watch. Martial arts are always entertaining, but how do you get the sequences done right with people in bulky costumes? Well I'm not sure, but it looks good. The actors seem to have no trouble moving, hopping, kicking or rolling around in the costumes. Jim Henson's production crew is something else.

Besides The Shredder being a slight bit under developed, there are a couple of other things that could've been tweaked. John Du Prez's music captured all the right emotions for each scene and overall tone, but didn't create a main theme which is kind of silly since it would help viewers identify with what theme it belonged to. Also, the idea of adding music that involves pop dates the movie severely. It does create a nostalgic feeling, but the film itself does that already - music doesn't need to added. Lastly, would be the settings. Much of the setting of the movie is in the city, which is fine, but it seems to be always at nighttime. I'm sure other people wouldn't mind a few day scenes or so. Eh...what can you do?

An old, yet still an enjoyable family action film that has charming characters and remarkable practical effects. Character development isn't too bad either, although some explanations are needed.

Points Earned --> 7:10


  1. I've always been a huge fan of the Turtles and I pull this one out of my collection quite a bit. When I first saw it, I thought Elias Koteas was the coolest as Casey Jones.

  2. I can bet. We'll see how Michael Bay's version does. It's not looking great though. The director is Jonathan Liebesman, the guy who headed Wrath of the Titans (2012), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) & Battle Los Angeles (2011). According to most, his films have been middling. The writers behind it don't look too promising either. But we'll see.

    1. I'm trying to remain cautiously optimistic about Bay's treatment of the Turtles.

    2. That's all you can do. The truth will be revealed soon.