Howdy people of the north, south, east and west, and welcome to Day #1 of Month of Superhero Film Reviews 2! For those of you who have followed this blog for a while you may remember that back in 2013 I did my first Month of Superhero Film Reviews which was hella fun and interesting to discuss the adaptations of some of my favourite and most hated films in the superhero genre. This month we’re doing it again with a new batch of good, bad and indifferent films that will hopefully bring on some interesting discussions! Anyways today I’ll be starting with a classic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you know the good one from 1990.
So here we are with the first TMNT film, after the success of the TV show, a film seemed like a no-brainer but at the same time this could have ended up so wrong. This kind of source material works okay in animation or print, but live-action? That’s a gamble yo. thankfully this film ended up being pretty good and after all these years it is still a pretty good time with a lot of nostalgic value.
In terms of the story, simply put it follows a group of mutated turtle warriors that must emerge from the shadows to protect New York City from an uprising criminal gang of ninjas.
The story in this film is pretty good, it feels like a Ninja Turtles adventure, but has the kind of narrative that you would find in your standard superhero film too. The film deals with themes of trust, abandonment and family, and they’re tackled in a very nice way. There is a good sense of character progression for the Turtles and April, and it is good how the aspects of the past come into play in the present as well. It is also slightly more adult than the show with a highlight on the rise in crime, use of curse words (there’s a lot of “damn” in this film), talk of death and one kid/teenager smoking a cigar, it is a little odd but it’s also an interesting bit of maturity for this film version of TMNT. Also while this story does well to abbreviate the origin story of the Turtles and character introductions, for people who aren’t long-term fans it may be hard for them to get into the film or appreciate it as much a hardcore fan.
Now let’s talk about the cast. Firstly there’s Judith Hoag as April O’Neil. I like how in this film she’s not a damsel in distress, but a proactive reporter who searches for the truth and isn’t afraid to speak her mind too. Hoag is so fun, charming and pretty as O’Neil and has good chemistry with the Turtles. Elias Koteas as Casey Jones is also pretty good, I like how his character operates outside of the law and eventually becomes an ally of the Turtles. And then there’s the Turtles Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello played in-suit by David Forman, Michelan Sisti and Leif Tilden and voiced by Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist and Corey Feldman. Then there’s Josh Pais as Raphael who plays the character in suit and voice. I also like Michael Turney and Jay Patterson as Danny and Charles Pennington. as The Shredder was pretty awesome too, being super intimidating and cool as the main antagonist and he’s played well by James Saito and voiced by David McCharen. Oh and seeing Sam Rockwell as Head Thug was so cool, never noticed him before until now.
Now let’s talk about the presentation. Visually the film is really good. There’s nice lighting and colours used for the night scenes, but the main thing that stands out is the Turtles. The practical special effects used to bring them to life is truly impressive, the only problems are with some of the facial movements, but for the most part it looks really good. I also liked what was done with Splinter too as he looked cool too. As for the action it was done well, the fight scenes were nicely choreographed and had a good sense of style, I only which there’d been more hardcore ninjitsu and martial arts added to the action sequences. As for the soundtrack by John Du Prez is appropriately heroic and cheesy, it feels very in line with the animated series and the choice of music tracks and instrumental material sounds very late 80’s/early 90’s and it is totally my kind of sound. But at the same time the music doesn’t always match the tone of the film, it can be kind of cheesy at points when it could have been slightly more serious.
And lastly how does it compare to the comics? Well I’m not the most hardcore TMNT fan, but I do know the basics. From what I understand the filmmakers basically took the source material and adapted it for film and kept most of the core elements intact. The origin story is fine, the character personalities are good and the costume design is mostly spot on. I know that this film was primarily based off on the 1980’s animated series, but I did like how they kept some of the aspects of the comics intact like April having the antique shop and farmhouse, and her relationship with Casey Jones.
So to conclude Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still a good film. While it may have aged quite a bit due its use of practical effects and that old 1980’s/90’s style, it still has all of the great codes and conventions of a superhero film and it brings the Turtles into live action in a very faithful yet slightly more mature way for fans of the animated show. I would still recommend this to those interested and open-minded enough to see what came before the 2014 edition.
So there’s my first review done, only 29 more to go. So have you seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and if so what are your thoughts on it? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts yo! Come back tomorrow and I’ll have a new film review online, until then peace out!