Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Turtle Tracks - The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Franchise

Leonardo: All right, guys! Let's make some awesome poses... guys?
Raphael: Nah.
Michalangelo: I'm tired.
Donatello:  I'm cold! Say, do turtles even get cold?

So, it’s been about a few months since I wrote my piece on those four walking, talking turtles. I still haven't done anything with them yet! I guess since I've done a lot of other stuff since then, the Turtles just skipped my mind. Today, that’s going to change with my look at the four TMNT movies.

I basically talked about my experiences with the four movies in my intro post to this segment. I already knew who the Turtles were before I saw the first movie because I watched the cartoon every Saturday. I saw some of the first movie when I was in Kindergarten. Our teacher took it out after the third “Damn.” Yes, there was some cussing in it, but I will say that it’s pretty tame when you look at the stuff that’s out now. Anyway, I eventually saw the rest of it later when I got older. I saw the second movie while my family and I were in Iowa for a vacation. I saw that thing twice that day.

I don’t know when I saw the third movie. I either rented it or it was on TV. Either way, I’ve seen it a couple of times. Suddenly, a decade and a half passes by and another TMNT movie comes out. I didn’t go see it in theatres since I was in college and money was short. When it came out on DVD, I rented it and I think I’ve only seen it a couple of times. Recently, I saw that Wal-Mart had all four movies grouped together in a box set, so I got it. I’ve watched all four movies over the weekend. What did I think of them? Find out below:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
In their first movie, the Turtles face the Shredder and the Foot Clan for the first time. They also end up meeting April O’Neil and Casey Jones. It’s safe to say that this is one of the better TMNT movies. It may be the best TMNT movie. I love the movie. It’s probably in my favorite movies list somewhere. There’s a lot to like about the film especially if you’re a TMNT fan. I don’t know what to say or where to start.

A turtle gets the crap beat out of him and gets thrown through a window. I think that's the definition of hardcore.

First, it’s a great adaptation of the source material. For those who don’t know, the Turtles started out in the comics. The whole plot of the movie is taken straight from the comics. The comic was also pretty gritty and the movie has that feeling. There’s camp sprinkled in it but it’s taken seriously for the most part. In a way, it feels like a grown-up version of the 80’s cartoon. There are some swear words thrown in and it’s got some grit. The movie also sprinkles in some things from the 80’s cartoon like April being a reporter, the Turtles’ love for pizza, and “Cowabunga.”

The acting is also well done for the most part. The Turtles are played well and the costumes and animatronics are pretty good. April was played awesomely well… and was really cute. My favorite character of the whole movie though is Casey. The guy cracked me up. The Shredder was menacing and pretty awesome in that suit. The action’s good for the most part. Who knew that four guys dressed as turtles could be so entertaining? It had some slapstick moments, but it was pretty good and somewhat funny.

Ouch. I wouldn't want to be them.

Is there anything I don’t like about the film? No, there are no glaring errors. It isn’t perfect though. I will say that I kind of wish it was longer and that stuff was developed better. That’s not to say that this is bad. It’s a great movie. If you’re a TMNT fan, then why haven’t you seen it? If you’re not one, I say check it out anyway.

Favorite Quotes:
“Yes, friends, the new tubo ginsu. Wa-hoo! It dices, it slices, and it makes French fries in three different...WHOOPS!”
“Hi? I look like I just called Mike Tyson a sissy and all you can say is "Hi"?”
“Do you like penicillin on your pizza?”
“You guys must be studying the *abridged* book of Ninja fighting.”
“Uh, you know... A little um, Primatene might just help to clear that up there.”
“The Shredder uses you. He poisons your minds to obtain for that which he desires. He cares nothing for you or the people you hurt.”
“A Jose Canseco bat? Tell me... you didn't pay money for this.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze
The second movie in the franchise is a direct sequel to the first. In it, the Turtles begin to learn more about their origins. Also, the Shredder is back and out for revenge. We even get two evil mutants: Tokka and Rahzar… no Beebop and Rocksteady, guys. I think it’s safe to say that the movie is basically a step downward from the first movie. That doesn’t mean it sucks. I kind of think this movie is like an episode from the 80’s cartoon and not a grown-up one like the first movie was.

Hmm... if this was made today, they might be doing "The Dugee" or whatever these teenagers are doing these days. I just hope I didn't give Michael Bay any ideas.

All the swearing and grittiness is gone and replaced with comedy and light-heartedness. Heck, even the Turtles get affected. The only one who even gets to use their weapon is Donatello and that’s probably because it’s not a sharp object. This was around the time where parents started to get pretty concerned with violence in kids’ stuff. The movie and the next movie definitely suffered because of it. Most of the fight scenes were unfortunately filled with slapstick. I think the only fights that were pretty cool were the ones that involved the new character Kino played by Ernie Reyes Jr.

One question: how does Shredder's armor and clothes mutate with him?

The overall story was decent enough. As I said before, it feels like an episode from the cartoon. It’s rife with slapstick and not a lot of good slapstick. Vanilla Ice is in it… no comment but at least his song is catchy. There’s a new April in town and she’s okay. She just fills the job decently. I also wasn’t a fan of Donatello’s new voice here. I guess I just missed ‘ole Corey Feldman. Tokka and Rahzar were okay and they probably provided the funniest moment in the movie. David Warner’s even in it and he was pretty cool as the scientist from TGRI. I don’t know if I can recommend it. It’s not that bad, but it really could have been better. If you’re TMNT fan, check it out. 

Favorite Quotes:
"Well, I guess that leaves out 'why' and 'when', doesn't it?"
"Go Ninja! Go Ninja Go!"
Michaelangelo: Guys, guys! I've just thought of something. Two words that'll solve all our housing problems! Time share!
Donatello: [taps on Michaelangelo's head] Hmmm, not quite ripe yet.
Michaelangelo: Ahh, ninja pizza!
Donatello: "Ninja pizza"?
Michaelangelo: Pizza that vanish quickly without trace!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3
In the third movie of the franchise, April is accidently transported back in time to a 17th century Japan. The Turtles travel back to save her and hi-jinks ensue. This time, their villains are a mercenary named Walker and a Japanese samurai named Norinaga. This movie is considered to be the worst of the franchise. Heck, James Rolfe even sliced the movie in half with a katana. While I do believe it’s the worst of the franchise, I don’t straight-out hate it like I do X-Men: the Last Stand. I just feel “Meh” about it.

You'd think that mixing ninjas and samurais together would be a good thing. That's not the case here!

First, the costumes and animatronics don’t look good when compared to the previous movies. The Jim Henson Workshop didn’t work on this movie. The person they replaced for the voice of Splinter sucked big time. Like the last movie, this one is full of slapstick and some of it is not that funny. Actually, most of it isn’t funny. I think I only laughed at a couple of things in it. The story isn’t well told and the villains are pretty dull.

Is there anything I do like about it? Actually, there are a couple of things. I did like the little subplot with Raphael and Yoshi, one of the children at the village where they stayed. I did think Mikey falling in love was... interesting. Corey Feldman comes back as the voice of Donatello and that was cool. Casey Jones comes back… for about ten minutes. Still, those were some decent ten minutes. I wish he was in the movie more and I not talking about his “ancestor” either! Apparently, Casey had an ancestor back in that time and while he was around with the Turtles and April, he didn’t add up to much. Oh well…

Wow... those turtles look freaky!!!

Should I recommend this? Since I am of a good conscience (I think), I can safely say that you should skip it. It’s just not a good movie. It’s not even a good time travel movie nor a good TMNT movie. If you want to brave the storm and watch it, go on ahead. At least all of the Turtles actually get to use their weapons this time!

Told ya it happened!

Favorite Quotes:
"Gee, if we die here in the past, does that mean that we don't get born in the future?" (A really dumb line from the smartest guy on the team)
“How did you get into April's pants?” (This actually got a laugh out of me)
“You don't mean - you're not seriously suggesting that Donatello is going to make an incredibly arcane time travel machine, are you?"
Donatello: Turtles don't migrate, Raph. Birds do!
Raphael: Hey, I got a beak, don't I? (He kind of did have some beak going on)

TMNT (2007) 
The Turtles finally returned to the big screen for the first time in over a decade with the movie TMNT. In this completely CGI movie, the Turtles must band together and resolve their family issues as an immortal and his family threaten to rule the Earth. While this movie has a lot of flaws, I do like it. It’s definitely my second favorite TMNT movie.

I guess I can look at what went wrong with the movie first. First, the story’s not that great. The whole plot revolving around the immortal (voiced by Patrick Stewart) and his family was pretty lackluster for me. The Stone Warriors weren’t great villains but I will say that they were at least better than a mercenary and an old samurai. I think what hurt this movie the most is that it feels like were missing a lot. It’s really unclear whether this movie is a sequel to the live-action trilogy or if it’s like Superman Returns where it only references some of the movies. Also, April’s not a reporter here and don’t get any indication that she was ever a reporter here. She also knows martial arts which is something I do like about her here.

I wish I had a wall as cool at this.

It’s also missing the Shredder in this but the Foot Clan does play a role in the movie. While the Turtles have other villains, Shredder's their most popular villain and he should have been the main villain. Instead, we get Karai, Shredder’s second-in command, as leader of the Foot Clan. The problem is that we don’t learn anything about her here. The only reason I know anything about her is because she was in the 2003 cartoon series. I remember hearing somewhere that the script was inspired by an unused script from the 2003 series, so that may explain a lot about the movie.

While I’m not a fan of some aspects to the story, there is still a lot I like about the film. The story revolving around the Turtles’ family issues is the best part of the movie. Basically, Leonardo had left for a year after the Shredder died. During that year, the other brothers drifted apart and started to do their own thing instead of kicking evil in the butt. When Leo returns, Splinter and the others are excited except for Raphael. I loved seeing Leo and Raph butt heads again. We even get a pretty awesome fight between the two.

This is probably the best part of the movie.

The voice acting is pretty good. All of the Turtles act and sound like they should. While there is a lot of focus on Raph and Leo, Donnie’s still the brainy guy and Mikey cracked me up. Sarah Michelle Gellar played a cool April and Chris Evans played a decent Casey Jones though I didn’t like that he was played to be a bit of a klutz. Mako, in one of his last roles, was pretty good as Splinter. While I didn’t enjoy the villain, Winters, I though Patrick Stewart did a good job. The animation was also pretty good. While the character designs may be a little too stylized, the action was pretty awesome.

I recommend that you at least check it out especially if you’re a TMNT fan. While the movie isn’t perfect, it’s still pretty decent. Everything involving the Turtles and their supporting cast is pretty good. The animation is pretty good and the action rocks.

Favorite Quotes: 
"We live together, we train together, we fight together, we stand for good together... we are ninjas. We strike hard, defend and protected and fade into the night and there ain't no bad guy or monster that gonna ever change that. That's what is important and that's why we will always be... brothers."
“I'd give us a ten for style… an eight for skill… and a two for stealth.”
"I must have hit my head really hard. I'm seeing giant turtles!"
"Funny thing about anger. Let it consume you and soon enough... you lose sight of everything."
“Good Night, Dark Prince.”

So, as you can see, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ box office career has been a bit rocky. It’s about to get a little rockier because we will have another TMNT movie next year. It’s a reboot and it’s being produced by Michael Bay… Yay? I have heard things about the movie like “The Turtles are aliens,” “the script was crap”, and “Megan Fox sucks!” Well, I’ll just have to wait and see how the movie is before I can judge it unlike people who immediately judge something two years before it comes out (cough*Batfleck*cough). Before I close out, here’s a ranking of the movies from best to worst. You can probably guess how this list is going to go. 
  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – It’s one of the best comic/cartoon adaptations I’ve seen and it’s one of my favorite movies. 
  2. TMNT – While the story has flaws, the Turtles themselves carry the movie and make it a decent outing. 
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze – While this movie is really campy and a step down from the first movie, it’s not that bad. 
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 – I think I’ve found a new coaster for my cup. In other words, it’s not a good movie. 
Well, that’s all I got for today.Will I wait another few months to do a Turtles' post? Probably not, but I do have something I want to do that's TMNT-related. Well, I'm outta here. Peace, God Bless, and "Bossa Nova!!!"

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