The Case for The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Part 1



Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

I am more than willing to admit that my love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise comes from a fierce dedication to the cartoons I watched throughout the course of my childhood. I’m willing to admit that I overlook glaringly obvious flaws in the film franchise because of the integral part that the heroes in a half-shell played in my development of appreciation of popular culture. Here’s the thing; for those not initiated with the turtle franchise (including my wife), the idea of four giant mutated turtles learning ninjutsu from a mutated rat-human hybrid to fight crime in New York City is a little hard to swallow. Critically speaking, the films were not well received. Thankfully, the general public received the Turtles much better than the critics would have hoped. We’re now 23 years past the release of the first Turtle movie; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t enter into the movie realm blindly. A devout following from both the comic books as well as the children’s cartoon showed that there certainly was a market for the turtles. The first movie pits the turtles against the rise of the foot clans attack on New York City. Shredder is recruiting youths in an effort to create a crime empire in the big apple. As the film progresses the fight becomes more personal, to the point that by the end of the film it’s an all out grudge match between Shredder and the Turtles. April O’Neil and Casey Jones are two human allies to the turtles. O’Neil is a news reporter for a local channel while Casey Jones is a vigilante crime fighter with a major affinity for sports.

The flaws in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t few. We’re treated to some terrible dialogue including some of the corniest one liners committed to film, a clunky back story, the idea that a Ninja master would stoop to stealing electronics for money, the overall silliness of the movie makes it feel like a live action cartoon. Oh, wait; maybe it’s supposed to be that way. We’re dealing with a concept that is quite literally a live action cartoon. Sure the hockey lines cause you to groan at times, and they’re not always delivered the best. The turtles are juvenile and angsty, but they are teenagers. It’s something you have to chalk up to taste, but if you can get past the eye-roll factor that comes with the concept then you can have an absolute blast.

The set pieces, visuals, cinematography and costumes all seemed to have oozed out of the neon colored cartoon and into the live action film. Not since Dick Tracey have I seen a movie come so close to accurately portraying it’s animated nature into a real world setting. This inaugural Turtles film laid the groundwork for future sequels. It takes itself serious enough to be an a decent action/adventure film, yet remains silly enough to be a kids movie; though many would argue it is far darker than most, mostly due to it’s dedication to the source material from the comic books. The stunts and action sequences in the film are spectacular. This is well before stylized editing saturated the action elements of films, so we find ourselves content to watch a brawl unfold in real time. The thing with the turtles is, they’re in a fairly bulky costume, yet are incredibly agile. The imagination doesn’t need to stretch too far to allow for the believability of martial artist turtles. My friend and fellow blogger Ryan Partlow pointed out an interesting fact about this movie: At the time, it was the highest grossing independent movie ever made.

It’s an odd ball feature that allows for a nostalgic peak into the past. The Turtles themselves have been incredibly prevalent in pop culture, even having a current running cartoon. We are (unfortunately) going to be getting a Michael Bay Turtles movie in the near future as well. If you are uninitiated to the franchise, or haven’t seen this one in years it’s worth watching. certain aspects have not aged well, but as a whole it is still entertaining and, honestly, the most creative gimmick of it’s time. The Turtles have transcended multiple generations, and at this rate will continue to do so.

5 comments on “The Case for The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Part 1

  1. Ryan Partlow says:

    This is one of those movies that I know is really kinda bad, but I love it anyway. It is probably nostalgia, but for the time it came out, it was probably the best we could have hoped for, and it will still be the preferred version when Bay’s Teenage Alien Fighting Turtliods comes out.

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