Now I Know How You Die Hard Transformers Fans Must Feel: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


The wildly popular Transformers movie franchise is often trounced by critics for a number of reasons. Most commonly I hear about how the movies took a beloved childhood series and strayed from the spirit of the source material. I could not relate. I played with Transformer toys growing up, sure, but I didn’t adamantly watch the series, and I couldn’t have given you any of their names. To me, the movies were nothing more than poorly constructed money farms. Then they announced that Michael Bay was producing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reboot. But with Bay Just producing, maybe the director had a chance? Jonathan Liebesman. He’s directed a few action films, none of which were of great note. “Still, it’s Turtles” I thought “It can’t be that hard to get right, I mean none of the previous movies were works of art. I’ll just wait to see who they cast”. The realization that Casey Jones wasn’t going to be in the movie was almost as heart wrenching as the fact that Megan Fox was cast as April O’neil. Sorry, I’m letting my nostalgia seep into this review. It’s just that for the first time, I think I know what those true Transformers fans must have felt like.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the fifth big screen title for the heroes in a half-shell, and is a complete reboot. The real focal point of the film is April O’neil, who is a doggedly determined reporter that wants to break away from the puff pieces she’s always assigned. This leads her to investigate a local crime organization known as “The Foot”. She learns that someone is thwarting some of The Foot’s operations. She eventually finds herself in a trap set by The Foot to lure out these vigilantes. They are, of course, the titular turtles. As April gets closer to the four reptile brothers, she learns how they came to be, and begins to comprehend just what the villains have in store for the city of New York. Along they way she meets the Turtles Master; a rat named Splinter and their nemesis; The Shredder.


The premise is pretty standard Turtles stuff. It’s a franchise about four anthropomorphic turtles named after renaissance artists who have mastered ninjutsu and fight organized crime in the city. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a franchise that survives on a mixture of weirdness and charm. This film lacked  the charm and amped up the weirdness in all the wrong ways. Megan Fox sucked every quirk out of the character of April o’neil. No longer the smart and tough reporter, she reduced April to a pretty face to look at that served only to spout exposition to the audience. The turtles were…. uncanny. Their faces were unsettling to look at and I simply couldn’t get a tangible grasp on their being and where they belonged in the world of the film. The most frustrating thing was that it felt like the entire cast was on the verge of rolling their eyes because they thought the concept of a Turtle movie was above them. The movie would literally make fun of the weirdness and charm that made this series, and then make half an effort to duplicate it. I once went up with a group of people to sing Bohemian Rhapsody at a karaoke place. I was embarrassed, so rather than get super into it like the others, I attempted to save face and just sort of stood up there awkwardly and quietly sang along while the others were practically rolling on the ground. If the other movies were like the people singing and rolling on the ground, this one was me. None of us could particularly sing very well, but all the others were far more entertaining to watch.


This movie is worse than Turtles in Time a film that is almost universally recognized as the worst in the franchise. A big problem with this film was just how poorly it was written. The villains have no real goals other than some conceited plan to make lots of money, despite already being ridiculously rich. It felt like, with the exception of the turtles themselves, everyone was simply reading a rough draft of the script word for word. Most of the lines were there to blatantly state the obvious to no one except the audience. They spent far too much time explaining the nonsensical plot, and ultimately failed at that. There were one or two jokes that landed, but the majority of the humor was squelched by a lack of enthusiasm and heart. In it’s attempt to be a gritty reboot, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles managed to be the one thing I didn’t expect it to be; boring.


If you’re interested in my reviews of the other Turtles movies check them out here.


Web Slinging with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”


This weekend I watched my fifth Spider-man movie in theaters. I had no real intention of seeing it, but was invited at the last minute by a friend that had an extra ticket, so I, naturally agreed. There are few movies that I would pass up to see for free in theaters, and Spider-man anything would never be on that list. I had decided not to spend money on it because of the recent poor reviews, most of which stated that this was a disaster not unlike the unfortunate Spider-Man 3 that Sam Raimi dissapointed audiences with in 2007. The Spider-Man character is just about on everyone’s top ten favorite super heroes list, which is exactly why they keep making these movies. The recent reboot of the series seemed unnecessary, but proved to be quite good, despite similarities to the last series. And so, with a positive results the creative forces decided to jam pack as much as they could into the sequel. While not detrimental, it proved, at the very least, distracting.


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 starts off with a flash back to Peter’s parents escaping from, we-aren’t-sure-what. There is a big spectacle as Peter’s father struggles to upload a mysterious file while fighting a villanous man that intends to bring their jet crashing to the ground. The file is uploaded. With that distraction gone we jump directly into the life of present day Spider-Man, which is really all we wanted anyway. Peter, during the opening spidey-sequence rescues an engineer from being run over, and in doing so introduces us to the movies big villain. This engineer, a nobody by the name of Max, becomes Electro. Electro is basically electric force in human form. Peter then must wrestle with the death of his Gwen Stacy’s father, the return of a child hood friend who is dying of a genetic disease and the unknown reasons his parents abandoned him. The movie throws around more plots than the vials of plutonium that are stolen at the start of the film… which is a lot.


First, the good: Visually, the movie is fantastic. The action sequences are well produced, smooth and exciting. The actors gave it their all, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone absolutely killing it with their chemistry. Jamie Foxx was almost a little too cartoon like with his character… but it worked. This was a step away from the darker hero movies of late and a step back about two decades into a more fantastical hero universe. I particularly loved the score and sound effects associated with Electro. Albeit a little corny, the music had me grinning. Garfield presents a fantastic Peter Parker, one that encapsulates the youth of today. Even though the Raimi series doesn’t seem to be much of a distant memory, Garfield pulls the character into 2014 flawlessly.


The bad: There was too much trying to be accomplished in this movie, and because of that issues got muddled and things didn’t make sense. In particular, Peter’s search for why his parents left him was a waste of time. There was a large portion of time and emotion devoted to Peter discovering what his parents were doing and what happened to them for very little pay off. The second plot I took issue with was the Green Goblin. Dane DeHaan did a fine job playing Harry Osborn and the Green Goblin, but it felt rushed and unplanned. We go from meeting the cahracter for the first time, and having him be a good friend of Peter’s to a murderous goblin a little too quick and with too little explanation.


The Spider-Man curse is packing the stories too tightly. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a blast to watch, but it was bogged down by confusing plot points and unexplained circumstances. That being said, what it got right was keeping the pace exciting and visuals stunning. Also I loved the return to a more fantastic, amazing heart of the super hero genre.

I think it’s time for Wonder Woman to get the blockbuster treatment.


One major complaint in the super hero saturated movie market is the lack of female protagonists. Sure, we’ve got Pepper Potts, in Iron Man, Black Widow in The Avengers, and Catwoman in the latest Batman movie; but it’s blatantly obvious that women, for the most part, take a back seat to their male counterparts in the majority of comic book adaptations. This truth makes the glaringly obvious omission of a blockbuster scale Wonder Woman movie that much more conspicuous. It’s a risky step, for sure. I mean, as far as comic book movies go, there are the tent-pole figures that sell the most tickets. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Wolverine etc. etc. X-Men may be the biggest “equal opportunity” franchise for women in the  superhero business to date, but after watching 2009’s animated Wonder Woman, I can’t help but feel like studios and audiences are missing out on something pretty big.

    To be honest, Wonder Woman wasn’t particularly on my “to watch” radar until Ryan Partlow recommended it. It was available for free streaming on my Amazon Prime account, so I bit. Wonder Woman is, unsurprisingly, an origins tale. Which was good, because I knew very little about her. The Amazonians, after a pretty sweet battle with Aries, are granted an island where they can be safe from the depravity of man. Centuries later, a fighter pilot crash lands in their midst and, long story short, Diana (voiced by Keri Russell), the princess of Themyscira Island is chosen to escort him back to his homeland. About the same time, Aries escapes from his prison and begins wreaking havoc on earth as he attempts to gain power in order to take over Mount Olympus. What begins as a simple escort mission, quickly becomes a bid to save humanity. But they never explained her invisible jet. Not even a little.

    With a short 74 minute run-time, Wonder Woman uses the time to efficiently tell a compelling origin story and discuss themes largely overlooked by the genre. The tone of the movie is largely focused on the role of women in society, taking shots at the chauvinistic “nature of man”. It’s a discussion that is surprisingly balanced with the use of  Dianna’s male counterpart, modern day fighter pilot  Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion). Steve Trevor serves as a vessel to showcase the best and worst of what mankind as a societal whole has to offer. What makes the Amazonian women weak is the very thing that sets them apart from humanity, their solitude from the outside world. Diana serves as a bridge between the two worlds, protecting both from stronger forces.

    The film itself looks like a weekly Saturday morning cartoon. That being said, it’s quite a bit more violent than what you’ll catch on the Cartoon Network on the weekends. The action sequences are intense, but not overshadowing to the overall plot. The story is concise and simple, but feels very fresh coming from an entirely new perspective. The voice casting was dead on, Fillion in particular is proving quite proficient in this type of role. Wonder Woman is absolute proof that you can make a superhero film with a strong female lead and have it be successful.

Ben Affleck: The Caped Crusader?


     Well, that’s it folks. They didn’t choose Karl Urban to play Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel. While he was never really a consideration (as far as I can tell) it would have been a welcomed addition to the film cannon. We’re going to be dealing with a slightly older, wiser Batman in this film, someone that’s been through it all and can really carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, so they chose Daredevil Ben Affleck. This revelation is somewhat unsettling to a lot of people, as they remember Affleck’s previous stint in the superhero business as a bit of a let down. We’ve seen extremes with his career, but lately I’ve been convinced that Affleck is certainly maturing into his career and I’m optimistic for this choice, despite the fact that this is someone I hadn’t even considered as a possibility for the role.

Argo was probably my favorite film to be released last year, and a lot of this is thanks to Affleck’s ability to carry the film. He’s been around the game long enough ,and has been actively involved not only in the acting aspect of movies, but he’s had more than his fair share of time behind the camera as well. I have to believe that someone at his caliber should be able to manage the role of Batman. We’re going to be dealing with a less active, older and more brooding Dark Knight, or so we assume. Affleck seems to have perfected the brooding and somber role, however my concern is the grit involved with the role. While we’ve seen him be serious and deal with weighty dramatic roles, I have yet to see him give a convincingly frightening “batman growl”.

I think it’s going to come down to the role that Batman plays in Superman vs Batman. Bear in mind, this is a sequel to Man of Steel, I have to believe it’s going to be more about Superman than Batman, but that remains to be seen. If that’s the case, the part of Batman could easily be tailored to fit Affleck’s style. And again, it’s going to come down to how the movie plays out. We’ve seen the tone of this Superman universe, and it’s close to The Dark Knight Trilogy of the Nolanverse, but not quite the same. Man of Steel is a much lighter movie, which will allow for, perhaps, a more traditional Batman setting which will allow for a bit more lunacy  with Batman’s style of weaponry and actions, allowing a greater flexibility in the portrayal of the character.

I’ve given my initial thoughts on Batman vs Superman, and I remain optimistic. This is too big of a deal to be screwed up. The danger is that the hype machine is being ramped up to unprecedented and dangerous levels. And now they threw in Ben Affleck into the mix. I honestly have no idea what to expect at this point, but I know I’m excited at the prospect of what this could be. Shmee, however doesn’t seem too excited.


Initial Thoughts on Batman vs Superman


    So, if you hadn’t heard, Batman and Superman are going to be in a movie together circa 2015. That’s right, I wasn’t there personally for the announcement, but Hall H at Comic-con in San Diego just about exploded after a A Batman logo appeared behind a Superman logo, announcing the imminent screen acquaintance between DC comics two tent-pole characters.  Each of these characters has a long and lucrative cinematic history and are easily the two most recognizable superheroes of all time. With the success of the Marvel film franchise in recent years, it’s  no surprise that DC wants in on that action now that they know the film media is more than capable of supporting multiple heroes from different franchises. I’m excited about this prospect of a crossover film; but that’s mostly just because I’m a sucker for crossovers. I remember when I was in the hospital at six years old due to a burst appendix. I had access to a butt-load of movies. When I saw that there was a Flintstones Meets the Jetsons movie, my appendix just about burst again. I love Chris Nolan’s Batman franchise, and Zack Snyder presented my favorite Superman movie of the lot, so I was pumped when I heard about this. After the initial excitement, however, I realize I have some genuine concerns with the prospect of a Batman vs Superman movie. Here they are:


1. Batman and Superman don’t have enough screen history to be at war.

It is positively chilling to listen to Man of Steel actor Harry Lennix recite Bruce Wayne’s speech to Superman shortly after beating him in hand to hand combat. It’s one of the most pivotal moments in the DC canon. However, it doesn’t happen until Clark and Bruce have spent a literal lifetime in each others stories. There is only a slight reference to the Batman franchise in Man of Steel and absolutely nothing about Superman in the Batman movies, so I find it hard to swallow that the next Batman movie we get will face the Caped Crusader against Sups. Batman and Superman don’t play nice, everyone knows that. But it’s going to be a mightier leap than Superman can muster to throw these two into battle and maintain a cohesive story line without drastically overstating the purpose of a film that is potentially titled Batman vs Superman.


2. The new Batman wouldn’t stand a chance.

If we’re following the Nolan universe at all, we have to face the fact that JGL’s character is taking over for Bruce Wayne. He’s got a lot of spunk, but even Bruce at the end of Dark Knight Rises wouldn’t stand a chance against Superman. Did you see Man of Steel? It would take a lot more than Fox’s toys to compete against Superman. Batman’s history is a lot more cartoony than Nolan let on, and Superman is nothing BUT an exaggerated caricature of grandeur, so they, under normal circumstances, would fit perfectly into each others universes. However the way the current DC universe is set up in film they wouldn’t cross over well. That being said, it’s a well known comic trope to have multiple universes, they very easily could present a different Bruce Wayne with an entirely new style.


3. They have a common goal.

I understand this is something the comics deal with, both have a common goal with different ways of doling out injustice. That being said, how will it work on screen? All we know of Batman shows him working, mostly, within the boarders of Gotham city. Gotham is Batman’s biggest concern, that’s his job; protect Gotham. Going back to concern number 1. There isn’t enough screen history for him to both expand his area of expertise AND perpetuate a war with Superman. On the other side of the coin, Superman certainly has bigger fish to fry than dealing with a lone vigilante who is cleaning up the streets of a single city.

    Those are my concerns. I am well aware that some if not all of them will be addressed and put to rest when the movie actually comes out. I really hope that that happens. If the movie doesn’t just focus on an ill-conceived grudge match between Superman and Batman it would work. Also, I think it MAY need to be established that we’re in an alternate universe than the “Nolanverse”, it just might be necessary, despite the fact that Nolan was involved with Man of Steel we’re dealing with a world that now has a hero with legitimate superpowers. In order to contend with that, you may have to get a little bit more colorful than a Batmobile/tank. I’m still “super” excited about the movie. We’ve been experiencing a veritable golden age of comic book films, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Brothers and DC manage to pull this off, I know I’m certainly rooting for them.

“Unbreakable” would not be a good description of Shyamalan’s career.


   One of the more baffling career swerves in recent Hollywood history has to be that of M. Night Shyamalan. The man is known for having a career that started strong, he was considered a visionary, then with each new movie released with his name attached, his status fell. If there had been a graft of his movies showing the level of quality, he would have started in the mid to high level and then plummeted to the bottom, where The Last Air Bender rightfully rests. Really, it’s a shame, because I loved The Sixth Sense and enjoyed Signs despite it’s mixed reviews.  He either lost sight, or never had it and was just lucky with a few movies. That being said, I will always enjoy the first three movies of his that I’ve seen. The aforementioned Signs and The Sixth Sense were both a blast, but today we’re talking about one that often is overlooked; Unbreakable.


    Sixth Sense wasn’t M Night’s first movie, but it was the one that got peoples attention, it was his break. Shyamalan had proved that he could confuse and scare an audience while bringing in a ton of money at the same time. The next project he embarked on was Unbreakable, an homage to the comic book genre, with characters that weren’t actually from any comics. Bruce Willis plays security guard David Dunn. Dunn is a seemingly ordinary man, up until he becomes the sole survivor of a horrific train crash which he walks away from with not even a scratch. Dunn’s life is full of obstacles, so he’s not eager to investigate this strange addition. However, comic book enthusiast Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) makes it his personal duty to make Dunn look into his past and see if he perhaps shares some of the heroic supernatural tendencies of the characters that fill the pages that consume his life. Price suffers from a disease that renders his bones as brittle as glass; he’s fragile. Price has always wondered if he had an opposite, someone that was not fragile; someone that is unbreakable. Dunn reluctantly looks into this theory, along the way discovering more about himself than he anticipated.


    The remarkable thing about Unbreakable, in regards to Shyamalan’s portfolio, is that it’s actually pretty great. He’s always had a thing for interesting coloring and whimsical cinematography, which is perfect for a film that’s supposed to look and feel like a comic book. He wrote an interesting origin story, one that never really delves too much into the actual theatrics that almost every hero gets caught up in. Rather, it’s an origin story about a man that’s just slightly above ordinary discovering himself and what responsibilities he must shoulder with his self discovery. The movie offers us a pretty fascinating character arc which seems minuscule at first, but on a second glance is simply subtle, which are two very different things. It’s a subtle arc that shows a flawed man, turn into a flawed man that realizes he is capable of carrying much more than he has been, both emotionally and physically. It’s a discovery of responsibility.

Shyamalan seems to strive in films where the pacing is slow enough for him to flesh out some interesting ideas. Later in his career he may have gotten sidetracked by over the top ideas and sacrificed the fiber of a good story for a cheap twist (arguably, he’s done this early in his career). Unbreakable is surprising because it’s both a comic book movie, and relatively slow paced; two traits that don’t go hand in hand. However, despite two opposing aspects, the film works. It’s as dark as a comic book movie should be, it tells an interesting story about a reluctant hero, and it’s done without many of the cliché comic book tropes of the time. Honestly, it’s a shame that a man capable of producing something of this caliber has become synonymous with the crappy movies he consistently comes out with. Well, here’s to the good old days, I guess.

Man of Steel



2006 ushered in the return of the single most overpowered super hero ever created with Superman Returns. The return, however, was short lived. Despite having fairly good reviews, the film failed to be all that compelling, a problem that I have personally felt has plagued the Superman films since the late 70s. What was intended to be re-boot of the always-popular franchise failed to produce a sequel. We now have another reboot in Man of Steel. Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan present us with a darker take on the coming of age of Superman, with beautiful cinematography and new insight into one of the most well known origin stories in cinematic history.


Man of Steel had to re-introduce the world to a character that literally everyone already knew. Superman’s origin story is, arguably, even more well known than Batman’s. We’re talking about the most recognizable icon in pop-culture history, and Snyder had to come up with a way to say “hey, this is Superman” in a way that would keep the audiences attention. He succeeded. We are given a far better look at Krypton than we’ve ever seen before, and we’re introduced to Kal-El’s back story with his human family through a series of flashbacks during the time that he comes to realize his full potential. What makes this retelling so interesting is that it’s more a coming of age story than an origins story. We know where Kal comes from and we know what happens with his family, but the details have always been a bit fuzzy. We get to see a young Clark Kent struggle as a child to hone his skills, struggle emotionally with situations on a level unparalleled with other chapters of Superman history. The story is told in a way that makes it evident that Kryptonite isn’t Superman’s only weakness, his emotions and psyche are often times just as dangerous to him. When General Zod attacks, the distinction is made that, despite being of the same race, Kal and Zod are on different factions of an inter-species war.


Visually speaking, this is the best of the Superman films. It’s not as light as Superman Returns which many people found upsetting, but it was time for something new. Superman Returns offered the general public what was expected from Superman, a fun and bright story with romance and lots and lots of kryptonite to keep things interesting. This failed. In Man of Steel there is little to no kryptonite to be found, the romance is kept on the back burner (though certainly not forgotten) and the darker tone ads a layer of seriousness that is unexpected from the films. The motivation of the villains is clear, and the choices put before Kal-El are intriguing. In one film we’re introduced to Superman as if he was an old friend that we gladly welcome back into our lives. The darkness was not without its laughs, however. Kent remains a Kansas farm boy at heart, and the film even finds room for some corny jokes. I particularly enjoyed during one of the most intense scenes, Superman bashing into a sign that boasts how many injury free days that work environment has enjoyed. As he ricochets off the wall and onto the ground, the numbers fall off the sign leaving a zero in their place. The fact is, the film deals with some incredibly huge stakes, and to bog that down with an overtly light tone would have been a detriment.


The acting is superb, Amy Adams is an interesting and true-to-character Lois Lane, Henry Cavill is a less clean cut Superman, but one that offers a nice change from the last few decades of Superman films. Michael Shannon gives an awesome performance as the zealous and terrifying General Zod. We not only get an interesting story with compelling characters and situations, we’re also given front row seats to some of the most awe inspiring “super fights” in recent cinematic history. Sure it’s all CG, but the cinematography and emotional attachment that’s used throughout the film prepares you for it, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself enthralled by the CGI.


Man of Steel is my favorite Superman movie. I understand those that will stand firm next to the Christopher Reeves films (at least the first two), but the removal of the slapstick humor and the advancement of special effects as well as an interesting story acted out by passionate and talented actors puts this film as not only my favorite Superman film, but one of my favorite films of 2013, so far.

Wrapping up the case for the Turtles: TMNT



Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

This is it, the final installment into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise until the Michael Bay produced re-boot happens sometime next year. While I will continue to remain overly optimistic about the project until proven wrong, it is getting harder and harder to not groan at some of the casting and artistic choices he’s taken. Anywho, where were we? Ah, yes! TMNT the fourth and final chapter in the original Turtle saga. When we last left the Turtles they had visited ancient japan in a zany and pun-ridden adventure to save April. This plot line essentially left us waiting 14 years for another movie. Perhaps it was the rapid succession that the first three films came onto the scene that made public movie goers a bit weary, but thankfully, we got to see the four reptilian crime fighting brothers in action once again. This time, the whole thing is wrapped in a medium that may have been more suited to their particular needs.


TMNT, although a direct sequel to the previous three live action movies, is completely computer animated. As impressive as Henson’s costumes were, and as cool as it was to see Casey Jones and April as real life actors for the first time on screen, it becomes immediately apparent that the turtles are just as comfortable in an animated environment as a live action one, perhaps more so. The film picks up on the Turtles roughly a year (perhaps more?) after their last adventure. Leonardo left for leadership training/self discovery in the forests of south America. He is eventually discovered by April, who is no longer a reporter but a procurer of rare artifacts. April convinces him that his year absence from his brothers has put the Turtle team on stand still indefinitely. He returns just as a group of stone warriors and monsters begins to tear apart the city. Before they can confront the monsters however, they must learn a valuable lesson about the importance of teamwork and they value of differences.


The basic message of this film is as obvious and as blatant as a locker room pep talk. Work together, you’re only as strong as your weakest link etc. etc. But in a way, that’s what the Turtles are all about, so it’s unsurprising. The story actually holds up quite well in spite of certain dialogue issues. The characters have changed slightly, overly emphasizing the differences in personality. The biggest and most annoying change happens with Michelangelo, who has kept his jokester demeanor, but is significantly dumbed down to the point of irritation. Goofy wit is exchanged for dimwittedness. And what the whole plot boils down to is the conflict between Raph and Leo, with the most emotionally charged scene being a martial arts battle between the two of them.


Visually, this movie nailed it. It uses a mixture of vibrant colors with dark shadows to convey the unique universe that has become home to the Turtles, and the cinematography allows for some truly cool looking action sequences that are unparalleled in the series. The voice acting is pretty great as well, particularly with the addition of Mako, who voices Splinter. While different than any other version, Mako brings a surprising range to the character, with more humor but the same amount of weight and seriousness behind his words and warnings.


TMNT found it’s stride early on in the opening sequence. By the time the logo flashes onto the screen I was already amped up for the return of the pizza loving, heroes in a half shell. While script issues are obvious (a problem that has plagued every Turtles movie) TMNT steps it up visually and compliments it all with a story that fits the animated world that the franchise cozies into. The film both ties in nicely with the previous three movies, while at the same time giving hope of a continuation of the animated re-boot . The end of the film promised an animated sequel with old enemies returning. Instead, they handed the reigns to Michael Bay. That, however, will never discredit the four film series that gave the Turtles a shot at the big screen, with incredible results.

The (Ever Dwindling) Case for the Turtles: Part 3



Part 1    Part 2    Part 4

Well, going into this whole “tell why I like the turtle franchise” series I knew that I was going to have to confront what is almost universally known as the worst of the bunch. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III uses the ever popular time-travel-trope in an attempt to maintain the momentum that the first two movies managed to generate. I feel like a review of the movie isn’t going to help my case for why I love this series, so rather, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the film and then a list of why it was actually, somewhat enjoyable to see the Turtles succumb to a new level of mediocrity.

      Turtles in Time as I’ve come to call it, mostly due to the NES game that far surpasses the movie, presents us with our favorite heroes in a half-shell shortly after they’ve defeated Shredder for a second time (and this time for good). April is en rout for a much needed vacation, and, for reasons I will never be able to understand, decides to give the Turtles some radical (read: terrible) gifts from a flea market before heading out. Among the random assortment of thrift store rubbish is an ancient scepter that she thinks looked Japanese, so she naturally picks it up for Splinter. Naturally, things go horribly wrong when the scepter turns out to be an ancient time machine that hurtles April into ancient Japan, while simultaneously throttling the emperors rebellious son into the future in her place. No surprise, the Turtles head back after her, leaving a slightly confused Casey Jones to watch over the emperors son, as well as four of the emperors royal guards who swapped places with the turtles. A number of challenges await the turtles in the past, namely finding April and the time scepter so they can get back home. There is also the rebellion they decide to help out… since they’re in town. The Turtles find themselves face to face with a group of traders that seek to bring firepower to the side of the oppressive emperor.

That’s the long and the short of it, and I’ll just give you a quick heads up on some of the negative aspects of it. The script and dialogue is worse than the other two films combined, the turtles aren’t done by Jim Henson so they look weird, the time scepter plot makes less sense than the turtles origin story and the ridiculousness level is at an all time high. That’s just to name a few problems, but what makes it worth watching? Lets do this in list form, shall we?



  1. Time Travel: The over-used time travel schtick was one of the worst things about it, but it was also one of the best things about it. Getting the Turtles out of their regular environment was something that needed to be done, they had been fighting the same bad guy for two films in the same city with very little change. Also, the way the time scepter works is that if someone in the past, the scepter it activates at the same time in the future. Which, in linear terms makes absolutely no sense. Making the only plausible explanation is that the two time lines are in separate universes. Given the turtles history with other dimensions (namely X) this makes perfect sense, and actually ads to the canon quite nicely
  2. Higher Production Value: You’re not going to be watching the best period piece by any stretch of the imagination, that’s evident by the majority of the actors they hired. Still, it was pretty fun seeing all the sets and costumes look like they jumped out of ancient Japan. The traders even added a little swash-buckle to the franchise, and that’s always nice.
  3. Casey Came Back: Casey Jones’ absence from Secret of the Ooze, was inexcusable. He was easily the most entertaining part of the first movie, and he’s back in the third one. It’s a shame his role is slightly watered down and takes second fiddle to the main plot, but he brings about the few laughs that the film has to offer as the babysitter of ancient warriors in modern day New York.
  4. It’s Still the Turtles: The movie wasn’t great, but it hadn’t sunk to a level that the poorly made live action TV show would become. Most of the bad dialogue and corny jokes are excusable because the this franchise is so unique. Very few studios would take on a project like this. A live action film about four mutant Ninja Turtles going back in time to aid a rebellion in ancient Japan doesn’t really sound like something you would see outside of the SyFy channel; but this was different, everyone in 1993 wanted to see just that.


It’s sad to see the franchise sink to the level that Turtles III sank to, however it isn’t without it’s merits. We get a chance to see the turtles in a new environment fighting new enemies with some overly formulaic jokes and pop culture references. It’s certainly worth watching, at least once while powering through the four movies that comprise this series. Sure, it’s the film that stopped production of TMNT movies for a solid 14 years, but it wasn’t the end for the Turtles quite yet.


The case for the Turtles part 2: The Secret of the Ooze


Part 1 Part 3 Part 4

 It is universally recognized that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is not as good as its predecessor (which, itself, was hardly loved by critics). I took it upon myself to re-watching my favorite childhood franchise, start to finish and see just how it’s held up these past few decades. The heroes in a half-shell had their work cut out for them in their previous movie, and against all odds they were victorious over both the foot clan and the box office naysayers of 1990. With huge success the Turtles were green-lit for a second movie. Some of the major changes in the sequel came in the form of new characters, a more cartoony feel, a much larger budget, and less usage of the Turtles signature weapons. Not that the weapons weren’t there, just that many people complained about how dark and violent the first movie was. Their wishes were accommodated, despite consideration for if it would effect the movie at all.


Secret of the Ooze delves more deeply into the origins of the Turtles history. The angsty reptiles meet new friends and fight new enemies as they attempt to piece together the fragments of their past that has been dredged up quite unexpectedly. The mutigent that created them has been discovered to be toxic waste which is being disposed of by a scientific research firm. The foot clan decides that they want some mutants on their side (who wouldn’t, right?) and swipe the last bottle of the ooze in order to create Toka and Razar a pair of giant monstrosities the do the bidding of their master. Not only do the turtles have to stop Toka and Razar, they’re forced to confront the foot Clan once more. Shredder wanted a crime empire in the first Turtles movie, but in the follow up he’s after a much more enticing dish…revenge!

As was the case from the first movie, there is absolutely no lack of corny dialogue and bad puns. We’re treated to a veritable barrage of early 90s slang mixed with exaggerated teenaged emotions encapsulated in the shell of four giant turtles. The violence in the movie is toned down, but the budget is ramped up. While it’s certainly more akin to the cartoon than Turtles I the bigger budget allows for a more polished feel to the whole experience. At the time, the audience of the franchise was overwhelmingly children. Because of this, the Turtles walked a fine line between good family entertainment and hard hitting martial arts.

Secret of the Ooze is thoroughly enjoyable; at least I find it so. As a child this was my favorite of the three Turtle films I was accustomed to watching, and it’s undoubtedly attributed to three things. 1) A more polished sense of action. Sure, the weapons were used little to none in this film, but the action sequences were visually more entertaining and sleek than the first film. 2) The jokes land better than the previous installment. All the jokes in the franchise are groan worthy, but even watching the films now, I found the humor to be much more pungent in Ooze. 3) Vanilla Ice. As this came out in, arguably, the strangest decade I’ve had the privilege to live through, I absolutely found Vanilla Ice’s rendition of “Go Ninja” so compelling that it became my anthem for years. While these reasons stood strong for my childhood, I can’t help but realize just how mistaken I was. As fun as The Secret of the Ooze is, it shadows in comparison to the film that started the film franchise.