Comic Book Movie Rewatch: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Trilogy

I’ve decided to go back and watch a bunch of movies based on comic books. No real reason, just something I thought would be fun. This time it was the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, its sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

tmntTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 40%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 81%

My Rating: 8/10

This is one of my nostalgia movies. When my daughter was just born, I would put it on while trying to get her to fall asleep. It was familiar enough that I didn’t have to pay attention, but entertaining enough that I could watch it without getting bored. Suffice it to say, I’m a little biased.

As a whole, the movie isn’t that great. There are very good reasons that the Rotten Tomatoes critics score is only 40%. The acting is rough, the story lacks complexity, most of the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, the forced ‘surfer’ language, etc.

Despite all that, this movie is fantastic. Just as there were reasons the critics score was so low, there are more reasons why the audience score is so high. There are a lot of little things that make the movie great. The costuming and puppetry are impressive, even today. The music, while dated, fits the movie really well. The whole section on the farm gives some great character development. There are a bunch of small jokes (like the turtles yelling at the cartoon of the tortoise and the hare) that are really funny, and I will contend until the day I die that the puppet Splinter mimicking Yoshi’s ninja moves is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. Overall, the movie has just aged really well, and will continue to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

tmnt2Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

IMDb Rating: 6.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 33%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 67%

My Rating: 6/10

While I still enjoy this movie, it probably falls into the guilty pleasure category more than the previous film (I don’t feel guilty about liking that movie at all). It still has a few things going for it. The turtle costumes are still amazing, and some of the stunts in the movie really show off how impressive the actors in those suits are. The story is also solid, and the climactic scene with Vanilla Ice is highly entertaining.

There are quite a few issues with the movie, though. One of the biggest is the replacement of Casey Jones with Keno. Keno is okay, but Casey was far better. The new April isn’t that great either, but it does seem like her part was intentionally smaller to cover for the change in actresses. One of the most disappointing changes in this movie was that the humor was lacking. I mentioned that the first movie had a lot of small moments that added humor, but this one doesn’t have those. There are still jokes, and overall, the tone is a lot lighter than the first movie, but for some reason it doesn’t work as well.

Another disappointment was the lack of characters that could have fit so well into the movie. It would have been so great to see Bebop and Rocksteady instead of Tokka and Rahzar. Instead of Professor Perry, it could have been Baxter Stockman. Including these probably would have made the movie longer and darker in tone, but it also could have been much more satisfying.

Like I said, I still like the movie, but it falls far short of its predecessor. When I back and watch these movies, I’ll probably watch this once for every three or four times I watch the original.

 

tmnt3Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

IMDb Rating: 4.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 21%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 34%

My Rating: 4/10

I considered rating this higher. It really wasn’t as bad as I feared, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. It’s not. It’s pretty bad, but it also wasn’t really trying to be a good movie. At this point, I’m pretty sure the studio just made the movie because it would make money, and it did.

The most disappointing thing about this movie was the costumes. Somehow, the turtle outfits got worse in the third movie. The did look a little more sleek, which helped the fighting seem a bit more natural, but the face articulation wasn’t as good as the previous movies, and the overall design looked weird (I think it was the teeth, Leo in particular had giant teeth).

The story wasn’t great. There’s time travel and the turtles end up in feudal Japan where they end up fighting against a corrupt local leader. That’s about it. That one sentence really is the entire plot. There’s no subtlety or nuance. Granted, it’s a ninja turtle movie, so subtlety and nuance probably weren’t very high on the priority list, but at least in previous movies the turtles were learning about themselves and growing as characters. Here, there’s none of that. They end up in a foreign land in the past, and they don’t even have to learn Japanese. Everyone (even the 7 year old) speaks fluent English. The natives don’t even look confused by all the 80s slang.

This was a disappointing end to a fun trilogy. I wish that a little more effort had been put into it. It wouldn’t have taken much for it to have been as good as the second movie, but that didn’t happen.

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