I love the Ninja Turtles. As a male child born in the early 80’s, the TMNT holds a special place in my heart, but I won’t be going to see the new movie. I’ve decided this because I don’t get paid to watch movies, so why should I waste my hard earned dollar on something that by all accounts of people I trust is a shitty movie that craps on a childhood love of mine?
I’ll keep my time and money and put it to things that are worth my time, thank you very much.
If there is one upside to this supposed train wreck of a film is that it has the world talking Turtles again and that gives me a chance to talk about a film worthy of my attention, the 1990 cult classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! With five movies for the TMNT (6 depending if you count the 2009 TV movie Turtles Forever) the original remains the definitive Turtle film.
What has made the first film stand the test of time? Let’s take a look and find out!
5. The Outstanding Puppetry and Practical Effects
If you you are into creature creation and practical effects, this film is a must watch. The legendary Jim Henson Company brought the Turtles to life for this movie and almost 25 years later, the effects still hold up. They even went the extra mile to make sure each Turtle feels unique beyond mere differences in mask color and weapon. Splinter also is quite a delight to watch, you feel his age and how tired he is with every movement. In an era of CG everything there is something magic about seeing actors being able to physically interact with a practical effect.
4. The Cheesy, but Effective Soundtrack
While I’m in no hurry to run out and buy the soundtrack, I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t pick out every track from it. The range of music is really impressive, running from very light romps to some tunes that pack a real dark edge to them. The movie, to its credit, makes the most of every piece. The few original songs for the movie like the above T.U.R.T.L.E. Power are so delightfully overdone and goofy that you can’t help but be entertained by them. The music is definitely dated, but it is that odd kind of dated that is still somehow charming.
3. The Fight Scenes
While limited in what they realistically could pull off in the suits, the Turtles still manage to kick all kinds of ass. The movie is actually fairly clever in that it sets some of its fights in carefully constructed spaces, spaces that accentuated the kinds of combat the Turtles could perform. They do keep the action and violence on the lighter side of things (save the rather dark twist for the final fate of the Shredder), but the combat never poorly done or boring. Bring on the bad guys because these turtles are ready to fight!
2. The Retention of Some of the Comic’s More Mature Themes
There is is real hurt and pain in this movie. The Turtles aren’t a team, they’re family, and family is complicated enough when you don’t have an evil army after you that has kidnapped your father and almost succeeded in murdering one of your siblings. What I’m getting at here is that this movie has an emotional depth that many people miss because it is a movie about giant talking turtles. Almost every character in the film grapples with doubt, pain, and loss. The movie never loses its sense of fun, but it isn’t afraid to be dark at points and respects its audience enough to trust that they can handle it, which always gives a project bonus points from me.
1. The Film Had Heart and Something to Say
This is a film about family. Who is your family, what is family, and the special relationship between fathers and sons. It supports the idea that the choices you make and the people you choose to be in your life matter. This movie is better than it has any right to be. As flawed as it is, you can tell that the people behind it cared and were trying to create something more than a simple cash grab. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not claiming this is some amazingly misunderstood masterpiece. It’s a damn popcorn movie, but it is a damn fun popcorn movie and worth a watch or re-watch the next time you have a chance
Share your own thoughts on this movie or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in general in the comments below.