With the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows only a few weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to go back and watch the five feature films made about the four brothers and their master rat.
UPDATE: Movie has been released and I added it to the ranks.
This was especially exciting for me, for I haven’t watched the original trilogy since I was a kid, and at least five years since I watched TMNT. I loved the original three when I was a lad, so I was very curious to see if it was just because of my childish mind, or because they are actually good movies.
If you haven’t been able to tell, I loved anything that had to do with the ninja turtles when I was little. I had about 100 toys, watched the movies all the time, loved the cartoon even more. They fascinated me to no end. So let’s see if that love for them still holds up 20 years later.
I will rank all six movies from worst to best. These are my own opinions.
WARNING!!! SOME SPOILERS!!!
#6: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze
This one surprised me, as it was by far my favorite growing up. And now I see why. This takes away all the darkness that was subtly hidden in tmnt, and turned everything into an incredibly child friendly and goofy movie.
I mean, the turtles hardly ever even use their weapons. Well, actually, Raphael and Mike don’t ever even take theirs out. Mike opts to use sausage links at one point, so there’s that. Leo uses his swords once to impale them into the ceiling so he can hang from them. Donny uses his staff all the time though. I guess the film felt that weapon was child friendly enough, probably because little kids hit each other with sticks all the time.Speaking of weapons, a lot of the fight scenes are very goofy as well.
The story is pretty good however, though it has a very disappointing ending. First there is the anti-climatic fight between the turtles and wolf and snapping turtle, whose names I will choose not to guess their spelling at. They absolutely destroyed the turtles each time they met, but throw Vanilla Ice in the mix, and the turtles stomp them. That sentence alone is enough to make this movie #6.
Immediately after that is one of the biggest let downs in movie history. They go through the trouble of creating one of the coolest villains ever, and he randomly goes nuts and kills himself within seconds. Even as a 4 year old kid or whatever, I was furious.
Overall, it’s not a great movie, but it is still entertaining, but just too childish to fully enjoy.
#5: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3
They took a big risk with this movie, and I give them respect for that, but man is it weird. The turtles switch places with ancient samurai to stop some bird loving trader from selling guns to stop some rebellion or something. Meanwhile, the samurai are in NYC getting babysat by the mighty Casey Jones, my favorite character in the whole series. What a let down.
The turtles themselves look like crap, the designers having opted to cover them in spots that just aren’t pleasing to the eye. Luckily, most of the movie they are wearing some bad samurai costumes that make their original appearance most welcome when they finally doff them.
So far I have done nothing but complain about this movie, so how is it #5? The action is much better than in the second one, and that’s why I like the ninja turtles most…when they are being ninjas and kicking butt.
When it is time to go home, two of them don’t want to because they are welcome and respected in that time, whereas in their real time and home, they must hide in the sewers for their whole lives. This part of the story is a little deeper than anything you could find in Secret of the Ooze and I liked that.
Again, not a great movie, but still entertaining.
This one takes the story to an interesting place, focusing on strengthening the sewer dwelling family who have become quite dysfunctional over the years, while the Foot clan and some statues take care of most of the action. It is a good story, and the CGI is quite amazing, even today. The fact that the whole movie was animated meant they could do a lot more with the stunts and what not seeing as the movie wasn’t tied down by human limitations.
There’s a lot of small nods to the older films, even the character relationships, like Casey and Raph’s competitive vigilantism.
But because the movie focused so much on not kicking butt, there was only like two or three scenes of the turtles actually fighting, and they were all rather short.
A different take on the turtles, and it really isn’t all that bad, but again, not great.
#3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows
After seeing the first in the rebooted series, I must admit I was disappointed with this one. I don’t know what it is about the second entries in tmnt movies, but this one felt like it was geared completely towards children. There were only a few fight scenes in the whole movie, and they were very fast and not that exciting. There was no martial art beat downs at all except for two foot clan ninjas who had a pretty sweet scene. The Foot were back to being ninjas in this as well, and they looked awesome.
The story was pretty good, focusing on the turtles wish of being normal so that they could live their lives in the streets of NYC, instead of the shadows of the sewers, hence the movie title.
The movie also brought classic TMNT villains, Bepop, Rocksteady and Krang. These 3 were always my favorites, so this was very exciting for me. And the actors who played them were wonderful, adding a lot of humor to the film.
Casey Jones is a welcome addition to the film also, though his part is very small, but is a lot of fun to watch. His part is much bigger than that of Vernon’s, the sort of male protagonist from the first film. I rather enjoyed him, but unfortunately it seemed like he was only put in this movie because it wouldn’t make sense to cut him completely.
Also returning is April O’Neil of course. She did a great job in the film, but every time she was on film, it seemed like she was posing, or the camera was looking at her at an angle that brought out her best features during whatever it was she was doing. This is not a bad thing, especially when it’s Megan Fox playing her, but it becomes distracting and awkward at times.
Though I was overall disappointed with this new film, it is still good. I honestly felt like I was watching the 90’s cartoon all over again, in a live action adaptation, so that is pretty cool.
#2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
This is by far the darkest and most adult movie of the series. For the time, it was an incredibly impressive movie. It focused on the crime wave of the Foot Clan, giving a sense of unease for all the characters, never knowing if they will be attacked next. Splinter gets bloodied up, Raph gets the tar kicked out of him, the turtles fight both each other and the Foot in some nice fight scenes, one of which takes place where April is losing all her possessions, along with her late fathers entire legacy he left behind. Pretty dark stuff, if you want to look at it that way. There’s some intense sexual tension between the two human lead characters that is humorous to watch as well. Real adult stuff…
Speaking of the lead characters, Casey Jones is the most magnificent character in this movie by far. He’s a total bad ass. He beats up Raph, schools some juveniles and beats the crap out of Shredders number two guy. No one is safe as long as there is sports equipment around him! On top of all that, he is a handyman and a sarcastic, hilarious jerk, while being the nicest guy at the same time.
All that stuff being said, the movie is kind of boring (when Casey is not on scene) and again this has an anti-climatic and overall unsatisfying ending, though at least Shredder kicks some serious butt for a while and Casey Jones kind of takes your mind off the bad ending by simply saying “oops.”
This is not a great movie either, but entertaining enough-Starting to sound familiar?
#1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
This probably surprises pretty much everybody, as I am the only one I know who actually likes this movie, though I am still waiting for a worthwhile reason that makes this movie any worse than the others.
This movie takes pretty much everything that was good about the first movie and modernizes it. Splinter gets bloodied up, Raph gets the tar kicked out of him, it focuses on the Foot Clan crime wave, who are more like terrorists than poorly trained ninja in this one, which I like, because it keeps the films modern feel. Seeing the Foot Clan go toe to toe with the turtles in their cute little black garb would have just been laughable and dumb looking. The build up to see the turtles was pretty good in the original film, and I believed they pulled from that and amplified it for this movie. It was really astounding. Two scenes of the turtles dominating the Foot without anyone, including the viewer getting a good view of them really built up the excitement of when they finally were revealed.
The turtles themselves have been given a HUGE makeover, and I find it to be welcome, because again, it fits the setting and feel of the movie. They also really individualize each turtle, taking their classic personalities and building off of them so that they no longer look identical with just a colored mask to tell them apart, and I have to say, this is a great improvement. Their appearances alone gives you an idea of their interests and attitudes without them having to say one word. I also give huge respect to the designers for taking such a huge risk to drastically change such iconic characters. Props to you guys!
The action scenes completely blow away anything the ninja turtles have ever done before, having the benefit of being made with today’s technology. And as I said before, that’s what I like best. And the turtles fight ferocious. They take their mutations to a whole new level in this movie, with super strength and all sorts of fun advantages, but they are all things you would expect based on their appearances, not some random power that comes out of nowhere.
The other non mutant leads were great too. Megan Fox was great as April, and infinitely better looking than the actresses from the original series, for those looking for some eye candy.
Will Arnett’s character was also a welcome addition to the series, adding even more humor on top of the turtles. His character was well written and portrayed beyond comedic relief, as he had an emotional side that I couldn’t help but feel bad for, especially when all his advances on April are shut down, and an admirable heroic side to him, resulting in him being a pretty useful character instead of someone who is just “there.”
The one big downside to this movie is the main villain, other than Shredder, Eric Sachs (spelling?). I don’t know if it was purposely written like this, but he just had some terrible lines and it always felt awkward when he was on screen. Plus, his motivation to be evil was just pointless and stupid. If they just wrote him out completely and made Shredder the one and only bad guy, the movie would have been much better off.
Overall, I thought this was by far the best movie out of all them, but mostly because it has modern day technology on its side. The original trilogy didn’t really age well to fairly compete.
In conclusion, I would say that none of these movies are good, but they are not bad either. I felt myself longing for something more by the end of each film, but the empty feeling just happened to be a little more shallow for some movies compared to others.
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