Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Breakdown by Rantbo
Mutated amphibians use ninjutsu to end a crime spree initiated by troubled youths dressed as ninjas.
As a child of the 80s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (henceforth to be referred to as TMNT) hold a special place in my heart. From the first episode of the television series in 1986 to the time I hit puberty (even once or twice after that—what can I say, Judith Hoag was HOT), I was obsessed. Most of my pre-teen memories involve, in one way or another, the Turtles. Waking up early on Saturday mornings, rushing home for after school re-runs, TMNT themed birthday parties, Halloween costumes and of course, reenacting favorite episodes with friends and my impressive collection (if I do say so myself) of Playmates Toys’ action figures.
Nowadays, it’s kinda hard to explain, as entertainment and pop-culture are such large and varied entities, just how massive and special the Turtles were at the time of their popularity. But being born male (and in some cases, female) in 1980’s America, made you a part of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Generation. I’m sure even most Amish children of the time could name all four turtles. With the comics, the cartoon, the video games and the toys, nothing was bigger or more cool to pre-teens than the TMNT. And it was just the beginning.
The year was 1990. A new decade had begun, and despite how shitty it ended up becoming, it started off with one of the greatest events an under 10 turtle nut could have ever hoped for…
The popular ad moniker made many a pre-pubescent dream come true by proudly displaying in glorious, too-good-to-be-true green font, “Hey, Dude, This Is No Cartoon!” And just for your information, it is indeed possible to achieve an orgasm at seven, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, the TMNT were officially “Lean, Green and On The Screen!”
This first live-action adaptation follows the original comic quite closely in retelling the flagship adventure of a team of four mutated, anthropomorphic, human sized talking turtle brothers. Trained since childhood in the art of ninjutsu by their adoptive father and sensei, a mutated anthropomorphic rat named Master Splinter, and aided by their lone human friends, a female news reporter (changed from a lab assistant in the comics) named April O’Neil and a wiseguy sports-themed vigilante named Casey Jones, the quartet of turtles embark on their chosen profession to secretly protect the people and streets of New York City from muggers, rapists, killers and the occasional crime syndicate of evil ninjas.
The film is dark, yet funny. Action packed, yet dramatic. And cheesy, yet serious. It taught us young impressionable fanatics the importance of friendship, family, justice, love and getting your ordered pizza delivered by the guaranteed time if you’re going to pay the full ticket price. Overall, the flick is far from perfect with it’s goofy fight choreography, terrible music and a lackluster finale, but at the time, it all went unnoticed in young 7 yr-old Rant’s eyes. And re-watching it now, nearly 20 years later, these slight hindrances still fall by the wayside to the fantastic costumes, characters and story. Not to mention the fanservice was truly phenomenal. The ninjutsu, the pizza, the skateboarding, the lingo, the bad jokes and good ol’ 80s morals; they’re all present and accounted for.
I’m sure I could continue with my unabashed nostalgic fan-boy love for many more pages, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just summarize by saying that TMNT is a blast that’s not to be missed. Even if you didn’t have the pure childhood glee of experiencing this film in it’s heyday, it is still an action-packed, camp classic good time. Feel free to insert whatever positive 80s adjective happens to be your favorite: Awesome! Radical! Gnarly! Tubular! Bitchin! Wicked! or Bodacious! They all fit well when describing the TMNT’s first cinematic adventure. And to B-Action fans of all ages, I highly recommend it. COWABUNGA!
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
David Forman and Brian Tochi (voice) are Leonardo a.k.a. Leo
NAMED AFTER: Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
TEAM ROLE: The Leader
BANDANNA COLOR: Blue
WEAPON OF CHOICE: Duo Katanas
CHARACTER TRAITS: Courageous, Stalwart and Uptight
Leif Tilden and Corey Feldman (voice) are Donatello a.k.a. Donny
NAMED AFTER: Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi
TEAM ROLE: The Inventor, Engineer and Mediator
BANDANNA COLOR: Purple
WEAPON OF CHOICE: Bōstaff
CHARACTER TRAITS: Witty, Intelligent and Level-headed
Josh Pais is Raphael a.k.a. Raph
NAMED AFTER: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
TEAM ROLE: The Rebel
BANDANNA COLOR: Red
WEAPON OF CHOICE: Sai
CHARACTER TRAITS: Aggressive, Sarcastic and Impulsive
Michelan Sisti and Robbie Rist (voice) are Michelangelo a.k.a. Mikey
NAMED AFTER: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
TEAM ROLE: The Party Dude
BANDANNA COLOR: Orange
WEAPON OF CHOICE: Nunchaku
CHARACTER TRAITS: Easy-Going, Comedic and Lovable
What can I really say about the turtles that their franchise title doesn’t? They are Teenage, Mutant, Ninja Turtles! Simply put, these guys were my heroes as a kid and as I mentioned above, share a part in most of my fond childhood memories. The turtles knew karate, they lived in the sewers, they skateboarded, ate nothing but pizza and fought a clan of ninjas lead by a guy called the Shredder… It just doesn’t get any more badass than that. They only way the concept could have been cooler is with aliens and other mutants—and the cartoon had both. Man, I love being a turtle fan!
[THE BODY COUNT: TWO]
Only two. Master Yoshi and his bride fall to the Shredder’s blade in the backstory. Nothing especially twisted or gory, but this is a kids film after all…
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
The TMNT vs. The Foot Clan
It’s the first time you get to see the Turtles in action and kicking ass as a team. Well—mostly. At the point when Leo, Donny and Mike enter the fight, Raph has already been beaten into a coma by the Clan and spends the fight unconscious on April’s living room floor. But, he was there in spirit. However, the three remaining turtles waste little time in enacting revenge when they see what has been done to their brother.
Despite the fact that the heroic actors are bogged down by the cumbersome costumes, and are forced to work in limited space, the fight is surprisingly well choreographed and executed. Starting on the building’s roof and eventually working it’s way down to the basement (destroying everything along the way), this battle is one of the highlights of my lifelong cinematic journey. The turtles utilize every ounce of their skills with their individual weapons, ninja reflexes, and well-timed double-shell slams to defeat the small army of ninja assassins. Once again, it’s really hard to express just how cool this was to see as a kid and how surprisingly well it holds up now, twenty years later.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Donatello: You’re a claustrophobic. Hehehe.
Casey Jones: You want a fist in the mouth! I’ve never even looked at another guy before!
Such ignorance in the form of homophobia can only be the cause of repressed homosexual urges.
Then again, he does make out with April in the finale, and as I previously stated, Judith Hoag was fuckin’ hot. So, he can’t be too queer.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
“She’s A Baaabe!”
April “Broadzilla” O’Neil is the classic damsel in distress. Her feeble attempts at fending for herself are only made less pathetic by her tough-chick façade, both of which land her onto the pavement after she gets bitchslapped, then punched by a Clan member.
Later, she gets fired for speaking her mind while in the workplace, though is unable to receive the message as she was fleeing her burning, ninja riddled house at the time.
The only other named female in the picture is Splinter’s master’s old lady, who is killed by the Shredder in the backstory. Left bleeding on a floor she will never more be allowed to clean. It’s sad really.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
When confronted with the Foot for the first time, a member with nunchaku makes himself stand out in a small display of skill with his weapon of choice. And Michelangelo accepts the challenge.
“Oh, a fellow chucker, eh?”
The two exchange back and forth exhibitions until Mikey tires of the exercise and one-ups the Foot for good with an uber-fast one-handed windmill maneuver, and shines him on by nonchalantly breathing on his free-hand’s fingernails.
As for the one liner…
Splinter: Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki. But something much worse comes for you. For when you die it will be…
[Shredder grabs a knife and throws it at Splinter, who catches it, but loses his grip on the nunchuck, sending the Shredder screaming down 10 stories into the back of a garbage compacter]
Splinter: …without honor.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
“Wise man say forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.”
[THE CHECKLIST: 16 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)*
[X] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
*Splinter is kept chained upright onto a chainlink fence for at least a week. I’ll count it.
Splinter Made A Funny.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) © Northshore Investments Ltd. and New Line Cinema