Synopsis: Now you can catch America’s favorite green teens in their first live-action blockbuster film! After wading in a puddle of radioactive waste, these radical reptiles are transformed into New York City’s greatest crime-fighting quartet. Featuring a soundtrack by MC Hammer, this film will captivate adults and kids alike with its blend of humor, camaraderie and martial arts action. Don’t miss this blockbuster movie. You’ll have one shell of a good time!
I became a fan of the TMNT years before they truly entered pop culture. I discovered them through a friend who had picked up their role-playing game (remember those? They were on paper, unlike today’s computer ones where everything is done for you…). It was based on the original black and white Eastman and Laird comic books and it was loads of fun.
It was so much fun, in fact, that I started to collect the comics. And those were great fun too.
But then something happened. I don’t know what exactly, but suddenly they were cleaned up and mass-marketed to kids via a weekly cartoon. And, to make matters worse, they were transformed into a G-rated book by Archie Comics. In colour. With horrible art.
Before then there wasn’t all this pizza talk, surfer-dude posturing and the stupid calls of “Kowabunga”. At least, not that I remember. Before then, the TMNT were a grittier book, with lots of combat, but also some decent characterization along the way. It was probably aimed at older teens (and young adults).
And it had mutant turtles and other such nonsense. It was a blast.
(as a side-note I also became enamoured with a parody called the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamster – I thought THAT was even better!)
Anyway, the live-action film eventually made its way to the silver screen. By then, I was a full-blown teenager, and the TMNT were known by just about everyone. Just about. It had lost much of its appeal due to its dumbing down, but I was still intrigued by the possibilities. And the trailer made it seem not-so-bad.
So I went to see it with a buddy who knew nothing about TMNT and we both quite liked it. The world did too, for that matter, as it was box office smash hit and it spawned two sequels.
Now, as a grown adult, I still find some enjoyment out of it. Sure, it’s cheesy, but the story is decent enough, the action is enjoyable enough and, surprisingly, the TMNT are well-conceived. They may be made out of foam rubber, but they’re functional, and their facial features are remarkably well-developed (you have to remember that these are people in suits, and the faces are actually expressive as the actors do their thing. I’m guessing they had a team working with remote controls to work the faces simultaneously).
The weakest parts are the cheap ‘80s action clichés and the acting. When I tell you the TMNT (and their animatronic master Splinter) are the best actors of the bunch, it’s no hyperbole. Perhaps this was done on purpose to make them more relatable, or maybe they couldn’t afford a decent cast, or maybe their casting director sucked. But the live actors are mostly useless. Even the line reading are bad, with intonations at the wrong places and so forth. Eek.
But the TMNT are half decent, if imperfect as well.
Bottom line is that the film is an enjoyable late ’80s/early ’90s action romp. It’s not an award-winner, it’s hardly Masterpiece Theatre, but it has the necessary elements for a few laughs and thrills. It’s good escapist entertainment, and nothing more ambitious than this.
In the end, I can’t quite give it a 6.5 (or a 6.75) due to my enjoyment. But its flaws don’t allow me to give it a 7.5. So, strange as it may seem, it’ll just have to nestle it in between at 7.0. It may seem high, considering it’s the TMNT, but an average-quality film for me is a 7.5, so…