Comic Book Movies 101: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles, heroes in a half shell, turtle power! Don’t pretend you didn’t sing along with that, even if it was just in your head. It’ll be stuck in there all day now though, I promise. I’ve been humming it for days since re-watching these three TMNT films for this! Anyway, enough of theme tunes and on with some semblance of a point.

Once upon a time, many a year ago, ten days prior to my seventh birthday, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was released in the UK. This solved my parents’ issues of how to celebrate my birthday and took me and a few friends to see it, followed by pizza… obviously! This marked the beginning of my turtle obsession that resulted in me becoming a member of the fan club, an avid comic book reader and owning all sorts of turtle related merchandise; pillowcases, temporary tattoos, outfits, school bags… you name it, I had it (spoilt only child alert!) The only things I wanted at the time were a bright yellow jumpsuit and a job as a news reader. Having a birthday in December and developing a fresh, new obsession so close to Christmas posed some problems for Santa as I had to hurriedly write him a new wish list letter. No need to worry though, he came through with the goods in only the way the fat man dressed in red can! The summers of 1991 and 1993 were full of excitement as the sequels to my favourite film were released, each a little cheesier than the last but nonetheless fully fuelling my love for these mutants.

For those of you that need a reminder of the storylines of this epic trilogy, shame on you, but here we go…

Four turtles and a rat are covered in some mutagenetic gel like ooze and mutate into a humanised state with the ability to walk on two legs and talk. The rat becomes the turtles mentor and teaches them all he has learnt in the ways of Ju-jitsu from when he was a pet. The turtles, under the cover of darkness or whilst wearing a disguise, use their incredible skills to combat crime in New York City, as if this wasn’t enough for the fearless foursome their mentor gets captured by an enemy from the past, Shredder! Can they hold true and stay together as a brotherhood without their mentor to guide them on the right path?! Of course they can, otherwise, it’d be a pretty disheartening kid’s film right?

The second in these epic adventures is about the secret of the “Ooze”, the weird, glowing, gloop that made the Turtles and Splinter mutate in the first place. Will this cause a huge emotional, internal struggle for the five? Will we get to delve deeper into the psyche of these mutant creatures? Of course not! Obviously, Shredder will find out where the Ooze came from too and use for his own evil ends and the Turtles will, again, have to prove who is the better ninja fighter and defeat Shredder and his cronies.

The third film is probably my favourite because of the absolute fantasticalness (is that even a word) of it all. April finds a sceptre and buys it as a present for Splinter; because obviously he’s the only “person” she knows that would appreciate such a thing, when, all of a sudden, it transports her back through time to 17th Century Japan. The Turtles take off in hot pursuit and are catapulted in to a whole new world. Evil Lord Norinaga steals the sceptre and the Turtles must do battle to reclaim it and transport them all back to modern day New York City. How will their ninja skills compare to those of the samurais?

It’s a good job that all ninjas and samurais have impeccable manners otherwise the Turtles would be in masses of trouble. They are always totally outnumbered and wave after wave of new fighters appear as if by magic after the first round have been fought off, but ninja etiquette must state that only a certain ratio of goodies to baddies must be involved in the action at any one time and they all patiently wait their turn. We could definitely learn a thing or two about patience from these evil doers!

Everything about these films screams late eighties/early nineties; from the dodgy foam Turtle costumes and weapons that bend and pop open at inopportune moments and the casting of the awesome Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. They are super cheesy, very of the era and so much fun. There is most certainly never a dull moment when you have T-U-R-T-L-E Power!

Laura Johnson

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