It’s the 20th Anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze this week and to celebrate I thought I’d take a look back at the entire film franchise (and also dust off our Franchise Flashback feature).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): The original movie is a beloved classic for kids who grew up in the 90’s and actually still holds up pretty well. The movie struck a great balance between the cartoon series’ goofy humor and action and the darker tones of the original comic. There are a ton of great fan service moments for fans of the comic series including shots right out of the comic. The costumes designed by Jim Henson Creature’s Shop are still fantastic looking and they get an amazing amount of facial animation out of them. The movie also pretty much set the trend for what would be cool in the 90’s, which is refined to a laser point during the scene in the Foot Clan HQ. The story follows the Turtles as they fight their first battle and, in the process, rescue reporter April O’Neil from some street thugs. The Turtles become the target of the evil Foot ninja clan, led by the evil Shredder, who kidnaps the Turtles father/mentor Splinter. The Turtles are ambushed at April’s apartment by the Foot and Raphael is seriously injured. The Turtles, April and their other new ally, vigilante Casey Jones, head to April’s family farm. The Turtles recover and decide to return to New York City and rescue Splinter. The Turtles fight the Foot through the streets of NYC and eventually face off against Shredder on a rooftop. Shredder fights off the Turtles but is ultimately defeated by Splinter and thrown off the roof into a garbage truck, which Casey turns on and seemingly crushes Shredder in it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze (1991): Only a year after the original, Secret of the Ooze came out in theaters. The movie was much more humorous and light hearted than the original movie, moving even more toward capturing the feel of the cartoon rather than the comics. The Turtles also barely used their weapons, a result of an outcry by concerned parents about the Turtles being too violent. Nowadays, Secret of the Ooze is probably most remembered for it’s ridiculous final fight scene, that takes place at a Vanilla Ice concert and where the Iceman comes up with a brand new, Turtles based, rap right on the spot. It also introduced new villains Tokka and Rahzar, although most fans were probably hoping Bebop and Rocksteady would have gotten a big screen appearance. The story for II finds the Turtles trying to find out more about their origin and discovering the company that manufactured the Ooze that mutated them. Unfortunately, Shredder survived the first movie and wants revenge on the Turtles. He also discovers the company that manufactured the ooze and steals a vial and it’s chief scientist. Shredder forces Dr. Jordan Perry to make him a pair of mutants but Perry alters the formula so that the resultant mutants are like children. They are still incrediably strong so Shredder decides to let them rampage through the city. The Turtles eventually rescue Dr. Perry and he and Donatello come up with a plan to stop Tokka and Rahzar by feeding them an antimutagen. It doesn’t work immediately, resulting in the aforementioned Vanilla Ice flavored fight scene. The mutants are eventually unmutated but Shredder takes some of the ooze and tranforms into Super Shredder. The turtles face off against him under a pier and Shredder, in a blind rage, destroys the supports and causes the pier to collapse on top of him, killing him.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993): Universally regarded as the worst Turtles movie, III suffered from terrible writing, awful jokes and the absence of Jim Henson’ Creature Shop, so the Turtle costumes for this movie are horrible. A super in depth criticism of III can be found courtesy of the Angry Video Game Nerd. The story finds April getting switched in time with the son of a Japanese warlord and the Turtles must use a magical scepter to travel back in time to rescue her. The Turtles help a group of villagers fend of the evil British arms dealer Walker and the local warlord Norinaga’s men. The scepter is broken during the fight but the local blacksmith agrees to help make another. The Turtles are welcomed warmly by the villagers and they even consider staying in Feudal Japan but ultimately decide to leave after they help the village fend off a final assault by Walker. Meanwhile, in 1993, Casey Jones goes on a wacky adventure with the four samurai the Turtles switched places with. Ultimately everyone makes it back to their own time.
TMNT (2007): 14 years after the last Turtles movie, the guys returned in 2007 with a CG movie that ignored III existed and was an interesting mish mash of the first two movies continuity and also took elements from the surprisingly awesome 2005 cartoon series. The fact that the movie is animated allows for some truly great action sequences, including what could possibly be one of the greatest Turtles moments of all time, the Raph vs Leo fight. The voice cast is also great with the likes of Patrick Stewart, Frank Welker, Nolan North and John DiMaggio. The plot finds the Turtles off doing their own things following the death of Shredder. Splinter has sent Leonardo to Central America to fight drug dealers (?), Donatello is doing IT work, Michelangelo is a birthday party performer and Raphael has become a vigilante called the Nightwatcher. April now operates a company with Casey that acquires artifacts and they deliver their latest item to rich industrialist Max Winters. Winters is actually an immortal who is trying to gather his former generals, who were turned to stone by the same power that gave Winters his immortality in ancient times when a portal to another dimension opened. Winters manages to revive his allies in the present but they are not human, but living stone. Capturing 13 monsters that were released from the portal. Winters hires the Foot to capture the monsters. The Generals ultimately decide to betray Winters and want to use the newly opened portal to release even more monsters and take over the Earth. The Turtles, April, Casey and even the new leader of the Foot, Karai, must join forces to stop the Generals and the Monsters. They succeed and Karai tells the Turtles they will get a small reprieve before a familiar foe faces them and Winters, now mortal, is able to finally die.