It was only a matter of time before I posted about them. Easily the earliest obsession I had as a child, with the possible exception of dinosaurs, they were the greatest thing in my tiny toddler world.
I guess mentioning what I’m talking about in the post title kills any suspense I was trying to build. It’s the Ninja Turtles.
Some of the earliest home videos we have show me swinging socks around in a sad attempt at mimicking Michelangelo’s nunchuck prowess. Not that real nunchucks would have made me look any cooler when I was also two years old and had a mullet.
Hope you didn’t think I was exaggerating.
I had all the toys, carried around in an official TMNT suitcase, and the first movie I saw in the theaters was 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My grandparents took me to see it, and were a little concerned because I was three and had never had to sit still through a movie in public before. Their fears were allayed, however, as I remained motionlessly, hands clasped in lap, for the entire duration. Like I was going to miss a second of action or of Raphael yelling “DAAAAMN!”
And that’s really what this post is about. Not my weird hair or makeshift ninja weapons, but the Ninja Turtles movie. To this day I consider it to be a legitimately good movie that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t necessarily TMNT fans. It’s simply well-done. And of course, as a fan it remains in my top five movies to this day. One of the reasons a lot of people hold it in such high regard is the inclusion of various ideas from both the original comics and the 1980s cartoon series that started the giant Ninja Turtles craze.
The movie did a great job of combining the two. The general plot followed the first four issues of the comics, while the turtles had personalities and humor that were the main focal point of the cartoon. In the comics, they all wore red bandanas and killed an awful lot more people than you might imagine. In the cartoon, they donned the individually-colored bandanas that we’ve all come to associate them with, and they made really bad puns instead of murdering criminals.
As someone who grew up with the kid-friendly TV version, the darkness of the books seemed both insane and cool. With that in mind, I decided to detail some of my favorite scenes that crossed over from the comics into the movie. They may have changed a bit in the transfer, but it doesn’t make them any less amazing.
The Turtles really went for broke early on by including one of their coolest fights in the very first issue. It starts out with the introduction of the turtles and how they came to exist before moving on to their feud with the Shredder. It doesn’t take long (a few pages) before Splinter reveals the purpose in all the years of training: his sons are going to straight-up murder Shredder.
I guess he has good reason. Shredder murdered his master, and now Splinter wants some good old-fashioned revenge.
Of course, he sends Raphael to give a message to the Shredder, Raph being the most angry and deranged of the four brothers. Raph tosses a note attached to his sai through Shredder’s window, calling him out. He seems to interrupt a business meeting, scaring off some of Shredder’s potential customers. It’s a bit odd that our first glimpse of the turtles’ greatest nemesis has him wearing a shirt and tie as opposed to pajamas covered in blades.
Shredder’s rightfully pissed over the deal gone south, and accepts Raphael’s challenge. You might be wondering why Raph didn’t just throw the sai through his chest cavity. It would have been a good idea, but the note explicitly mentions giving Shredder a chance to regain his honor. The turtles may be murderers, but they want to murder fairly.
Of course, he’s a bad guy so Shredder brings his Foot soldiers along to the death duel. Luckily for us readers, this leads to a Badass Rooftop Rumble.
The turtles dispatch of the ninjas, and it’s time to face the Shredder. It goes quite poorly for our heroes, until they realize there are four of them. After using teamwork and unfair advantages, they beat their rival to a pulp and politely ask him to commit seppuku. He declines, and extends a counter-offer in the form of a thermite grenade.
Unfortunately for him, Donatello isn’t having it.
He bonks Shredder in the face with his bo, sending him tumbling over the edge, grenade in hand. Then Shredder explodes.
And that’s the end of the first issue! Pretty brutal. I realize this is an abrupt ending, but I work with what I’m given. Let’s see how the movie compares.
The movie really takes its time building up to the one of the finest pieces of cinematic gold ever committed to film. After fighting through waves of foot soldiers, the turtles finally battle their way up to the street and onto a nearby rooftop. After Raphael utters the immortal line, “Aww, no more?”, the time has come.
Shredder silently descends from the heavens, prepared to dine on turtle soup. And for the first several minutes of the fight, that’s exactly what he does. I don’t think I can do the intensity justice, so please just watch this video.
One by one, Shredder dispatches our heroes. It’s a great sequence, with minimal fast cuts. Just cool choreography and bitchin’ music. But we all know what’s coming. Shredder isn’t long for this world, only this time it’s Splinter who does the deed. The turtles’ master somehow scales to the roof, despite having the mobility of a dirty old rag up until this point. Shredder sees him and recognizes him as the rat who clawed his face off years prior.
Shredder takes leave of his senses as he charges Splinter like a psychopath. Of course, Splinter dodges and catches his arch enemy with one of Mikey’s nunchucks. One errant knife throw later, and Shredder is yet again falling to his doom.
The movie lacks the gore of the live grenade, but more than makes up for it by having Casey Jones crush Shredder’s body in a garbage truck. He tries a joking “Oops!”, but no amount of sarcasm can hide the blatant murder that’s just taken place.
Smashed Windows and Antique Store Brawls
After falling off the roof while holding an exploding grenade, Shredder is obviously still alive. He announces his return in style by unceremoniously throwing Leonardo through April’s window. It’s the perfect way to get the turtles’ attention, as he goes on to lead his Foot soldiers in an attack on the apartment. The outnumbered brothers fight valiantly, but the sheer numbers and shock over Shredder apparently being a zombie overtake them. They’re in a bad way by the time the fight spills to the antique store below.
Shredder’s lax demeanor above comes back to haunt him, however. Hockey-masked vigilante CASEY JONES shows up to help out his pals, yelling strange things like “GOONGALA.” For some reason that works. He’s able to not only fight off the Foot, but Shredder himself.
With the aid of their insane new friend, the turtles survive the horrible attack and are able to escape.
Here it’s Raph who sails through the skylight. He gets into one of his trademark arguments with Leonardo, this time over their lack of Splinter-searching. I think I forgot to mention that at this point of the movie, Splinter’s been taken by the Foot.
Raph storms away from his brothers, throwing angry kicks across the deserted roof of April’s apartment. Unfortunately for him, the Foot see this as an opportunity for an ambush. They attack, by which I mean I’m pretty sure they actually powerbomb him at one point.
After a loooong montage of Raph getting the shit kicked out of him, he’s tossed through the ceiling, landing at his brothers’ feet. He’s soon followed by a whole bunch of Foot soldiers, who come crashing through every window and doorway that the apartment has.
Also, the turtles haven’t even met Shredder yet at this point in the movie. I feel like they should have been a little more curious as to why ninjas keep showing up, but they seem to take it in stride.
After the floor collapses, the battle is continued in the antique store below, where the turtles are again saved by Casey Jones. Casey offers to cover their retreat, to which Leonardo bravely replies “Good idea,” before booking through a trap door to the alley that all antique stores have. To be fair, I would have done the same thing.
Casey manages to escape the dozens of highly-trained ninjas, holding them off with a hockey stick and an endless barrage of one-liners. Soon he joins his friends in April’s van, and they’re off to the setting of the next entry in this article!
The Farm That Time Forgot
Everyone heads to a farm that Casey’s grandmother owns in upstate New York. The turtles have gotten their asses handed to them for the first time and seem pretty down. It’s hard to make pizza jokes with Leonardo still picking pieces of glass out of his face.
The brothers takes some time to themselves in order to regroup. Leo hunts some deer, Raph and Casey work on fixing up an old car, Donny tries to get the hot water working, and Mikey starts beating up some punching bags.
He gets really into it and pretty much destroys the barn. It’s a far cry from the TV show Mikey that kids know and love.
This is one of my favorite scenes in the film. It does a great job of showing how each turtle handles the defeat differently. Leo is full of guilt, seeing as how his leadership leads Raphael straight through a window. Mikey is shown for a few brief seconds wailing away on a punching bag. It’s short, but serves the same purpose that the scene does in the comics. Even the perpetually-joking Michelangelo is affected by the loss. Story-telling and character development, people!
Also, in the movie version it’s Donatello who works on the truck with Casey, mostly because Raphael is unconscious. I support the change and the increased Corey Feldman presence it produces. Plus, this scene beats the comics by miles because it’s only in the film version that Casey and Don insult each other alphabetically. I love Raph, but he couldn’t have done that. He would have called Casey a dickbag four seconds in and ruined it.
I don’t know how this movie didn’t win every award possible, plus several ones that aren’t, once Casey calls a giant turtle “Dome Head.”
There are so many more scenes I could include, but this post is already about a thousand words more than most of you are willing to read. If it isn’t obvious by now, I love both the TMNT comics and movie. They both offer Ninja Turtles fans the things that we love, albeit in different ways. It’s equally satisfying seeing Leonardo telling Shredder to kill himself as it is seeing Leonardo slice a piece of pizza in mid-air, only to have it plop unceremoniously onto Splinter’s head. You need balance.
…. I forgot the first Casey Jones/Raphael encounter.
I’m going to bed and never writing again. See you all soon!