It's been 21 years since the original Ninja Turtles movie hit the silver screen. The film is old enough to go into a bar and order a drink.
I saw the film twice in the theaters when it was originally released. Once with my Mom and again with my grandfather, good ol' Pop Pop. My Mom was wrapped up in the Ninja-craze, so she knew what she was getting into. But, what did my grandfather think? I'll never know his true thoughts on the film, but I'll always remember he laughed when Donatello spit water in a Foot Soldier's face. One laugh from a grandfather is a success in my book.
Now aged 21 years, how does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie hold up? Is it like a fine bourbon - absorbing more flavor and charm as it ages? I've been fortunate enough to experience the green machines on the silver screen not only once, not even twice, but three times since my childhood. How did it hold up? Perfect - a true cinematic gem. I mean, com'on...did you expect anything else? But, here's a Top Ten: A Turtles Tribute.
Ten reasons why I still love this movie. And...GO!
New York City wasn't always the place where the "bright lights make you feel brand new." It was grimy, dirty, and unsafe. It truly was a concrete jungle.
And the original Ninja Turtles film knew that. They weren't trying to paint the Big Apple as this beautiful city full of dreams.
Instead, the films plays to what the city was actually like at the time. Rough and tough. A city where a team of super heroes was actually needed.
From experience, NYC is certainly not like this anymore. So the film does a stellar job of capturing the lost grittiness that once covered the city.
The Turtles lived in a sewer. They shouldn't have fancy furniture, computers, and the world at their fingertips. Well, the boys in the original film definitely didn't have any of these things. They were a lot more like squatters.
You've got no bankable stars. Your four lead actors are guys in rubber suits. How the heck does a studio market this thing? By making the coolest poster EVER. The artwork provides fans with what they love - the Turtles, NYC, and a slight peek at our heroes, but still interjects mystery and an unfamiliar thrill. The tagline "Hey dude, this is no cartoon" is gutsy. Most of the world only knew the Ninja Turtles as a cartoon until this point (in 1991). This poster boldly states you are going to see something you've never seen before. Such suspense! Perfect advertising.
He's actually scary! Well, at least when I was a kid. But even now, he's still pretty legit. After the cartoon and toys had made him seem like such a wimp, Shredder could have been a tough sell on the big screen. But, put a shirt on him, give him a threatening voice, and the dude gets scary.
What else did Shredder do in this flick?
He throws knives at TV's...
...punches a defenseless Splinter in the face (and then threatens to kill him)...
...kills a woman...
...heck, he even falls off the top of a building without (SPOILER ALERT!) dying...
...AND he does all this with a pink costume. That's one mean villain!
|Retro Burger King!|
"Wayne Gretzky? On steroids?" - Michaelangelo, describing the visual of the Shredder
"Why don't I ever dream of Harrison Ford?" - April, when first meeting the Turtles
"Hi? I look like I just called Mike Tyson a sissy and all you can say is "Hi"?" - Casey Jones, after reuniting with April at the end of the film
"What? Am I behind on my SONY payments again?" - April, reaction to the Foot Clan threatening her
Although, it's amazing that this line is still relavant in 2011...
"Hey Donny, Wheel of Fortune, Dude!" - Michaelangelo, while spinning on his shell fighting the Foot Clan
The cartoon had established April as the go-get-em' news reporter who was rad enough to rock a yellow jumpsuit. Could Judith Hoag live up to this legendary status?
Here at The Sewer Den, I certainly think so. Not only did Judith Hoag embrace the essence of April O'Neil, she took the character and ran with it.
Her performance moved April up from "cool supporting actor" to a "show-stealing" caliber. She boasts her acting chops with comedy, drama, and all the good stuff in between. She's never a damsel in distress. Instead, she is a strong female-lead with enough sass to run the show.
And when you've got an all male cast of pure goofiness, she's certainly a breath of fresh air.
This line of dialogue is simply amazing. It's so funny, it deserves the number 4 spot on this list. While watching an old cartoon of The Tortise and The Hare on TV, Michaelangelo exclaims, "You believe this guy? Come on, Ninja kick the damn rabbit! Do something!"
When the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film screens, it sells out. During the day or even at midnight, the Turtles are filling the seats. And it's brilliant! There's cheering, constant applause, and an opportunity to spout out lines at every chance. All with no judgements. Even when the movie was originally released in 1990, the crowds weren't this good. The excitement now goes through the roof! I guess 21 years will do that to ya.
|( the original Ninja Turtles flick makes audience members go crazy with love )|
At the conclusion of the film, the crowd was treated to a special Q&A with Martin P. Robinson; the man behind Leonardo's animatronic and puppet work in the film.
Martin shared some awesome insight on his craft as well as some entertaining antics about the production (he won the pizza delivery guy's scooter for five bucks from an on-set raffle!)
Martin was even nice enough to snap a photo with me too.
Can you see his awesome TMNT jacket?
Martin was also a big contributor to the number 2 here on this list; which is...
Coming straight from an 80's cartoon, it could have been really simple to screw up the overall look of the live-action Ninja Turtles. Fortunately, audiences in 1990 were presented with cool costumes that hovered on realism rather than a cartoon-ish feel.
Yes, they were rubbery and occasionally goofy, but they still managed to kick ass for a stellar running time of 95 minutes. There were no computer effects, no cheap cop outs. It's all costumes, animatronics, & puppeteering. All real, for all of the movie.
Amazing work (from Martin and crew) really brought the Mutants to life.
With such an array of drama and humor, it must have been extremely challenging to make these creatures seem believable. But, Martin and his co-filmmakers succeed with flying colors.
Elias Koteas was cast as the hockey mask-wearing vigilante, Casey Jones. And wow, how he steals the show.
From his first scene to the last, he never stops being brilliant. When he enters the story, his presence immediately brings a whole new energy to the film. Elias Koteas flexes his acting abilities with his scrappy charm and tough guy-goofiness.
His humorous delivery lights up the screen at all times. He hits his best in his scenes with Judith Hoag (April). Their witty banter, comedic timing, and tough-love romance are flawless.
April descibes him in the film as "a nine-year-old trapped in a man's body."
Like Judith Hoag, his main co-stars were dudes in rubber suits and a rat-puppet. But, not only does Elias Koteas bring life to his character, but he also brings life to all the characters around him. The Turtles (guys in rubber suits!) even seem like better actors when they're in a scene with Elias Koteas. That's how good of an actor this dude is.
A Few Casey Jones Gems:
Casey Jones: (to April) "Hey, Broadzilla, you wouldn't even be standing here if it weren't for me!"
Casey Jones: "Class is Pain 101 - your instructor's Casey Jones."
Donatello: "You're a claustrophobic."
Casey Jones: "You want a fist in the mouth? I've never even looked at another guy!"
2011 is an age where technology is constantly being pushed upon us. High definition, smart phones, social networking - the list is endless. New is a term that doesn't carry the same weight it did back in 1990. Everything evolves at a much quicker pace. So it's surprising that in this age of evolution people are embracing the past more than ever. Nostalgia reigns supreme. Pee-Wee Herman is selling out shows, Beavis & Butthead have returned to MTV, and most importantly, the Ninja Turtles film is still shining on the big screen. It's comforting to have loved something back in 1990 and know you can actively enjoy it in 2011.
And with a sold out audience nonetheless!
Top Ten Recap:
10. Time Capsule of The Big Apple
9. Realism - The Turtles Were Poor, Dude
8. The Poster
7. The Villain - The Shredder
6. The Pop Culture of 1990
5. A Heck of a Woman - April O'Neil
4. Ninja Kick The Damn Rabbit
3. Sold Out Screenings
2. The Costumes
1. Casey Jones