Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Cinema: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It's been a damn good week and with Comic-Con looming, the hits will keep on coming!

After a gargantuan dinner, my day of origin festivities continued at The Cinefamily's Turtle Power Pizza Party with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it's sequel, The Secret of the Ooze on the big screen.  What a way to Shell-ebrate, Heavy Midnites really outdid themselves.   Each goer was welcomed with a bandanna eye mask for their favorite Turtle (In life I'm Leonardo in blue but ended up being Raphael in red for the night) and the Turtle Power Music Tour playing on screen.

Outside, a bar was serving TMNT themed beverages, Turtles In Time the video game was playable on a big screen TV, dishes of homemade, bubbling ooze center pieced cocktail tables and a photo op backdrop all complimented the 50 pizzas being gobbled up.

Host and programmer extraordinaire Phil welcomed us all and after a few hilarious trailers, it was time to be taken back to 1990.  Watching TMNT on the big screen again after 23 years was an absolute joy.  It's hilarious, funny and touching while featuring some solid martial arts and ninja on ninja action.  I was truly surprised at how well constructed the film is for an independent, low budget comic book flick about human sized, radioactive turtles trained by a talking rat fighting evil ninjas in New York.  

Comic book movies of today should take note.  The film builds up the reveal of the turtles over two quick scenes and when Leonardo jumps into frame in all of his Jim Henson Shop glory, you're not thrown off or asking about their back story, you're already in the action and along for the ride with Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael.  We don't need no stinking 45 minutes of character development here!  We quickly learn the personalities of the foursome as Leo is the level headed reluctant leader, Donatello is the scholarly thinking one, Michelangelo is the fun one and Raphael is the angry/moody one that says "DAMN!" a lot.

Years ago I attended a midnight screening of TMNT at the New Beverly and Kevin Eastman, who along with Peter Laird created the comic, introduced the film and told a few stories about how the heroes in a half shell came to life.  It was truly inspiring to hear how two guys, influenced by the rash of teen and ninja comic books of the 80's, created their own property which became a worldwide phenomenon.  Particularly amusing was the tale of that stemmed from the duo washing dishes, Eastman sticking his hand into a grater and thinking of villains who would use it.  Laird chimed in, "not The Grater, but, The Shredder" and history was made.  They self published the first run and it took off from there.  Now we have had cartoons, movies, comic books, toys, video games, live arena shows and a mess of promotional items coming out consistently since the 80's.

If you've only seen the cartoons or later movies, reading the comics can be a bit of a trip.  They're frigging nuts.  The turtles fight Shredder, robotic Mousers, get teleported to another world, fight aliens that look like dinosaurs and so much more in the first issues.  A couple Decembers ago, Eastman brought his home studio to Meltdown comics for a 30 day exhibition where he sketched and signed a new collection of the comics from IDW.

I've always wondered why New Line never released a fully loaded, special edition DVD.  Along with The Nightmare On Elm Street series, TMNT helped build the house that would later birth franchises like Rush Hour, Blade and The Lord of the Rings.

Check out this vintage making of, complete with VHS static and distortion:

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