Monday, August 11, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Saturday

After seeing the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick last week, it was time for a trek back through time to revisit some of their earlier incarnations.  I can't recall my first TMNT memories but I do remember watching the cartoons in grade school, seeing at least the 2nd and 3rd films in theaters in 1991 and 1993 and picking up some comics in the 90's.  Cut to today and snooping around my unpacked apartment I found a plethora of TMNT gear in the form of comics, DVD's and even local cable coming through with the movies playing.

TMNT, 2007 - The last cinematic turtle adventure before this weekend's release was an all CGI flick from Imagi, an animation studio out of Hong Kong that found mild success with TMNT but folded after the lackluster of follow up adaptation Astro Boy.  Written and directed by Kevin Munroe, TMNT plays like a sequel to the 3 live action films and starts off interestingly enough with the shell backed brothers a broken unit.  Leonardo is off in the jungles training to become a better leader, Raphael dons an armored suit and fights crime at night as a vigilante, Donatello works as an IT troubleshooter over the phone while Michelangelo puts on a big head and lends himself out to children's parties.  Meanwhile April O'Neil and former night stalker Casey Jones are an item with the former getting into trouble after she accidentally helps some rich business dude bring back an army of evil warriors.  All in, TMNT is a lot of fun that draws from the Eastman and Laird comics as well as the live action movies.  The animation isn't exactly top notch but it gets the job done with slick fights, moody city landscapes and lots of cool character design with the armored up warrior villains.  The humor is childish but funny especially Michelangelo's quips and making Splinter a soap opera fan. A fantastic voice cast includes Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith and Laurence Fishburne. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book II, 1987 - A bound collection of the original comic books but colorized.  And boy, these comics are crazy!  I'm always surprised at how dense yet fast and fun Eastman and Laird's original series was.  In these few issues, I think it's #4, 5 & 6, we see the robotic Mousers capture Splinter, the turtles infiltrating T.C.R.I., a techno-cosmic shell company hiding robotic employees with brains for stomachs, the Turtles sent to another dimension via a translocation device, going on the run with a fugitive robot with the mind of his creator and fighting humanoid triceratops!  In the comics each turtle dons a red bandanna so you can only really tell them apart by their straps and weapons.  Their personalities aren't as divided up as they would be in the cartoon but you still have Leonardo as the level headed leader, Raphael as the hot head who kicks first and talks later, Donatello as the gadget-y guy with all the plans and Michelangelo as the goofy one.  There's action galore with fist and feeticuffs, laser rifles, flying cars, arena matches to the death and much more.  There's awesome splash pages of action scenes and vistas including space stations and an alien filled all looks great in color as the massive amount of texture and detail gets a little lost in black and white.  There's even an order form for f.h.e.'s VHS release of the cartoon in the back.  3 episodes for $35 bucks!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1987 - The cartoon series that would go on to run for nearly 10 years started as a 5 part mini-series in 1987 with Turtle Tracks and Enter: The Shredder where we meet the Turtles, Splinter, April O'Neil, Shredder, his alien boss Krang and the robotic Foot Clan soldiers.  For some reason I remembered the 5 part series being a little darker then what would follow in the full season pick up but Damme, this shit is corny!  Raphael is a walking one-liner factory, no one knows why Hamato Yoshi lives in a sewer, the bros eat pizza with cereal for breakfast, visit a Ninja pizzeria in the Ninja district, push over a concrete wall instead of fighting some robots then somehow break a water main that fills up the top stories of a skyscraper...basically, it's kids stuff.  Fun, but definitely for kids.  So anybody who claims the new movie is too kiddy compared to the cartoon series needs to go back and check out how not serious it is.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, 1993 - And finally, caught a few minutes of TMNT III on cable to wrap up the weekend.  The only things I really remembered from this flick were the strange appearance of the Turtles due to not using Jim Henson's workshop so they all look very rubbery and are given an abundance of spots/freckles for some reason.  Casey Jones shows up but doesn't get to do much, the use of the song Tarzan Boy and the really bad CGI death of villain Stuart Wilson.  Something about a magic scepter that if people of the same weight are holding it, they get swapped in time so the Turtles and April end up in feudal Japan and some samurai warriors and a prince get to hang out in NYC.  The Turtles still look really weird with their rubber suits and freckled faces and the animatronic mouths don't match up with much of the dialog.  There's still plenty of jokes and a little bit of heart to go around as the Turtles help local villagers defend themselves against aggressive European troops armed with rifles.  One of these days I'll have to sit down and watch the whole thing.  Maybe on VHS to give it the full effect.
California roll!

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