Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teusday Treasures: Some Movie With Turtles In It...

By the time the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie hit theaters in 1990, I had been a Turtle fan for six years.

I'm not talking about the silly, kid-version cartoon (my little brother was obsessed with it, though), or the plethora of Turtle toys (although I did own one each of the four Turtles--I'm a geek, whaddya expect?), I'm talking about the original, black-and-white comic book series from Mirage Studios, first published in 1984.

It was never meant as a serious book; it was a parody of famous comics of the period. However, it evolved into a serious (for the most part), story-driven, grown-up, dark action comic.

And I loved it.

When the cartoon series premiered and then exploded into every kid-run household in America, I thought "Let the kids have their fun with it. I still get to enjoy the books."

When this movie came out in 1990 (a year after I graduated high school), my friends and I were there to see how it compared to our beloved comic books.

I was blown away.

The film holds onto some of the more mature darkness of the original comics, while retaining some of the kid-friendly goofiness that made it so accessible to children. It is a tribute to both the comics, which were there first, and the cartoon, which made the Turtles an international phenomenon.

This movie worked for me on a great many levels: the casting and acting were far above what you would expect of a film based on a cartoon based on a comic book (c'mon, admit it: Elias Koteas as Casey Jones is one of the coolest movie heroes ever). The storylines and themes, as well as its humor, were that sometimes-difficult-to-achieve blend of mature themes easily digested by children.

The animatronic puppets and costumes created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop were exceptional (duh--Jim Henson, folks). During most of this movie, you easily forget that the main characters are, essentially, muppets. Incidentally, this is one of the last projects that Henson personally had his hands in--it was released less than two months before his sudden death in May of that year.

As a long-time fan of martial arts movies (c'mon, I was a kid in the 70's and 80's; Kung Fu Theater was a Sunday afternoon staple), I was impressed by the first-rate fight scene choreography, made all the more impressive when you realize that the performers were wearing cumbersome Turtle costumes while leaping and kicking.

The cast and crew seemed dedicated to making a good movie, and it shows.

One of the reasons I love this movie so much is for the simple reason that it shouldn't have been this good. By all rights, it should have been as stupid and unwatchable as the sequels became (Vanilla Ice?!? Seriously?!?).

But it wasn't. It was solid, entertaining story-telling wrapped up in incredible visuals.

It was, and is, just plain fun.

My kids just watched it for the first time, and have become addicts.

Just like their old man.

Cowabunga, indeed.

Thanks for reading my ranting,


1 comment:

  1. I'm not a big Turtle fan, but that is some neat stuff about the Turtles. I never knew it had been a comic before the show. It's so much fun when a movie turns out to be a decent remake of a long established setting and cast of characters.