I must have been six when I first discovered the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve always been a part of my life (like Labryinth , My Little Pony and Gummi Bears). When I was sixteen I met someone who loved them just as much as me and we’ve been married three years this year. 2014 is also the year of the new Turtles film and at the end of January, images were released of the new turtles…
A rat, once owned by a jujitsu master who was killed by Oroku Saki, finds four baby turtles in a sewer, playing in toxic waste. He looks after the babies but finds that they are starting to grow, as is he. The four turtles and Splinter, the rat, mutate. Splinter names them after the renaissance artists he finds in a book; Leonardo (blue bandana), Donatello (purple bandana), Michelangelo (orange bandana) and Raphael (red bandana). He trains them in the art of jujitsu and they become ninja.
Like all amazing things, the turtles started as a comic book before becoming a cartoon. The best known, and just plain best, feature film was released in 1990. It begins with the turtles making their first visit to the surface of New York, battling a group of youths who have joined a clan called the Foot, and saving reporter April O’Neil. April becomes entangled with the turtles but the Foot are after them. Raph brings Casey Jones into the story (you know, I’m not entirely sure who Casey is, just that he’s important and fights with hockey sticks, which is all you need to know). Splinter is kidnapped by the Foot and the clan destroy April’s home in an attempt to defeat the turtles. After recuperating in the country, they return to New York to fight and reclaim their father. The Shredder is the leader of the Foot, and his identity proves to be a surprise.
‘Cricket? Nobody understands cricket. You have to know what a scone is to understand cricket.’ – Raphael
This is a live action film and I don’t think I’m over reacting when I say that it is genius. This film is funny, beautifully made, clever and good fun. It is a must see for all turtle fans and all children of a certain age. It even has some stars in it. Donny (my joint favourite turtle along with Raph), is voiced by Corey Feldman (The Goonies, Stand By Me, Lost Boys), April is played by Judith Hoag (I Am Number Four, Nashville and umpteen amazing TV programmes), Casey Jones’ Elias Koteas (Shutter Island – I had to rewind and watch it a few times to realise it was him)…ok so they’re not massive names. But in 2013 we had an impromptu viewing of this classic and I spotted someone I hadn’t clocked before. A young Sam Rockwell!
Haha! I made a funny! – Splinter
This film was followed by two sequels, only the first of which is worth a watch. If only for Vanilla Ice’s cameo.
The turtles are a massive cult phenomenon. Many live action TV programmes and cartoons have followed, some awful (lets not talk about Venus, the female turtle), some ok, one cartoon movie (TMNT) which was actually quite good.
For me, the most important thing about these four turtles is that they are teenagers. It’s right there, in the title. They are sweet and young and learning. And they love pizza. So I was annoyed when a cartoon started, rebranding the turtles without eyes. It seemed to take away the softer side of the boys, leaving only the harsh, violent side.
That’s my main concern with the evolution of the mutant turtles.
The latest cartoon is actually brilliant. The major change has been April, who instead of being a reporter, is the teenage daughter of a scientist (who knows all about the ooze that transformed the turtles). She still has her classic yellow coat and her age works well with her relationship with the turtles. Although it does open up a question of romance, which is a little strange. The turtles may be humanoid, and I may have been rather in love with Donny and Raph as a child, but they’re still a different species.
There has been great controversy about the new live action film, released later this year. It is a Michael Bay film and he caused outrage when the film was first announced and he declared that the new turtles wouldn’t be mutated humanoid turtles. They would be aliens. I am so proud of Earth’s turtle fans for sticking up for our four boys. They are not aliens. They will never be aliens.
Michael Bay changed his tune, thankfully.
Unfortunately, Megan Fox was cast as April O’Neil. She’s a good actress but her face and attitude is awful. She can’t be April, she will never be a true April O’Neil, and it is nearly enough to stop me wanting to see this film.
Then, towards the end of January, images of the turtles and Shredder were released. Shredder looks amazing, I have no complaints about his make over (although I now can’t find the image – sorry). The turtles, however, look a little strange to me. I rather like their new clothes/costumes, but the muscles on them make me uncomfortable. Suddenly they seem very grown up and scary. Not like the pizza loving, skateboarding turtles I grew up with.
Their mouths also look very wrong. The faces remind me of Jim Carrey’s Grinch.
But these are teasers and models (again, I can’t seem to find the exact images I saw). The end result may not look like this. What is interesting about the new film is that the same technique used to film Lord of the Rings Gollum, King Kong, Planet of the Apes (basically, Andy Serkis’ gift to the world), and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is being used to create the turtles. Which could prove very successful.
It occurred to me yesterday that the turtles were probably my first experience of science fiction. Something which I am only now appreciating in full. I don’t know how I feel about the new film, or whether I really want to see it (although I will). I do know that it will not even compare to the 1990 film, a story of family, loyalty and friendship with nunchucks, and witty lines to live by.