Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Marvel and DC battle on, and these Heroes in a Halfshell get stuck on the sidelines with a comic book-turned-animation that belongs (gasp) with neither. A tiny studio with only a few titles and creators just doesn’t get the same attention, especially as Mirage’s only really well-known story is TMNT. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman? You can bet your ass they won’t be getting a Stan Lee-style cameo, let alone any consultation privileges.
While there are fans who were avid readers, I think that there are just as many who aren’t intimately familiar with the comic, but loved the animated show/s, and are just as excited for the release. I will happily admit to many Saturday mornings with a bowl of Cheerios and an illicit Kool-Aid Koolburst (remember those?) wishing that I could be April O’Neil.
Then of course, we have the existing movies; a trilogy of live-action and an animated movie released much more recently (2007).
The first full-length offering was released in 1990: the height of popularity for the animated series (it ran from ’87 to ’96). Two more live-action features were then banged out in quick succession, (the last release only three years after the first!) clearly capitalizing on the success of the cartoon as much as possible before the fad would presumably pass (ha!). Can you imagine if Marvel pumped out movies that quickly?? Then again, can you imagine if Marvel pumped out movies of that quality? *Shudder
[Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles](movie:323027) may be considered by some to be a cult classic, but for me, it was never anything more than a poor second to the cartoon. One of my biggest issues has always been the casting of April O’Neill. Judith Hoag just did not manage the snub-nosed cutie that I wanted to see – and as a young girl (I was five when this came out) April was my hero: I needed a woman that I would want to be. Despite some hilarious writing that captured the hilarity of the series perfectly (vigilante dude with a hockey stick scene is comedy gold), and the close adherence to the books themselves, there are just too many flaws for me to fall in love with it. April and her ridiculously frizzy hair aside, Henson’s workshop surely could have done something more with Splinter. I own Halloween decorations more believable.
The two sequels crank up the ridiculousness further – the first installment is funny, true, but so is the series. TMNT has always been a bit of a comedy, so some silliness is to be expected and enjoyed. The catchphrases were probably less of a joke at the time, of course, and just get more snicker-worthy as they age. But by the time we reach TMNT III, the humor is so over the top that is becomes almost a parody of itself. Ugh.
The 2007 movie definitely deals well with some of the things that made the live-action so ludicrous; for one thing, being animated makes it much easier to side-step the bad-muppet-splinter. That said, there is one thing that I could not believe – no Shredder?! Despite the appearance of some Shredder-style armor, I just can’t get on board. TMNT sans our classic villain just…doesn’t feel right. I expected more with such a star-studded cast; Chris Evans (yes, THAT Chris Evans), Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lawrence Fishburn and Kevin Smith? Come on.
The major failings that all of these movies seem to have in common are absurd-looking creatures and a less-than-perfect April. Which are pretty major failings! April is incredibly important, especially to the female fans, as this is hardly a series bursting with girl power. She has to be the character that all the women want to be, and that all the men just want. The upcoming film got this at least half right, with Megan Fox undoubtedly bringing the sex appeal. The question is, is she bringing anything more? The CGI, on the other hand, may have created the first movie Turtles that aren’t laughable. I know, I know, there have been complaints (including some from Laird himself) about their appearance in the trailers, but compared to the silly puppets in the first three and the long-necked video-game-esque style of the 2007 version, I’m pretty stoked. If nothing else, we are moving in the right direction!
After sitting down to watch the previous movies with a big ol' bowl of nostalgia, the final question on the upcoming one is: does it manage to strike the right balance between action and comedy? We have a Shredder, we have a potentially decent April, and we have a big fat budget keeping it from looking cheap. With previous movies laying the laughs on a little too thick, can this one make me giggle without coming across as a movie for kids? Some of the one-liners and blow-em-up action shots in the trailers makes me think that they may just have managed it. Along with some amazing casting in the form of William Fichtner as Shredder, I think this summer just might bring the first TMNT movie that I could love as much as the cartoon!