There's been a lot of criticism about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and while some of it is merited (thanks, Michael Bay!), it's worth remembering that it definitely did some improving on the previous ones.
It can be too easy sometimes to look back at childhood classics with rose-tinted lenses, but lets face it, that 1990 live-action version of the turtles was hardly a cinematic masterpiece! It was definitely funnier, and the actual storyline was a lot more interesting that the newer one, but our latest incarnation of the heroes in a halfshell is better in a lot of ways.
1. Visual Effects
Ok, this one is pretty obvious. The FX from 24 years ago just don't hold up to the ones we have today. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was extremely light on the explosions and destruction, whereas the new one has the budget and the technology for all kinds of explosive goodness. The turtles themselves are also a vast improvement - whether you approve of the faces or not, at least the mouths actually move properly. Being CGI rather than bulky suits gives us huge improvements in facial and muscle movements, and that's worth mentioning. Also Splinter looks less like a Halloween decoration.
While the better character is a matter of opinion, and the 1990's shredder was definitely closer in appearance to the cartoon/comics, there were some awesome things done with the turtle's nemesis in the new movie. He's far more imposing, and that suit is much more terrifying than just the hand-claws we saw originally. If it wasn't for the ninja-minions in the first movie, the turtles would have kicked his butt in five minutes. He's actually more of a one-on-one challenge in the newer version.
3. April O'Neil and her signature yellow.
The original April definitely had the better personality (in that she actually had one), but I've never thought that she looked the part. The frizzy hair and frumpy clothes always bugged me, because April was meant to be the character that all the girls looked up to. While I'm not a fan of Fox either (will they ever just use someone with the right hair?!) at least she kept her yellow jacket on throughout the film. It was a really nice touch, and it worked well. In the original, while she wears a yellow trench when she first meets the turtles, we really don't see it again, and I always bothered me.
4. The Lair
Sure, it's in a sewer, but the lair in the original movie is just ridiculous. It's more homeless-guy than crime-fighter, and while I do love seeing the turtles skateboarding through the tunnels, I wanted more. The new lair actually has the big bank of screens as a focus, and while it's not exactly a penthouse, I can really see it as the den of superheroes.
5. The Origin Story
Caveat - just the turtle origin story. I prefer Splinter's story in the original (although how a rat was that smart to start with is a little far-fetched), but I actually really liked the new twist on the traditional backstory. Their devotion to April is much more realistic when there is a real reason for it. In the cartoon/comics there is the time to build up to a really strong relationship, but in the first movie they become practically family because....Raphael left one of his weapons behind? A rescue is a very tenous reason for a relationship that solid right off the bat.
6. Giving the Turtles distinct personalities
In the first film, other than Raphael's moodiness, the turtles really didn't have much separating them. Obviously they wore different colors and carried different weapons, but if you took those away, it would be near-impossible to figure out who was who. I really loved seeing them shine as individuals in the new movie, rather than just being carbon copies of each other. Donatello got his gadgets, Michelangelo was his OTT goofy self, it was fantastic (if a tiny bit heavy handed at times).
Of course, there is a lot that the original did far better, and it will always have a place in my heart because it was a favorite of childhood. But maybe, for those who are kids now, the new movie will do the same for them. Or maybe one day, a TMNT movie will be made that can combine the best of the two, and finally be the movie that we all want to see. With an April who actually looks like April, if that's not too much to ask...
What do you think?