Nightwatcher's Patrol #25

TMNT First Movies; Old VS. New
December 11, 2017
With a fellow retrojunker tackling the seemingly endless battle between old and new Batman movies, and doing a pretty good job of it actually, I thought that I would cover another nostalgic childhood favorite. It's time for a motion picture smack down, turtle style!

Now be honest, most of us who grew up in the 1980's and 90's would probably take the original movie over the new one any day, right? (*cough*DAMNED STRAIT!*cough*). But why does the original seem better than the new one? Why do most of us flock back to that one even after all these years? I've thought about doing this article for a while now and with the 2012 series on Nickelodeon having just come to a close, not to mention a longing for something new on the TMNT front that is actually good, I thought it might be time. I know that this debate has been going for three years now and a lot of people have heard enough of it at this point but this article simply represents my two cents on the subject. And don't worry, as a long standing TMNT fan I will be filling this with lots of heart.


The Film

The first movie came out when I was ten and in the fifth grade and I remember the vocal theme "T.U.R.T.L.E. Power" by Partners In Kryme being very popular amongst us boys for the first few months of school (not that it wore off to quickly). I also remember our love for pizza becoming that much stronger from just one Mikey line "Pizza dude's got thirty seconds" as well as their method of using Leo's katanas to slice it and watching a slice land on Splinter's head. Hmmm, kids.

There are other reasons besides nostalgia that make the original better however, first one being the excellent use of elements from the source material. This movie, for the most part anyway, is a near mirror image of the original comic book series from Mirage. The origin is pretty much intact with the only character left out being Shredder's older brother Oroku Nagi with Saki instead being in direct competition with Hamato Yoshi for Tang Shen's love. The scene of the turtles' rescuing April from the punks was borrowed from the opening scene of issue #1, while Splinter being taken by the Foot was a re-do of issue #2 with the Mousers being replaced with the Foot ninjas and Raph saving her by himself instead of having help from Leo and Donnie, heck, there was even a cameo for Baxter Stockman when Raph lets out a scream of rage which startles Stockman up on the surface. The turtles ruffing it in April's apartment was borrowed from issue #3 through the end of the Turtles In Space arch. There was Raph's one shot where he met up with Casey in Central Park and stopped him from killing a couple of punks leading to a fight between the two and Leo's one shot was also used here although Raph ended up getting beaten into a coma instead of Leo. This, however, lead to the Northampton arch (my favorite) getting squeezed in here too. Finally there was the rooftop fight from the end of issue #1 with the addition of Splinter who took out the Shredder for them where as Donnie took him out in the comic book. I also kind of like the idea of combining the Foot clan and Purple Dragons into one big, lethal group and the addition of Tatsu was also interesting because it gave Shredder a really cool first lieutenant. There were also a few elements borrowed from the cartoon of the time, the turtles' love for pizza and April being a TV news reporter being the most obvious. There was also April's yellow rain jacket at the beginning of the movie and also Raph's disguise consisting of a fedora hat and trench coat. Another factor that adds to the movie's good quality is that it was made by an independent studio in North Carolina and Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were directly involved in it's production, which may explain a few things.

Another thing that this movie has going for it is that it actually has a soul, in a way. There is real emotion among the hero characters and this can help the audience connect to them and even feel for them. A perfect example is when poor guilt ridden Leo is keeping vigil over Raph while he is unconscious in the tub. You feel bad for Leo but become happy when Raph comes to. Another one is the bonfire scene when they contact Splinter, it's very touching and you can't tell me that you don't cry a little with poor Mikey afterwords.

The Cast

One of the most notable things about this movie was the casting of Judith Hoag as April O'Neal and Elias Koteas as Casy Jones which I still think were brilliant moves on New Line's part. Both actors who portrayed Shredder (on screen and vocal effects) did an awesome job and he was made to look absolutely bad ass. Over all the casting was really well done here and the actors did a great job bringing the characters and their story to life. No complaints here.

The Music

The soundtrack album is good and it is nice to finally have a copy of it after all this time (I purchased it on amazon but I don't remember how much it cost because it was a while ago). It is always interesting to me how a movie's soundtrack will reflect the time of it's release and this one is no exception, with most of it consisting of rap and hip-hop, the music of choice for most high school kids in the early 90's. Iconic tracks include "T.U.R.T.L.E. Power" by Partners In Kryme (of course) and "9.95" by Spunkadelic as well as "This Is What We Do" by M.C. Hammer and I also like "Let The Walls Come Down" by Johnny Kemp and "Every Heart Needs A Home" by St. Paul is very pretty as well as being the longest track on the album at just over five minutes. My only regret is that the score by John Du Prez was never released on it's own album, only three tracks from it were placed on the soundtrack: "Shredder's Suite" (this is the coolest score track on any of the albums but still...) and "Splinter's Tale Parts 1 and 2" as well as "Turtle Rhapsody". The score was beautifully done and the tracks match the tone of the movie perfectly. I would start a petition for it if I could but I don't know how many people would still be interested enough to sign.

Also, for those who may be interested, there is a really sick metal cover of Shredder's Suite available to listen to on YouTube. It was done by a group called RoseScythe and I'll tell you right now, if I were to get ahold of the movie rights to this property, not only would I do it right by basing it on the Mirage comic so that it would be dark and edgy, but I would also hire RoseScyhte to record the score and maybe re-hire John Du Prez to help, I'm that impressed with RoseScythe. Check it out below and tell me it's not the sickest cut of this track that you have ever heard.

The pieces that make up the suite are Shredder's Introduction, The Crime Wave and Tatsu Attack which was also used for the final battle with Shredder at the end. Seriously, can you imagine how sick a score John Du Prez and RoseScythe could make together? Damn!


Fast forward twenty four years (*elbow nudge* Huh? See what I did there?), I remember the hype for this movie and being very excited to see my little green buddies back in live action and on the big screen again. I liked some of the early leaked set photos, I liked that they were trying to reboot the 1990 movie, I really liked how they were going for a PG-13 rating this time. I counted the months...the months turned into weeks...the weeks turned into days. Finally, come early summer 2014, it was time. My co-worker and fellow TMNT fan (who I have mentioned a lot on here so far) got us tickets to see the movie in 3D at our local IMAX theatre. We watched the movie, the credits rolled hour and fourty minutes of our lives were wasted. It was one of the worst movies we had ever seen and our disappointment cannot be described.
The Film

Oddly enough, when this project was first started it was being worked on by Peter Laird and 4Kids Entertainment and it was going to be exactly the movie that I wanted. It would have been based directly on the Mirage Studios comic book in which case it would have been dark, edgy and full of everything that this adult fan would want in a TMNT movie: violence, blood and profanity. Sadly, that movie was eliminated when Laird sold the television and movie rights to TMNT over to Paramount and Nickelodeon who didn't want it to be so dark and edgy as they were afraid that it would only appeal to us adult fans rather than families. *Shrugs* Eh, their loss. Following that there was a script written for a treatment called "The Blue Door" in which the turtles and Splinter were aliens from another dimension and met with Casey first instead of April since he would be working as a security guard at the facility where they were being kept. Both of them would just now be finishing with high school and April would be planning an internship in New York City as a TV news reporter for Channel 6 (big surprise) while Casey stayed at his job in town (mostly to help his new friends). Shredder would also be an alien who would spend the majority of the film in a human disguise. In his true form, he would have yellow-ish skin and his blades would be part of his body. Thankfully that idea was also scrapped. They then made the mistake of hiring Micheal Bay and Platinum Dunes to rewrite the script and, if anything, they made it even worse. Splinter, Shredder and the turtles are no longer aliens but that didn't seem to help the film's cause, especially since Bay is apparently obsessed with putting big explosions and nasty humor in every movie he makes and TMNT really doesn't need any of that.

The 1987 turtles rooftop poses were probably made different than those of the Mirage turtles in order to differentiate the two from each other

Okay, here is my review of the movie in a nutshell (at least as best as I can): the origin was semi borrowed from the newer IDW comic book series which is fine, I like the idea of the turtles, Splinter and Shredder being reincarnations of ancient Japanese warriors in new bodies and Splinter and the turtles being genetic father and sons, but they dumbed it down so much here to the point that it makes almost no sense (how exactly does one learn martial arts simply by looking at pictures in a book?). There was also no connection established between Splinter and Shredder. Megan Fox was miscast as April, seriously, there are actresses who are both attractive and talented. As bad ass as Shredder is here, characteristic wise he is not supposed to look like Megatron nor is he supposed to be a big, walking swiss army knife. The CGI could have been a little bit better and the characters needed more depth and less fart jokes. News flash folks, I'm supposed to actually want to get to know them. Vernon Fenwick? Really?! Yeah, great idea, cast one of the worst human characters in the franchise instead of just going for Casey again. And who the hell is Eric Sacks, why does he need to get rich when he already is, and since when does Shredder have a son?! Oh yeah, and also, the the plot makes zero sense. In one sentence worst TMNT movie ever. *Takes a long, drawn out breath* Okay, got that out of my system, I feel better now.

The Cast

As mentioned above they could have done better with the casting for April and as funny as Vernon was I would have chosen a better main character for Will Arnett given his good track record (Lego Batman anyone?). Leo's voice actor should not have been swapped out, especially by someone who doesn't really fit the part (Johnny Knoxville? Really?). Fortunately they did allow his mo-cap actor, Pete Ploszek, to provide both in the sequel. Raph, Donnie and Mikey were done well except for Mikey's weird crush on April and Donnie could have lost those glasses, I know he is a scientist but those specks really weren't necessary. He has never worn glasses before, why should he start now? Eric Sacks was also unnecessary although I now understand where they were trying to go with Sacks as Shredder, he was supposed to be inspired by the 2003 series version (i.e. an alien brain inside a robot) think about it for a minute. Karai was good too and I was sorry to see her get recast for the sequel, it was also about time that she got cast in live action. Over all the casting was okay but not the best.

The Music

Aside from the new and oddly memorable theme song "Shell Shocked" and a few other songs that were thrown in for good measure, including "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani, which was already ten years old by 2014 by the way, the soundtrack this time was mostly the score music which, while not terrible, was not as good as that of the 1990 movie (or maybe I'm just spoiled with that one). The music really did fit the movie again, it was just that this one seemed more light hearted than the original, especially concidering the PG-13 rating.

It would seem that for the reboot the film makers were trying to adapt the classic 1987 cartoon into a movie series that would draw in alot of us who are mostly in our thirties through nostalgia, although that was also the problem here, the 87' cartoon, while good for it's time, would be a bad basis for a live action movie given it's light hearted and nonsensical nature as well as the fact that the episodes were all stand alone stories while each of the other on screen versions, both television and movies, have been long, on going stories. On the other hand the Mirage comic book, and to some degree the IDW comic book, are both, at least somewhat, grounded in reality which would make them better candidates for a movie. All this considered, if you want to do a modern day remake of an old 1980's TMNT classic, you really can't go wrong with the Mirage comic book.

My Dream TMNT Movie

There are a few things that I would do a little differently than either New Line or Paramount for a movie in this franchise these days. First I would combine the origins of Mirage and IDW and make it dark, edgy, profane and yes, add some blood. I would hire John Du Prez and RoseScythe to give it the coolest and most rocking TMNT score ever and maybe put together a soundtrack consisting of rock, alternative and maybe even some heavy metal songs to make it really sick. Remember the album I mentioned having made in a past article, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A Darker Shade Of Green? Yeah, it would probably sound something like that. My dream TMNT movie cast would be as follows:

The Turtles - Actual teenagers in order to make it more believable. I would have to hold screen tests for each turtle since I don't have anyone specific in mind. If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.

Splinter - Peter Dinklage. Splinter is usually portrayed as being shorter than the turtles because his mutation was slower on his more complex mammalian body, basically he is their version of Yoda, small but strong and well skilled, looks can be deceiving so Dinklage would be the right size for the role. He also has a deep and gravely voice that would fit nicely. A perfect fit for the turtles' sensei.

April O' Neil -Jane Levy. She is pretty and, as far as I know at least, talented. As an added plus, she is also a natural red head. Perfect!

Casey Jones - C.M. Punk. I have heard the way he talks and I would be damned if he wasn't another Elias Koteas. Plus, I have been told that, besides wrestling, he also likes Hockey. Score!

Shredder-Ken Watanabe. A Japanese martial arts professional who has already played some pretty bad ass characters in movies including, but not limited to, The Last Samurai. Heck, even Kevin Eastman has said that Watanabe would be a great fit so I think that he would definatly cut it. (Pun intended)

Another idea I had was that the comic books could be adapted into animated movies in the same vein as the DC Animated Universe movies, the next one up being Batman: Gotham By Gaslight. There is also talk about a Batman TMNT crossover animated movie in the works so keep your fingers crossed.

Final Score

As far as quality goes the newer movie from 2014 is okay for the kids of today though if they look back on it some day when they are our ages, they will probably be quite shocked at how truly bad it is. To date the 1990 movie was and still is, at least thus far, the best TMNT movie of the bunch and is a true love letter to the turtles' most die hard fans from a time that was alot more innocent for us. Here's to hoping that someone gets the right idea again someday, it would be nice to finally get another good TMNT movie.

I also wanted to share something that I made as a loyal fan of the franchise. I put together this cool comic book cover in 2014 to commemorate turtles' thirtieth anniversary. The image is of the 2012 turtles striking the famous Mirage poses in their opening sequence paired with the logo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (the video game, not the movie), and the Mirage Licensing logo appears in the upper left corner while I added Eastman and Laird's and the issue number and price (which I made sure to make accurate to the standard price of the book in 1984). It is basically the original Mirage cover but with the updated look and feel of a modern day comic book. A pretty sweet old meets new piece.

Until next time, which may just come sooner rather than later this time, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on this subject. What are some ideas you guys have had? Next up, a return trip to an old 16-bit favorite. Hope to see you there, Nightwatcher out.
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