The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have featured in a number of movies.
1. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: How it All Began US movie (1988 tvm). Murakami/Wolf/Swenson/Group W. Sv pr Fred Wolf. Pr Walt Kubiak. Sv dir Bill Wolf. Anim dir Chi Hyun Hwang, Soo An Kim, Dae Sick Moon. Voice actors Cam Clarke (Leonardo), Townsend Coleman (Michaelangelo), Barry Gordon (Donatello), Rob Paulsen (Raphael). 50 mins. Colour.
Using material drawn from the tv series, this, despite its title, gives origin story of the Turtles and their guru, the rat Splinter, for only the first few minutes. (The rest consists of some standard adventures.) Back in Japan, the Shredder was sneakily responsible for having Splinter thrown out of his martial-arts clan. In the USA, Splinter dwelt as a human in the sewers, having as pets some rats plus the baby turtles a child had accidentally dropped down a drain. A vengeful Shredder was responsible for pouring down a substance which mutated any creature into a cross between itself and the last animal it had been touching. The turtles – Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo (sic) and Raphael – had just been in contact with Splinter, and Splinter had most recently handled a rat. [JG]
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles US movie (1990). Golden Harvest/Limelight/Gary Propper. Pr David Chan, Kim Dawson, Simon Fields. Exec pr Raymond Chow. Dir Steve Barron. Animatronics Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Screenplay Bobby Herbeck, Todd W Langen. Novelization Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles * (1990) by Dave Morris. Starring David Forman (Leonardo), Judith Hoag (April O'Neil), Elias Koteas (Casey Jones), Josh Pais (Raphael), James Saito (Shredder), Michelan Sisti (Michaelangelo), Leif Tilden (Donatello), Michael Turney (Danny Pennington). Voice actors Kevin Clash (Splinter), Corey Feldman (Donatello), David McCharen (Shredder), Michael McConnohie (Tok Chiu), Josh Pais (Raphael), Robbie Rist (Michaelangelo), Brian Tochi (Leonardo). 93 mins. Colour.
Petty crime is stalking the city, thanks to the organization of a vast subculture of teenage boys by the Shredder. Pitted against him are the Turtles and Splinter. Tv reporter O'Neil is drawn in because she suspects the true nature of the crime wave; a chance encounter adds amateur street vigilante Jones to the forces of virtue. In course of a complicated plot, it emerges that years ago the Shredder murdered Splinter's master.
TMNT is of interest primarily because it has far more integrity than anyone predicted – movies based on merchandised characters do not have a good track record. Despite the unlikeliness of the Superheroes, the cast put in committed performances, responding to a script that takes its duties seriously, mixing Surrealism and Magic Realism – a subtext is that the weird is all around us, but that we usually fail to notice it – and recognizing that situational Humour is at its best when allied to a driving narrative. Also of note is the quality of the animatronics.
TMNT was severely cut in the UK to excise the Turtles' use of nunchaku, regarded as likely to provoke infants to wanton acts of imitative violence. [JG]
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze US movie (1991). 20th Century-Fox/Golden Harvest/Gary Propper. Pr David Chan, Kim Dawson, Thomas K Gray. Exec pr Raymond Chow. Dir Michael Pressman. Animatronics Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Screenplay Todd W Langen. Starring Mark Caso (Leonardo), François Chau (Shredder), Kevin Clash (Splinter), Ernie Reyes Jr (Keno), Michelan Sisti (Michaelangelo), Leif Tilden (Donatello), Kenn Troum (Raphael), Paige Turco (April O'Neil), David Warner (Jordan Perry). Voice actors Adam Carl (Donatello), Laurie Faso (Raphael), David McCharen (Shredder), Robbie Rist (Michaelangelo), Brian Tochi (Leonardo). 87 mins. Colour.
This lacklustre sequel largely substitutes zany martial-arts brawls and dance routines for a plot. A research institute has discovered and is disposing of canisters of the radioactive slime responsible, 15 years ago, for mutating the Turtles. The Shredder, surviving his apparent demise at the end of 2, captures one canister plus research scientist Perry, and forces the latter to create giant mutant versions of a wolf and a snapping-turtle. Aided by Perry and by martial-arts-devotee pizza-delivery boy Keno, the Turtles triumph over the villains, even the monster version of himself the Shredder creates by drinking the ooze. Turco produces a surprisingly committed performance as a replacement for Hoag; Warner seems embarrassed by proceedings. [JG]
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III US movie (1992). 20th Century-Fox/Golden Harvest/Clearwater/Gary Propper. Pr David Chan, Kim Dawson, Thomas K Gray. Exec pr Raymond Chow. Dir Stuart Gillard. Spfx Joseph P Mercurio. Creature fx Eric Allard, Rick Stratton. Vfx Richard Malzahn, Jeffrey A Okun. Screenplay Gillard. Starring John Aylward (Niles), Mark Caso (Leonardo), David Fraser (Michaelangelo), Henry Hayashi (Kenshin), Matt Hill (Raphael), Elias Koteas (Casey Jones/Whit), Travis A Moon (Yoshi), James Murray (Splinter), Jim Raposa (Donatello), Sab Shimono (Lord Norinaga), Paige Turco (April O'Neil), Stuart Wilson (Walker), Vivian Wu (Mitsu). Voice actors Corey Feldman (Donatello), Tim Kelleher (Raphael), James Murray (Splinter), Robbie Rist (Michaelangelo), Brian Tochi (Leonardo). 96 mins. Colour.
Japan, 1603: the warlord Norinaga is waging fierce war on rebels led by the beautiful Mitsu, loved by Norinaga's son Kenshin. The warlord is armed by caddish English gun merchant Walker. New York City, today: April O'Neil rubs an antique Japanese sceptre and is instantly transported back to 1603; simultaneously Kenshin, handling the sceptre in his father's temple, is transported to 1992. The four turtles rush in pursuit of April, using the sceptre to exchange themselves with four of Norinaga's guards. After various adventures the lovers are united, the villains are vanquished, and everyone is restored to their own times – although, in the most interesting part of the movie, Michaelangelo presents a very convincing argument for staying in 1603.
As a Time-Travel tale this is full of holes, but plenty of high spirits make it an enjoyable watch. It is seriously marred, however, by the fact that Walker and his relationship with his sidekick Niles seem lifted – right down to the accents – from Blackadder and Baldrick of the UK tv comedy series Blackadder. This was a significantly better movie than 3; but, by the time it was released, Turtlemania was history. [JG]