TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Film Collection DVD Review

     September 2, 2009

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are once again lean, green and available for your small screen. They’ve fought back for a new 25th anniversary edition which includes all four films. As Blu-ray has begun to rise this year and will undoubtedly dominate by the time the next live-action TMNT movie is released in 2011, it may be a good idea to get your hands on this cheaper collection. That is of course unless you prefer it on Blu-ray now at double the cost. But, to each their own shells! My full review is after the jump.

“Four brothers… Four ninjas… Four movies… About four turtles… Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo! Team up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to take on the city’s biggest bad guys. Three movies in live-action heroics and the most recent animated smash hit… Now at a 25th anniversary collection on DVD!  It’s time to kick it with the coolest reptiles in a half-shell along with their radical sensei, Splinter!”

teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles_film_collection_leonardo_raphael_01.jpgIn the first film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we’re introduced to the effects of radiation exposure on four turtles. After mutating and growing into teenagers; now, they live in the New York City sewers, where they eat pizza, and learn the tricks of the ninja trade from their sensei, a rat named Splinter. When an organized group of youth called the Foot Gang under the control of a master, Shredder, start wreaking havoc, the shelled heroes join forces with a reporter, April O’Neil, and vigilante, Casey Jones, to put an end to the gang’s crime wave.

In the first sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze, a scientist by the name of Professor Jordan Perry uncovers a unique toxic waste, leaving a notorious villain to conclude that it gives the turtles their power. And so Shredder sets his mind on getting his hands on some to create dangerous mutants. Armed with an antidote, it’s up to the crime fighting ninja turtles and a pizza boy to beat Shredder down.

In the last live-action sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (subtitled as Turtles In Time in this box set), the turtles are back and going back in time to travel to feudal Japan. There they must rescue their sidekick April after a scepter opens the gates of time and causes her to switch places with a rebellious samurai.

And more recently in 2007, fourteen years after the last mutation, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ world was transformed into CGI for TMNT. In this one, Leonardo is far away training to be a great leader; Donatello is tending an IT help desk; Michelangelo is working children’s parties as an entertainer; and Raphael is secretly spending his nights as a vigilante. When Leonardo returns, he fails to unite them and only increases the tension between him and Raphael. But when monsters begin appearing in New York City, the brothers must band together under their sensei, Master Splinter.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are well known by many if not every person familiar with living in our reality. The films aren’t unanimous favorites among critics but how many of your favorite movies are their favorites. A fifth film is scheduled for around a 2011 release and will return to the live-action format the franchise started with in theaters. That is a great decision though it may be a naive thing to say no CGI will be utilized. 2007’s TMNT wasn’t a terrible movie, trying to impress with great visuals. It just made a less-appetizing movie, simply geared more to younger audiences than family audiences. The first film’s poster differentiated it from the comics and animated show by displaying the quote, “Hey dude, this is no cartoon.” Well, TMNT basically is. With live-action there’s a certain amount of entertainment that comes from seeing what well-made animatronics can do as opposed to CGI that simply has no limitations. With the latter you depend on the filmmakers to set the boundaries. There weren’t any apparent lines drawn with TMNT, except maybe in production sketches.

teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles_film_collection_casey_jones_01.jpgThe wisecracks and live-action of the first three films make them more enjoyable for adults to join the fun. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles work best in live-action on the big screen but that’s not to say you’ll love them all, and it’s not to say you’ll hate them all. The first film is a box-office classic because it’s the theatrical debut that in March of 1990 ended up also grossing over $100million domestically. Neither of the other films were financial calamities but they also didn’t cross that mark in March of 1991 and 1993. The second ups the ante with more mutations but is about on par with the first. It’s the third film that has the most problems with audiences. Why? It crossed too far past an imaginary line for some. It’s not so bad as to say you’ll despise it because kids will most likely still like it, but it does push the boundaries by implementing a trip through time. Was it necessary? It was certainly more fantastical, but probably not. I still wouldn’t say it’s such a ridiculous deterrence to watching it, especially when you’re talking about four talking turtles. Consequently, the third crossed some lines while TMNT had no lines to cross. And I do suppose with the third’s time traveling logic, TMNT’s monsters and other-world plot was a natural next step, although not the right one for cross-generational appeal.

The Blu-ray edition does come in less fascinating packaging in my opinion (in the likes of a pizza box), although perhaps with better extra treats inside. Aside from the films the Blu-ray collection includes: a comic book, a sketch with co-creator Peter Laird’s autograph, a beanie hat, and 8 TMNT character cards. The last DVD box release years back included the first three DVD cases coupled together. This DVD collection comes with all four films in a tin travel case to hold the four movies and any other discs you want; 4 cloth Turtle masks and a card with Turtle tattoos. Yes, the masks are a universal size for both young and old. There are some commentary, trailers and character bios available with the movies, but it’s doubtful those are the things that are meant to sell this to you. It all comes down to your wants. Keep in mind, neither set is full of disappointment, only different toppings on the pizza at a different price.

So get ready to say, “Cowabunga!” with your sewer-diving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as you jump on your pizza-night for this DVD.

Film Ratings:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 4/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze: 3.5/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: 2.5/5

TMNT: 3/5

Collective Film Rating: 3.5/5

Special Features: 4/5

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