Things I Forgot About "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles" (1990)
Teenage Mutanta Ninja Turtles is a classic 90s film based on a comic book of the same name. Because the turtles are talking mutants born of a mysterious ooze that was lost from a science lab, the film is technically science fiction—but then, all superhero films are.
I grew up in the 90s, so I've loved this film since I was a little kid, and because of my stubborn nostalgia glasses, it will always be the best—and only—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie.
I was watching this film the other night when I couldn't sleep. It was the first time I'd seen in it in maybe five years (because I still periodically watch it), and I realized there's a lot of stuff in it that I didn't even notice, completely forgot, or failed to appreciate before.
So I made a list for you. Helpful me.
Sam Rockwell was in this film!!!
In the movie, Shredder is molding a bunch of troubled youth into a violent gang.I completely forgot Sam Rockwell was the leader of that gang!
He has a short part where he can be seen giving cigarettes to the kids. He appears later at the end as well, after the turtles have fought Shredder.
It's so funny that I noticed him in this film after applauding his work in Galaxy Quest, which is one of the best films he ever did, in my opinion. I'm glad he got to go on to play bigger, funnier roles and that his talent didn't go to waste.
Raphael Was a Deep Character
Raphael could easily be considered "deep," despite the fact that this is a kid's film (lots of kid's films have deep characters). He carried a lot of anger and frustration against his own helplessness, and his struggles to keep his feelings in check made him flawed and relatable.
He has an entire character arc about mastering his inner peace, becoming more disciplined, and learning to get along with his brothers. And for an anthropomorphic turtle, it's done pretty damn well.
Josh Pais was Raph's voice and suit actor. David Greenaway controlled the animatronic head. Kenn Troum was the stunt double.
Yeah. A lot of work went into the 90's turtles. They were basically giant puppets. You should check out the making of Jim Henson's Dinosaurs. Same deal.
I didn't appreciate Raph when I was a kid. My favorite was Leonardo (Brian Toch, voice) because I related to him so much: he was friendly, peaceful, kind, disciplined, deeply spiritual, and under control. It wasn't until I grew up that I realized he and I had a lot of shared personality traits (I refer to myself as a priestess of love in my bio because I'm deeply spiritual and completely committed to the Path).
But there is something to appreciate in Raphael's character as well. He really was well written.
April O'Neal Was the Only Female Character
April O'neil (Judith Hoag) was the only female character in the entire ****ing film. There was one female teenager in the background . . . and that's about it.
If you're at all familiar with my articles, I frequently rail off into babbling rants about female representation in films. I do this because I'm a woman, so naturally, sexism is one of my largest concerns.
Of course, I'm still worried about sensible things like abortion rights, equal pay, and domestic violence rates. But I love movies a great deal, so I'm going to be passionate about whether or not people like me get to be in them.
Growing up in the 90's, before such cool things as an all-female cast of Ghostbusters existed, I was programmed to not even notice how under-represented my sex was. Pretty much any 80's-90's film I can think of had one token female character (and maybe one black one).
Racism and sexism was standard in those days (and still kinda is today). After all, how enjoyable can a movie be if it depicts too many of those pesky blacks, gays, and females? <-- Obvious sarcasm.
I'm not saying that every single movie needs to meet a quota (that would be annoying). But if more people were given opportunities to make films in the first place, representation wouldn't be an issue.
If a woman had directed this film, there would have been six more women in it. Because women recognize that other women are people and that we make up half of the damn population.
And I'm just going to leave it at that.
Casey Jones Was Psycho
Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) was out of his ****ing mind.
I was shocked by the part where he violently beats some teenage boys with a hockey stick for stealing a woman's purse. For some reason, I didn't remember that scene at all. Or at least, I didn't remember it being so awful.
No wonder he got kicked off his hockey team. He's violent even for a hockey player!
Raphael had already given the boys a little scare, which was all they needed to get going. They didn't need to be beaten black and blue! But for some reason, Casey Jones thought it was okay to brutalize some kids and knock their teeth out!
Raphael—thankfully—stops Casey, telling him he's going too far. Casey's response is to beat up Raphael next -- another teenager.
Later, Casey disrespects April O'Neil repeatedly by calling her out of name and forcing a shoulder massage on her that she doesn't want (the scene is cringey when he slams her in the chair and she just shrugs and gives in—eww).
April was right to dislike Casey. I only wish she hadn't done the typical 90's thing and fallen in love with the guy who ignored her boundaries, called her sexist names, and sexually harassed her.
The Plot Was Actually Pretty Moving
There were some pretty moving moments in the film, such as Danny Pennington's arc about his relationship with his father.
Danny (Michael Turney) is a troubled youth. He doesn't believe his father loves him, so he lashes out by stealing and fighting and joining the Foot, which is pretty much a street gang.
Shredder (James Saito) molds the children who follow him into thinking he is a father figure they can latch onto, that he loves them and accepts them when the world doesn't.
The kids are too young to understand that they are being emotionally manipulated and that Shredder doesn't really give a damn about them. They think because he lets them smoke and drink and play video games that he "loves" them.
Because of his rocky relationship with his father, Danny has easily fallen into this crowd.
When Splinter (Kevin Clash, voice) is captured by the Foot, he and Danny start having little chats, and he is able to teach Danny about real love. Danny claims that his father doesn't love him, but Splinter answers sadly, "All fathers care for their sons."
No, there's NOTHING IN MY EYE. I'M CHOPPING ONIONS.
We the audience know Splinter is talking about the turtles and how they're on their own now that he can't protect them. But in that moment, Danny realizes his father is probably missing him in the same way and that he's hurting him.
I didn't appreciate this scene when I was kid, but now that I'm older and have fought with my parents, I appreciate it.
The ending was pretty moving, too, with the turtles each fighting Shredder in an attempt to set Splinter free. The plot didn't require some epic struggle between good and evil. They were just teenage boys trying to free their father from a psycho.
All in all, the film is funny, fun, moving, heartwarming, and will probably always be my favorite in the entire franchise.
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