8 Reasons the Original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Still Kicks Ass

After I caught the trailer for 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I revisited the original 1990 live action release, and here are 8 reasons it’s still a damn fine film.

1)  Damn!


Raphael yells Damn in a fit of rage as the camera shows us a top down look of the city.  He is mad and is speaking like a normal person, no darns or hecks.  (Though Leonardo does say, “who the heck…” in reference to Casey)


2) Faithful But Fun


It’s a successful blend of the Eastman Laird Comics and the cartoon show. I remember when I got ahold the first four TMNT issues and my young mind was blown. The cute cartoon characters were far more intense and flat out kill the foot.  No effort is made to keep their enemies alive.  I have no idea who saw this and said, this would make a great children’s cartoon and toy line, but good for them.  You had two fan bases to appease with this rare early comic book film.  The look and feel of the movie is more in tune to the comics than the cartoon, as are the plot points.  But this is well balanced with the turtles themselves who owe more to their cartoon selves than the original books.  The score works to highlight the growing intensity of the fights, and I guarantee you’d still recognize the music years later.


3) High Stakes

raphael teenage mutant ninja turtles

The movie has a true sense of danger and intensity.  Raphael loses his big fight scene.  He’s beaten within inches of his life and spends the next 30 minutes of the film in a coma.  Combine this with Splinter’s kidnapping and imprisonment and it’s clear the world of the first film is a world where violence has consequences.  Even April’s father’s store is destroyed after she explains how much it means to her.  While I know some parents got pretty pissed about this at the time, I would argue this is better for kids to see than G.I. Joe where there are never consequences to shooting at people with missile launchers.  If there was room for parents to be upset it should have been Casey’s homophobia after Donatello calls him claustrophobic.  “I swear I never looked at another guy.”  It also makes it suspect when he calls Tatsu “Tinkerbell.”


4) Made Well, And It Still Shows

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The stunt work and suits hold up very well.  The fight choreography would be impressive, even if the performers weren’t wearing massive animatronic suits.  The direction allows for the audience to follow each blow in the combat sequences.  While the fights are pretty short they clearly were going for quality over quantity.


5) Character Driven


Character is emphasized over plot points.  It would be easy to whine about the convenience of having a family farm to retreat to, the scenes here allow for a greater depth of the characters to be explored; Except for Michelangelo who is entirely ignored here.


6) Shredder Is Bad. Ass.

shredder first originalIn debatably underusing Shredder they created a more compelling villain.  He was meant to be intimidating and it works.  You get the blade reveal and the backstory where he kills Hamato Yoshi.  This means that when he threatens to kill Leonardo you know he will.


7) Still Funny As Hell


The humor holds up well, for older and younger audiences.  Cagney and Stallone references for the older members and the goofy Michelangelo antics for the younger.  When the foot clan bring out the axes and are mocked for ineffective use of them I cracked up and you should too.


8) Shingle to Shingle Brawls


Rooftop fights, Raphael versus the scores of foot soldier and the final versus Shredder what screams comic book more than a rooftop fight sequence?


Am I overly  nostalgic and unfairly against CGI characters let me know?