Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) - 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Adventure / Animation / Comedy
Warner Brothers || PG - 364 minutes - $84.99 || August 11, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-07-31


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Steve Barron, Michael Pressman, Stuart Gillard, Kevin Munroe
Writer(s): Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (characters)
Cast: Judith Hoag, Paige Turco, Elias Koteas


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Widescreen (1.78)(1.85)(2.40)
  • English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990) - ***¼ / *****

Some of my generation has “Transformers” others “G.I. Joe”. Me? It’s always been the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. I loved them as a kid and eagerly waited seeing them on the big screen. I even remember being so disappointed when I could not see them in that short-lived “TMNT: Coming Out of Their Shells” musical tour, which my dad bought tickets for only to find it had been cancelled (due to low ticket sales).

The movie is an origins story for the Turtles showing their mutated creation in the sewers and discovery by Splinter who also exposed to the same mutation. They also face off against their arch nemesis, Splinter who plans on taking over the major crime in New York using young wayward kids as his pawns and to build his army of ninjas known as The Foot Clan. When Splinter is captured by The Foot and imprisoned by Shredder, the Turtles, facing their own hurdles after Raph is injured, must come together and save their mentor/father.

The live action debut for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a big success at the box office ($135m against a $14m budget) and given the movie is now 19 years old and having not seen it in many, many, many years, I kind of enjoyed it, though now older I don’t have as much appreciation or awe for the humor or those animatronic turtle heads.

I still have a fondness for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, I get a kind of nostalgic feeling whenever I see the cartoon and even while watching the movies, but being older now with different tastes in entertainment, I couldn’t fully get into the movie as I would’ve liked. Don’t get me wrong, by comparison with the other Turtle feature films, this is still the best and I would recommend any fans to give a try again.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: SECRET OF THE OOZE (1991) - **½ / *****

Due to complaints from parents that the first movie was too dark for their kids, producers decided to lighten the mood and make it far more kid friendly with a major focus on comedy over dark and violent themes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was certainly made for kids but it also suffered at the box office raking in only $78m after a $20m opening weekend.

This sequel finds the Turtles living in April O’Neil’s (Paige Turco taking over for Judith Hoag) apartment having a good time eating pizza and beating up a gang of thieves saving the pizza delivery dude from a certain beat down. But then their old nemesis, The Shredder, makes his grand return, surviving the fall and garbage compact crumple with revenge on his mind.

When The Shredder gets his hands on the toxic ooze that had created the Turtles and Splinter, he has a grand plan to create two mutants of his own and... well... unleash them on the Turtles. Yeah, that’s it. Simple revenge; no higher aspirations. Doesn’t even seem like he wants to once again take over NYC’s crime underworld.

In all honesty, while I love the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoons, seeing it done in live action with a plot hanging by a thread, this sequel never deviates from the comedy genre and only offers more of the same martial arts moves from the original, which would be fine, if only they were done on a more mundane level. Also missing is Casey Jones who was an interesting human character and the recasting of April O’Neil with Paige Turco wasn’t bad, I do have a fondness for Judith Hoag.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III (1993) - ** / *****

And then it was done. The TMNT live action franchise hit a new low taking away a classic and iconic villain of The Shredder and replace him with a ho-hum bad guy who makes Hayden Christensen’s Anakin actually look like a formable foe.

The third Turtles movie with the subtitle, “Turtles in Time”, finds our heroic Turtles in the Half Shell being transported back in time to 17th Century Japan to rescue April O’Neil (Turco) after she switches places with the traitor son of a Japanese Emperor via an ancient scepter. This Emperor is in a battle with some rogue villagers (or w/e they are) while an English arms dealer named Walker (Stuart Wilson) who wants to sell guns and cannons for gold.

When the Turtles manage to switch places with the Emperor’s Honor Guards, they form a bond and join forces to help the villagers defeat Walker and try to get to their own time.

I can’t believe that I chose to see this movie back in 1993 over... Groundhog Day, but as a 12 year old boy, you have a choice between seeing Bill Murray to a bunch turtles kicking butt in ancient Japan. No contest if you ask me... But 16 years later, I was more bored with the movie than anything. I realize filmmakers wanted to get away from a Shredder-centric storyline and while the previous entry didn’t exactly have a complicated or deep story, at least it was somewhat entertaining. This FEATURE FILM came off more as a standard “TMNT” animated episode, and a poor one at that.

Also missing, apparently, is Jim Henson’s Creature Shop work on the Turtles and Splinter (probably to save on costs) and while they look fine, something did seem off especially in close-up shots when they speak. It looked herky-jerky and sometimes the dialogue didn’t entirely match up with the mouth movements, but when you need to get walking, talking and fighting turtles you can’t have it all.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, like its predecessor, probably will entertain little kids given its light-hearted humor, cartoon-like violence and short running time (87-minutes), but adults might get tired of it real quick.

TMNT (2007) – **¾ / *****

After 14 years, the fearless reptiles mark their return in animated form but still with a possible connection with the live action films. This time, the Turtle Brothers are leading separate lives: Leonardo is in Central America helping villagers and trying to learn to be a better leader; Donatello is a phone computer techie; Michelangelo fills his time performing at birthday parties as... well, a turtle; and Raphael sleeps all days and spends his nights as a masked vigilante.

When the brothers do eventually get back together, they discover a plot to open a vortex that will unleash monsters upon the world and must stop a businessman named Winters (Patrick Stewart) who has employed the services of The Foot Clan who are back in action, though in a for-hired capacity. So the Turtles, with the help of April O’Neal (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Casey (Chris Evans) and mentor Splinter (Mako), take them on and try to save the world while working through personal issues.

TMNT still isn’t what a Turtles movie could be, but it certainly is a step up from its two predecessors. My qualms with the movie isn’t with the voice talents, though I think the production could’ve gotten away with casting lesser-knowns for April and Casey, but its again with the script. Now, I did like the fact they managed to come up with a decent plot that didn’t involve The Shredder, but some of the dialogue didn’t quite gel for me. Although they manage to create depth for these characters, it is also more of the same that we’ve seen before. Raph goes rogue and fights distances himself from the others and Leonardo struggles with how to deal with the situation.

As a re-introduction to these characters, TMNT isn’t bad especially for a non-Pixar animated movie. The style isn’t my favorite but it’ll certainly keep kids entertained through the 87-minute running time, but unlike the other kid-friendly Turtle movies, adults might be able to watch it as well and not want to run out of the room.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Packaging: Well, not sure how, but Warner has released one of the worst package I’ve seen in quite a while. Quick description: it’s a cardboard box (like a pizza box) with two overlapping trays (one on top, one on the bottom) for the four discs and some collectible profile cards and a beanie. Why the studio couldn’t have put the discs in a Blu-ray case is beyond me, heck I even checked and without those trays, four BD cases would fit... And if they wanted to include the beanie, they could’ve used a four disc BD case and everything still would’ve fit.

All three live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films only include the standard theatrical trailers and there is no new material at all for the set either, so keep that in mind. ½* / ***** for each movie.

TMNT (2007) — **¾ / *****

All features are a straight port of the original Blu-ray/DVD release.

First up is a commentary by writer/director Kevin Munroe who consistently talks about various aspects of the animation process and writing the story. It’s not exactly a thrilling commentary but decent enough.

Alternate Opening (3:02), Alternate Scene: Splinter Gets Cake (2:09) and Alternate Ending (1:16) – These are interesting alternate scenes that were ultimately not used. Munroe talks a little about each one. The alt. ending was a pre-viz scene and not finished.

Mikey’s Birthday Party Full Sequence (3:16) is just an extended scene of Michelangelo doing his day job as a turtle birthday performer.

Next up are some various test footage: Raphael’s Rough House Fight Test (1:41), Monsters Come Alive (2:50), Rooftop Workout (5:34) and Still Wanna Fight?! Temp/Scratch Test (3:09) – These are a compilation of storyboards to final scene comparisons or cut sequences and all that good stuff. All of them are accompanied with commentary by Munroe.

Last up are a couple featurettes: Donny’s Digital Data Files (1:56), TMNT Internet Reel (3:52) and TMNT: Voice Talent First Look (5:04) – None of these are that interesting though if you like to hear from the voice talents, the last featurette might be worth watching.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

VIDEO:
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – ***½ / *****
My initial impressions of this transfer weren’t very good, but I then decided to re-examine both the video and audio in preparation for this review and while I still cannot say this is exactly a pristine high-definition transfer, it also had some good moments. However, it’s also inconsistent between grain/noised filled dark scenes to crisp and clean lighter scenes (all things considered given the film’s age and budget). For the record, the movie is presented with a 1.78 aspect ratio even though the technical specs say it is 1.85.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II – ***¾ / *****
Although it only came out a year later, for some reason the transfer is better. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is presented with a 1.85 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition (on a 25GB Blu-ray disc). Although I still can’t say this is an amazing HD transfer, it’s still cleaner and more detailed than the first movie. The colors aren’t too vibrant – especially given the lighter kid-friendly nature of the film – but detail levels especially on the turtles look pretty good.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III – ***¾ / *****
This 1.85 AR, 1080p transfer is more the same as Turtles II with some good colors and nice details levels, though you do have the expected amount of grain and noise during certain scenes. I also noticed the occasional amount of dust and/or scratches but it’s not predominant.

TMNT (2007) – ****¼ / *****
Since it’s animated and the newest of the four films, the video overall looks quite good. The 1080p high-def transfer (presented with a 2.40 aspect ratio) is very crisp and quite clean free of any imperfections. It’s not a vibrant movie to begin with but the colors look nice without being over amplified to make it look better.


AUDIO:
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – ***¼ / *****
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track isn’t too bad but it’s not exactly a rich aural experience either. Dialogue sounds fine but some of the audio effects don’t make that much use out of the other channels. That said, while I wasn’t all too impressed with this track, it is to be expected given the film’s age.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II – ***½ / *****
Like the first movie, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is OK with dialogue levels sounding clear while the martial arts sounds and those annoying cartoony sound effects make up the other channels. This is probably slightly better than the first, possible due to an increase in the budget.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III (1993) – ***¾ / *****
This go around, the TrueHD track is a little more well rounded between the dialogue and the use of some stereotypical ancient Japanese music. However, it’s still not quite the amazing audio experience but give it was released 16 years ago, it’s still not bad.

TMNT (2007) – **** / *****
Once again, the final Turtle movie is given a TrueHD 5.1 track that, since it is only a couple years old, sounds good. The dialogue levels are solid and sound effects dominate the majority of the channels. My rear speakers got somewhat of a workout though they never got a ton of use while the subwoofer was also fairly quiet. But overall, it’s a good audio experience with little to complain about. English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby 2.0 tracks also available.



.::OVERALL::.

The Blu-ray set is quite expensive with a $84.99 SRP (as of 7/31/09) and the box doesn’t exactly show off why it is so much money. If Warner really wanted to use the pizza box concept, they could’ve stored all four movies in a standard Blu-ray case and still the trinkets would’ve still fit and this would’ve allowed fans a choice to keep the box on a shelf with their other Blu-rays or just use the case.

Now, the technical specifics, although not overly impressive, aren’t too bad. I don’t have the DVD releases of the live action movies so I can’t compare, but the video transfers on all three look decent to pretty good, if not a tad inconsistent from one scene to another. The audio are all acceptable but still fine with clear dialogue and good distribution of the channels (meaning no one channel dominated the others).

Honestly, I’m a little torn about this release. Although I still have a fondness for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” due primarily to childhood nostalgia, the films frankly haven’t held up that well. I still tip my cap to what Jim Henson and his studio did with those turtle suits and heads but the stories never really came together and reducing the turtles to one-liners, fine for kids, got old real quick. Is it worth buying? Not at the current price or current packaging, no. If Warner decides to lower the SRP and release them in a 4-disc Blu-ray case, I think then it might be worth picking up, but as it stands, hold off.