Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Review

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.


The pet rat of a Japanese ninja winds up in the New York sewers after his master is killed by a rival. The rat comes across four turtles in a discarded pool of radioactive ooze, and soon all of the animals have grown tremendously in size and intelligence. The rat, Master Splinter, names the turtles after some of his favorite renaissance artists, and teaches them the art of ninjutsu.

Years later, New York is plagued by a crime wave of seemingly invisible thieves. After a local reporter, April O’Neil, gets too close to the truth, she’s attacked by the ninjas (known as the Foot Clan), and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are forced to reveal themselves to save her. This leads to a series of battles between the two groups, culminating in a final showdown with the leader of the Foot Clan, the dread Master Shredder.

Best Parts:

For 1990, the Turtles are kind of amazing. They look exactly like the comic book characters brought to life. Their faces are remarkably expressive, and their bodies never seem like rubber suits or mascot outfits. It’s incredible to see them doing jump kicks and cartwheels. Splinter is more puppet-like than the Turtles, but he still looks terrific.

The fight scenes aren’t all-timers, but they’re not bad.

It’s an impressively-faithful adaptation considering how ridiculous the whole concept is. Most comic adaptations around this time were making tons of changes in an effort to be more mainstream.

I’m sure I enjoyed this movie a lot when I was 8-years-old. There is still a certain nostalgic charm to it.

Worst Parts:

I’m not by nature a very nostalgic person.

The Turtles don’t have very distinct personalities, except for Raphael. The other three are essentially interchangeable. There are very slight nods to the idea that Leonardo is the leader, and that Donatello “does machines” (well, he sits in the cab of a truck while Casey Jones does machines), but really without their colored masks they would completely indistinguishable.

There are a lot of jokes, but none of them are particularly funny. And when Splinter’s been captured (and possibly killed) by the Foot Clan, and after Raphael’s been beaten into a coma, and after April’s entire life has been burned down and she’s been fired from her job, the jokes continue and continue and continue. There’s very little attempt to make anything resonate emotionally for more than a couple seconds.

Casey Jones is pretty annoying. I know he’s a product of his time, and I know his relationship with April is from the comics, but that doesn’t mean I think of any of it works.

“Elf lips!”

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