EDITORIAL: The Best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Moments
Favorites from the comics movies and shows
With all the hype and controversy surrounding the recent news about Michael Bay and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, I thought this would be my chance to throw up a Ninja Turtle article. Now, I'm not going to get into the alien business- yes, I do have a strong opinion on it (hint, its negative) But I think it would be fun to just reflect on the turtle legacy overall.
I'm not looking at everything, I'm just narrowing down my favorite highlights from the TMNT world. I'm talking about the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has given us over the years.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle III: The weapons intro
I debated having anything from TMNT 3 on this list, because the movie is so bad. However it isn’t as abysmal as the “Next Mutation” series or the musical tour, so while those will forever never be associated with ‘good’, Turtles 3 gets a save only because of its connection with the original movies.
I didn’t even have to struggle to pick this scene because I still vividly remember this as being the ONLY part of the movie I liked. Its sort of a random moment, and the faces are ugly as sin, but I couldn’t have been more impressed with the weapon work in the suits.
Forget Spider-Man/Fantastic Four crossovers. Superman/Flash? One of my favorite comic cameos comes in the form of the rabbit samurai, Miyamoto Usagi.
Many people don’t realize this noble warrior has a Japanese comic all his own, but he truly gained notoriety when stopping by in the TMNT comics and cartoon. (It didn’t hurt that the turtles would visit him on his own turf on occasion too.) Of all the supporting casts of characters, Yojimbo is easily the coolest. Thanks TMNT!
Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze- store fight
The Secret of the Ooze doesn’t have much going for it. The sequel is a sillier movie than its predecessor, though it is a little cleaner-looking and kid-friendly. The movie’s best highlight is at the beginning.
When the movie starts, a pizza delivery kid stumbles across some masked robbers (wearing pantyhose?) who are looting a department store. To the audience’s surprise, the boy takes some of them out with lightning-fast kicks. (Keno provides the best and only real fighting in this movie) But when outnumbered, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come to the rescue! This is a busy action scene that sets the tone, has a lot of fun, and shows some creativity.
2003 Cartoon– extinguish the flame
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the rare honor of being one of only a few cartoons with 2 separate but successful, lengthy runs. Not even X-Men or Spider-Man (Which had the Spectacular run cancelled early) can claim this.
The revamped 2003 series did a good job of being closer to the comics and tonally more mature than the corny original show. The best way this is established is within the first opening minutes. The teaser has Leonardo’s inner monologue as he and his brothers are cornered in an alley by a gang. (A direct comic reference). And the first scene after the titles shows Splinter’s ninja lesson: a test with a candle flame (p.s. its awesome). This totally encapsulates what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is all about.
"City at War"
“City at War” could be argued as the most notable story arc from the TMNT comics. The events take place after the Shredder died, and the foot clan and local gangs are fighting each other for control of the city. Most notable is the emergence of Karai as the new leader of the Clan. Sub plots include Splinter vs The Rat King, the introduction of April’s sister, and Casey Jones falling in love.
Original cartoon- the theme song
We all have a soft spot for the original show. This is what introduced TMNT to the mainstream. I’ll even go so far as to say the first few episodes are pretty good. And their April O'Niel is a babe. But damn if this isn’t hot garbage to sit through and watch today.
Let’s face it- the best thing about the old cartoon is the theme song. Its catchy, its classic, and gives you all the information you need all in under a minute. Its still basically synonymous with the entire TMNT brand, and its one of the best cartoon theme songs of all time.
Turtles Forever- meeting the mirage turtles
This movie mash-up was a lot of fun- even if it banks on a one-note premise that gets a little tired half-way through. Turtles Forever mostly coasts on nostalgia, but seeing the different personalities interact with each other is too much fun to miss!
Just as we’re getting used to the Turtles from 2003 and the Turtles from the 87 ‘toon, working together, the rip in alternate universes continues, and fans are treated to more than a twist: The original turtles from the Mirage comics, complete with crude B&W art style, get a chance to join the fray! Other Turtle versions can also be glimpsed in the movie, in a hilariously meta look at how much this legacy has grown/changed over the years. This is the type of fan service that can’t be matched.
TMNT- Raphael vs Leonardo
I think the latest feature effort to put the Turtles on the big screen leaves much to be desired. But there is one stand-out sequence from the 2007 CG movie that is easily one of the best Ninja Turtle moments ever.
Raphael, posing as a night-stalking vigilante, confronts Leonardo late one evening while prowling the rooftops. Eventually, Raph’s identity is revealed and the scene devolves into a therapeutic fist fight between two brothers that has been a long time coming (if we’re talking Turtle lore, this was decades in the making). What transpires is probably the best fight in TMNT history.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
I can’t say enough good things. From hype to release, to impact, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie remains one of my two best movie-going experiences ever (the other being Jurassic Park).
There’s so many moments here, I couldn't have been happier with how this turned out. The fact it was independently made. Jim Henson’s impressive costume and puppet work . (The turtles move better in their suits than Batman does in his, so I don’t want to hear that using practical effects is dumb) And best of all, the film finds a good balance for fans of the cartoon AND fans of the gritty comic.
For the sake of the article, I've posted what I believe to be the 4 best scenes in the movie:
Casey Jones' debut. Elias Koteas is a badass in this role, and I would argue Jones steals the movie anytime he shows up.
Splinter speaks from the heart, to his angriest son. (The other movies truly lacked this emotional poignancy)
Raphael gets ambushed by the Foot while alone on the roof. Its great to see him kick ass a bit on his own. Michaelangelo's 'chuck-off' is also aces.
The Turtles battle The Shredder in an epic fight that is better than A LOT of showdowns from other comicbook movies.
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