Kids of the 90s were deluged with cartoons to watch, ranging from the latest offerings of DC and Marvel comics to whatever offering Bandai was cooking up or any other number of crazy other toons like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. But there was one cartoon that reigned supreme on networks, in theaters, and, most importantly, on toy store shelves: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the characters are today reserved for those who grew up with them and little else (although a revival in 2003 certainly tried to put them back in the spotlight…but it didn’t have the same effect as before), those who remember going to the theaters to witness the excellence that was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and the subsequent soundtrack that caught on like wildfire) will no doubt remember how amazing that experience was. Sure, the subsequent sequels ranged from dismal to absolute garbage, but they were redeemed (slightly) by a 2007 CGI flick, and those who grew up with the series can still appreciate it, even if there is a high cheese factor involved.
Since their introduction in 1984, The Turtles have established themselves as a true “evergreen” brand and pop culture icons. Twenty-five years later, they’re also being enjoyed by a new generation of fans through their animated TV series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back to the Sewer, airing Saturday mornings in TheCW4Kids block on The CW Network. From their home in the storm sewers of Manhattan, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael battle petty criminals, evil megalomaniacs, and alien invaders, all while remaining isolated from society at large. The Turtles’ bravery and humor continue to resonate with audiences as the four heroes in a half-shell maintain their status as beloved global icons with no end in sight to their pizza-loving, crime-fighting ways.
Although I was a child of the 90s, I also had very strict parents who forbade such violent cartoons as Turtles and Batman (X-Men and Power Rangers were somehow fine, however). It was because the series got press for being such “violent” shows, but whatever the reason it ultimately didn’t matter—I’d watch the show whenever I could and still managed to get my fill through the toys. The films, however, were completely off limits and by the time I was deemed “old enough” to watch the films I completely lost interest.
It wasn’t until recently I got back into the Turtles a bit and I finally picked up the box set to watch. Needless to say I pretty much share the same opinion of the films as everyone else: awesome, ok, crap (in that order, of course). It’s not a difficult trilogy to peg down and it’s certainly got its fair share of dislike, but while it steadily increases in mediocrity, there’s no denying that the first film isn’t something really special. The puppet suits used were brilliant and looked great; the voices for the Turtles themselves were perfect and despite an incredible amount of camp, it’s still easily one of the darkest and truest adaptations of the original comic book to date.
The sequel, Secret of the Ooze was…well, it was made to cash in on the popularity of the characters. There were blatant product placements, an incredibly awkward concert with Vanilla Ice thrown in for no real conceivable reason and just about everything in regards to the film was a ridiculous concept. The costumes were also a bit shoddy looking…but, I still enjoyed it. It’s a pretty bad film, to be sure, but it’s still a fun outing and well worth it for Turtles fans. The recasting of April was a bit of a bummer, but not as much of a bummer as the next film turned out to be.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, sometimes referred to as Turtles in Time (no relation to the video game of the same name), is without a doubt one of these single worst films in the history of cinema. It’s Batman & Robin level bad (yet I own both films on Blu-ray. Damn box sets…) and there is quite frankly not a single damn thing that is redeeming about it. For one thing they have some of the absolute worst Turtle suits in this one, as they’re slimmed down and look like they’re coated in liver spots. On top of that the animatronics used in the mouths for the Turtles rarely matches what’s coming out of their mouths, so not only do they look ugly but they also don’t even work appropriately. I get that they’re streamlined to work with the actors better, but how the hell hard is it to use the suits from the first film, which were arguably the best? It can’t be that hard…
The final film in this set has nothing to do with the previous three and isn’t even live-action. Rather it’s the 2007 CGI TMNT outing, which aside from being incredibly Shredder-free, is really a fun little action flick. The voice acting in it is great, the action is awesome and there just really isn’t a lot to complain about unless you start to dig into the fact that Shredder wasn’t even the main bad guy. But that was cool because he was alluded to for the sequel…which we’ll apparently never get. I mean, there’s gotta be some kind of market for these films—it’s not as if it did that bad in theaters. Oh well…hopefully we’ll see something come out of the 25th Anniversary for the Turtles (aside from this box set, I mean).
Overall the four Turtles films are very hit and miss and together they still form a very mediocre package overall, but if you grew up with the film or are just fans of the dudes in shells then you really don’t have a lot to lose by checking these films out for the first, second, third, fourth or twentieth time. Except for the third film…you can really just skip that one. Recommended.
Review by Zach Demeter
Warner Home Video has given Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, collecting all four feature films, a couple fairly elaborate DVD and Blu-ray releases. With both featuring packaged-in extras, let’s take a look at how both of these sets fair up, starting with the DVD release.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition DVD release features all four movies packaged in a collectible zipper-close tin can, “zipper-close” meaning that a zipper is used to open and close said tin. Inside we get 20 pouches able to hold CDs and DVDs, with the first four slots taken up by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVDs and the remaining 16 empty. The tin is packaged in a cardboard case which, itself, fits snug into a plastic o-ring overlay. Promotional and disc content inserts, a sheet of temporary tattoos and four Ninja Turtles eyemasks, each featuring a color identical to that of our favorite half-shell heroes, are also included as packed-in extras for the collection. It’s worth noting that the package itself can be a bit cumbersome and difficult to successfully pack away if one of the packed-in goodies is slightly out of place, something I’m sure will frustrate many.
Those expecting any new content on the DVDs themselves will be sorely disappointed. The DVDs included feature nothing new whatsoever, and actually seem to be identical to the original release in every way, with only the discs themselves repressed with new artwork. The menus, the bonus features, the video and audio transfers, all of it is identical to the original DVDs release of all four movies. Basically, if you’re purchasing this collection, the only new content you’ll be getting is the packaging itself and the packed-in goodies, and nothing else. DVD Menu screens are available below.
Moving on to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, collector’s will get more for their buck here, especially with the new Blu-ray transfers for the first three movies and some great packed-in extras. All four discs, and the packed-in extras, are encased in a rather large pizza-style cardboard case. It’s a great looking package, but collectors will definitely need to treat it carefully given the standard-quality cardboard used and its tendency to be easily ripped or damaged.
Digging into the package, this Blu-ray collection comes with some pretty excellent goodies stashed inside. After digging past the standard promotional inserts, goodies include a black Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle beanie, an insert describing the disc contents, eight postcards featuring characters from the films, a sketch card, and a black & white comic book adaptation of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Personally, my favorite packed-in goodie is the comic book, as I found it to be a top-quality digest-sized reprint. Thankfully, all the packed-in extras are pretty easy to keep in place and shouldn’t cause too many problems when putting the Blu-ray release away on the shelf.
The new video transfers for the three original films are definitely a step-up from their previous DVD release, but are by no means reference quality. It should come as no surprise that TMNT is the best-looking film of the bunch, given the film’s recent release and digital-to-digital source material. The clarity and level of detail is astounding for the film, even with the occasional hint of color-banding and softness. The three original live-action films are given above-average transfers for the quality of the source material, but edge enhancement, artifacting and muted colors are pretty prevalent throughout each. The 1080p VC-1 encoded transfers are good, not great, but I sincerely doubt anyone expected a full-out remastering. While Warner Home Video should have put more effort in remastering the transfers of each film, especially the first one, what we get here is likely the best rendition of these movies we’ll likely see for some time.
Moving onto the audio, all four films receive a TrueHD 5.1 mix, and each movie sounds pretty amazing. TMNT sports the most aggressive mix, expectedly, but the three original films do get a solid go-around, too. In fact, watching the first film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with this new sound-mix really opens the film up more than I could have expected.
New Blu-ray disc bonus features are pretty limited with this release, with only theatrical and video game trailers rounding out the new content. No retrospective, commentaries, features, nothing, which, for a 25th Anniversary release, is pretty disappointing. Why couldn’t these films get the same treatment as Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997 or Superman: The Ultimate Collection? While these films may not be held up with the same esteem as the Batman or Superman films, this was a huge franchise with a worldwide fanbase. Surely they deserve to be treated with the same respect. At least some new featurettes would have been appreciated. To note, the bonus features from the first TMNT release are also included in this release. I suppose Warner Home Video thought fans would appreciate the packed-in extras more than new actual content featured on each disc. Back cover art for the Blu-ray collection is available below.
I would also like to add that while I like the packaging for the Blu-ray release, more-so than the cumbersome DVD release, why not package these discs in a more efficient manner? With many Blu-ray releases featuring four discs packed into one normal-sized case, why not go that route here? Both the Blu-ray release and DVD release take up a fair chunk of shelf space, and I’m sure those purchasing this collection would prefer a more compact release to save on shelf space.
Taking everything into account between both the DVD release and the Blu-ray release, I would definitely recommend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release for fans. For those who own the previous DVD releases of these four films, and have no plans to upgrade to Blu-ray, then there’s no real need to pick up the new DVD collection unless you want the packed-in extras. But, for those with Blu-ray capabilities, or looking to upgrade, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release. While the Blu-ray disc bonus content is lacking, the new audio/video transfers and packed-in extras are worth it, in my opinion. Coming Recommended, the Blu-ray release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition isn’t perfect, but it easily surpasses the DVD release and gives us the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles home video collection to date. With the movies looking better than ever, and some packed-in extras that are actually worth checking out, you can’t go wrong with the hi-def release of these beloved films.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Review by James Harvey