Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Review: Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Directed by: Randall Lobb.
Written by: Randall Lobb.

When fans make documentaries about the object of their fandom, there are a few different ways they can go. The recent Life Itself, about Roger Ebert, is a great documentary even if you don’t really know much about Roger Ebert, its message is universal. Turtle Power is more typical in that it will very likely only appeal to fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – and even then, will likely only appeal to die hards – which is part of the problem, because I wonder if there is anything really new in the documentary that die hards would not know. For someone like me, whose childhood revolved around the Turtles – the action figures, the TV show and the movies – but haven’t given them very much thought since I turned 12, the film worked as a nostalgic look back at something that meant the world to me as a child, and was an amusing way to spend a couple of hours. For people who don’t care about the Turtles, I cannot imagine the film being at all of interest.

The film pretty much covers the time period from when two comic book artists – Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird – met and created the Turtles as a comic book series mainly as a lark. They explain that they killed off Shredder – the main villain – in the first issue, because they never thought there would a second one. But the series proved popular, so they kept on going. It’s a pattern that would repeat itself a number of times during the height of the turtle’s popularity. The toy company thought they had a good, limited run on products – not knowing the toys would become a phenomenon. The TV series was only supposed to be a five episode miniseries – not one thought it would run for more than a decade. No studio wanted to make a live action movie out of the turtles – then it became a huge hit, and spawned two sequels. No one really believed they would last – after all, doesn’t something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound incredibly dumb?

The movie is easy on everyone involved – it’s basically a celebration of all things turtles, and director Randall Lobb doesn’t really ask anyone any tough questions. I’ve often wondered for example what the original comic creators – Eastman and Laird – thought of what their creation became. By all accounts, the original comics were darker and more violent than what the turtles became – a satire of, and homage to, the classic comics they both loved – certainly not something that someone like me – who was around 6 when the turtles became huge. Did they worry about selling out? Also, the pair had a falling out – which the movie mentions, but doesn’t explain. If Lobb even asks Eastman and Laird – who are featured quite prominently throughout the movie – there’s no evidence in the finished product. Instead, the movie celebrates the licensing and all the other money made by the turtles over the years.
The film is obviously coming out now to capitalize on the new, Michael Bay produced Ninja Turtles movie, coming out next month. I know it looks bad – and I was surprised by how angry I got when Bay announced the turtles would be aliens a few years ago. Even if I don’t think about the Turtles very often anymore, they still mean something to me – far more than other childhood favorites like GI Joe, Transformers, Thundercats or He-Man do to me today. A film like this is custom made for people like me. I liked it a great deal. It isn’t exactly a great movie – and if you don’t like the turtles, stay far, far away. But I had fun reliving part of my childhood. If I enjoy next month’s big screen version as much as I enjoyed this documentary, I’ll be happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment