What TMNT Means To Me: A Geeky Memoir

It looks like “Out of Shadows” is not doing well with critics with a dismal 31% of Rotten Tomatoes (which is still better than Batman Versus Superman, wrap your mind around that). But, it wasn’t a real surprise. When the trailer showcased a tank driven by a man-rhino suddenly pop out of a river, you know it was in trouble. But, honestly this movie is giving us exactly what we wanted.

Just like at the preview. It had Rocksteady and Bebop, something we never saw on the big screen, who look exactly like the source material down to the weird purple shades. It gave us the turtle van that shoots out manhole cover projectiles because of course everything needs a sewer theme. It gives us Casey Jones complete with hockey mask and puck. It even gave us Krang. What more could we want? We got just what we wished for and just like the classic story “The Mokey’s Paw” and its Simpson parody, it turned out awful (as in the situation in the story, the Simpson episode is amazing). But, did it have to be this way? Let’s take a trip back to the 90’s where I, and the nation, fell in love with these bastard abominations of science and wonder and pizza.

The Classic TV Show

I was all in with the classic 80’s TV show. It had such a great “freak of the week” formula that has been stolen by other comic book shows such as “Smallville” and “The Flash”. Each episode followed this equation: Mutagen + Random Thing = awesome villain. This random thing could be a bull, or a monkey, or a lion, or pieces of trash. It didn’t matter. It was like Gremlins 2 times 10000. I can picture the writer’s room going something like this

Writer 1: How about a bat?

Writer 2: Ok.

And then they wrote an episode. It wasn’t as flawless and simple as Power Ranger’s “Rita makes a monster out of clay then monster comes to life then monster become giant”, but it worked. Sidenote: Why didn’t Rita’s monster just come down giant at first, why did it have to wait?

And the toys from the show, oh the toys. I remember my first time I spend my allowance was 15 dollars on a TMNT helicopter. And it didn’t stop there. I had an ant dressed like a hangman, I had a lion in full armor and crown, I had a figure made of rotting garbage. And of course I had the endless variations of the turtles.  We literary had a skiing Michelangelo. Why? In what scenario of action figure fun would that make sense?

“Oh, no, April was kidnapped, better challenge Shedder to a downhill slalom”.

The Video Games

The TMNT arcade game was amazing. If you had a couple brothers or a couple friends you could tear those multi-color Foot Clan members up. I am glad the Foot color coded all their weapons to outfits.

Lead Foot Solider: Ok, your specialty is throwing stars and only throwing stars so here is your white outfit.

What was not amazing? The first NES game. Damn that dam level with its bombs and weird killer sea weed. I maybe made it beat it once. Also, a lot of these bad guys where not canon. Like the fire guy and weird flying manta rays. And the mousers looked nothing like the TV show, but like rhino beetles.

But, the next generation of gaming more than made up for it. “Turtles in Time” and “Hyperstone Hype” where both great and bought the arcade fun to our living room 90’s living room. There was something about being able to pick the turtle that best fit your personality. I always chose Donatello because he was the smart one, the same applies to my obsession with Ravenclaw in the Harry Potter series.

The Movies

I went to see “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” the live action film on opening weekend and have the stuffed Leonard to prove it. Even as a kid I was kind of disappointed. I thought the turtles looked great and fights were amazing to my 8 year old mind. The main problem was the Foot Clan. In the later shows and games the Foot were all robots (which I know made no sense. I mean if the Shedder could master a near perfect AI and robotics why not make billions on government military contracts?) and I thought that was amazing. So when they were swapped with homeless teenagers like a New York Oliver Twist I thought it was so lame.

TMNT 2 was no better in my mind because of the villains. A wolf and a snapping turtle? Why? Not only did you have Rocksteady and Bebop to put on the big screen, but 100’s of toy influenced bad guys. And yet you picked a wolf man wannabe and a turtle that YOU DIDN’T EVEN NAME SLASH EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS A CHARACTER IN THE SHOW.

But, nothing is worst than Turtles 3: Turtles in Time. Again, they had the richest source material: years and years of TV shows and comics. Did we get Krang or Dimension X? No. Did we get Baxter or mousers? No. We got them going to feudal Japan with no familiar villains or allies. And I still saw it in theaters.

The Now

I remember seeing the newest Ninja turtles movie at home on my tablet via Hulu. I was folding laundry, a now major task with dealing with my wife’s, son’s, and daughter’s clothes. I don’t know if the magic was gone, but my maturity made it harder to watch. But, if I was 8 I would have loved it more than the original. The fights were better, the turtles looked like mutants, and Megan Fox had the other O’Neals bet. Just like all the 90′-stalgia it has dulled with age and we will never get it back. It was exactly what Fitzgerlad said at the end of “The Great Gatsby” : “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”


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