Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: A crime wave is sweeping over New York City thanks to an underground criminal organization known as The Foot Clan. Led by a terrifying, mysterious figure known as The Shredder, The Foot is turning teens to a life of crime, and threatening anyone who stands in their way. The only people with the courage to stop them aren’t people at all, but rather four anthropomorphic young reptile brothers trained in martial arts by a mutated rat living in a sewer. They’re the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Did you know that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became the highest grossing independent movie of all time when it was released in 1990? It’s a title the movie would hold until The Blair Witch Project came along in 1999, and this was at a time when superheroes were just barely starting to become cool thanks to the arrival of Tim Burton’s Batman the year before. This is a movie that could only be made as we emerged from the 1980s, a decade when audiences were willing to buy into all sorts of monsters and creatures, including The Thing, Gremlins, Predator, and everything in between. It still holds up to this day, and feels even more realistic and gritty than some of the most grounded, dark superhero movies of the 21st century.

With the help of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, several skilled puppeteers, a handful of talented voice actors, and some of the most impressive stunt performers of their time, the comic book characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are brought to life in a way that satisfies fans of both the original comic book and the animated series that had grown in popularity at the time. The result is a movie that is full of truly outstanding action, especially when you consider how difficult it can be to maneuver in those turtle suits, some oddball humor for the kids, and just the right amount of adult drama.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of those weird properties that has somehow stood the test of time and remains popular to this day. But no iteration of the superheroes has topped what hit the big screen in this first movie. Even the sequels that followed started steering into territory that was too blatantly geared towards kids, which is why you’ll notice that the turtles barely use their signature weapons to fight the Foot Clan. It’s a movie that you couldn’t make the same way today, and I’m not sure anyone will be able to capture the characters in such a satisfying way ever again.

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