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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition (1990-2007)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/11/2009

All Ratings out of

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Video: 1/2

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time

Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2009

How often does a joke turn into a successful franchise? In the early 1980s, comic books were hot and there were several popular trends occurring. Thanks to Teen Titans and X-Men, there was an abundance of young heroes, and of course, the X-Men were mutants. Frank Miller had introduced ninjas into comics with his run on Daredevil and his own book, Ronin. Thus, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a spoof comic by taking these ideas and combining it with an animal which few think of as heroic, the turtle. Thus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was born, and soon proved to be quite popular. The adventures of the four turtles -- Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo -- attracted young and old alike. In 1987, an animated TV series premiered, and in 1990, the first Turtles theatrical film was released. This new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition contains all four theatrical films.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles introduces live-action turtles to the world, and serves as an introductory piece for the group. The evil Shredder (James Saito) has started a crime wave in the city, recruiting pick-pockets and thieves to join his "Foot Clan". The Turtles, assisted by reporter April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) and vigilante Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), must fight to stop Shredder while trying to stay out of the public eye.

Made for less than $14 million, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went on to gross over $135 million, and until the release of The Blair Witch Project was the most successful independent film ever. And at the time of its release, I remember really liking the movie. It walked a fine line between the comics and the TV show, as the Turtles were rowdy teenagers, but there was also a dark and violent side to the film. So much so that parents complained about the violence. Watching the film today, it still has its moments, and the Turtles are funny and charming, but this is also a silly movie with some really bad acting. The Turtles effects (done by Jim Henson's shop) still look good today, but the movie tries to hard to be hip and ends up all over the place.

For its Blu-ray Disc debut, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. When I started watching the movie, my daughters asked why it looked so bad. The image is very dark and grainy. This low-budget, 20 year old movie looks like just that, and at no point does it feel as if one is watching a Blu-ray (unless we assume that the Blu-ray is emphasizing the defects). The grain is incredibly thick and the action can't be seen in some shots. The image is also hazy and soft. The colors are OK, but the image is flat and simply disappointing. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. This is a pretty good track as it delivers good stereo and moderate surround. The bass is very prominent during the in-film music, and, I can't believe that I'm saying this, there's almost too much subwoofer at times.

The only extra on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Blu-ray Disc is the film's THEATRICAL TRAILER.

Following the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was promptly rushed into theaters a year later. April (now played by Paige Turco) does a story on a chemical company, TGRI, which is cleaning up a toxic wasted dump. Splinter (voiced by Kevin Clash), the Turtle's leader and surrogate father, recognize the "ooze" canisters, as it such an object which mutated the Turtles and himself. Shredder (Francois Shau) kidnaps TGRI scientist Jordan Perry (David Warner) in hopes that Perry can create mutants for him. Soon, the Turtles find themselves fighting not only the Foot Clan, but monsters as well.

Yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II will forever be remembered as that Turtle movie with Vanilla Ice. But, there is a little more going on here. It's obvious that the makers of the film realized that kids loved the Turtles and they listened to the parents in the audience. The violence and the mild bad language from the first film have been toned down and Casey Jones is gone. We are left with a movie with contains some action, but plays up the comedy aspects much more. The Turtles have more one-liners that fights. The real weak link here is not Vanilla Ice, but Ernie Reyes Jr., a young martial artist who is cast as an ally of the Turtles, but he simply can't act.

Fortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II looks better on Blu-ray than its predecessor. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at 1.7 Mbps. The image is somewhat dark, but nowhere near as dark as the first movie. The same can be said of the grain. The colors are better, the image has more detail, and it's nowhere near as flat. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 25 Mbps. As with the first disc, we get nice stereo and surround sound action here, most notably during the fight scenes. The subwoofer effects are good and they aren't as intrusive as the first film.

The only extra on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II Blu-ray Disc is the film's THEATRICAL TRAILER.

While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II wasn't the success that the first film was, it still manage to gross three times its budget. Despite the fact that Turtle-mania was on the downswing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time appeared in 1993. April finds an old scepter at a flea market, and it transports the Turtles back to 17th Century Japan. There, Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono) is fighting a rebellion with the assistance of British scoundrel Walker (Stuart Wilson). Once the Turtles adjust to time travel, they embrace their inner samurai and join the battle on the side of the rebels and peasants.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is an odd movie. The time-travel concept feels more like something which would have been done on the TV show than a feature film. Director Stuart Gillard, who has done most of his work on TV, gives the film a snail-like pace, and the cutting back and forth between the past and the present doesn't help. Elias Coteas returns as Casey Jones, but he's wasted here. The idea of taking the Turtles out of New York is a good one, as is the notion of the heroes using their martial art skills in ancient Japan, but little in this film works. However, I must admit that I did laugh when one of the Turtles called Lord Norinaga Wayne Newton.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is by far the best looking of the live-action films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The brightness of the image is appropriate and the colors look great. In fact, this looks so good that we can see the details of the Turtle suits, making them look fake. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. This is a solid track, as it provides good stereo and surround effects during the action scenes, and some nice bass when the subway rumbles by.

The only extra here is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Following Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, it would be 14 years before the Turtles made it back to the big-screen. But, thanks to a revival of the show and new interest in the franchise, the computer-animated TMNT came to screens in 2007. The movie comes much closer in tone to the comics. Artifact collector Winters (Patrick Stewart) is actually an immortal general who is attempting to resurrect his fellow soldiers, who were turned to stone thousands of years ago. Working with a ninja named Karai (Ziyi Zhang), Winters also needs to collect a group of monsters who have invaded New York. Meanwhile, the Turtles are dealing with their own problems. Leonardo has moved to South America (?!) and Raphael has become a masked vigilante called Nightwatcher. As the monsters, ninjas, and stone warriors run amok in the city, the Turtles will reunite to stop them.

Wow. Could this movie have a more confusing plot? It was so great to not only have the Turtles back on the big screen, but to have them so lovingly rendered in CG. But, the insanely complicated plot ruins everything. How many villains do they need to fight? On the positive side, the relationship between Leonardo and Raphael is well done and their rooftop fight is the highlight of the film. The voice cast is very impressive and the action scenes look great, but what is going on?

The TMNT Blu-ray Disc included in this set is exactly the same as the one released in August, 2007. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. This must have been taken directly from the digital source, because it looks great. The image is very crisp and clear, and shows a phenomenal amount of detail and depth. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track delivers very solid and highly detailed stereo effects which show great separation. The subwoofer effects are nicely done as well. However, the surround is a bit weak here.

As this is the exact same disc as the previous release, it has the same extras, which include an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Kevin Munroe, deleted scenes, storyboards, and animation test footage.

The set also includes a beanie (wool cap) with the Turtles logo, a mini comic book, and 9 post cards, all packed in a pizza box.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long