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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

They're the world's most fearsome fighting teens! (They're really hip!) They're heroes in the half-shell AND they're green! (Get a grip!)


Golly, this intellectual property was such a HUGE part of my childhood. The cartoon, the movie, the four player arcade game I spent SO many quarters on at the roller rink. (The "shell shock" noise still haunts me.) And it was one of the first things I really remember my parents relenting on in terms of tomboy stuff I loved. As usual, the boys at school said I could play with them, but I had to play April. (This theme would be revisited with so many games.) But I wasn't having any of it. Leo or nothin'. Mixed in with my pastel clad Barbies were grimmacing mutated amphibians and I loved them and their tiny plastic weapons. Leonardo and Michaelangelo were my favorites (Leo had TWO swords! And Mikey wore orange, my favorite). Donatello would be my crush. In the cartoon, very intelligent and dorky. In the movie, dorky and bringer of snacks. Hi there.


I'm shocked at how well this holds up (with the painful exceptions of some Asian stereotypes and a gay "joke"). The pacing is great, the jokes are dumb but with enough winking that it works, the creature effects are incredible. I can't get over the smoothness of the animatronics. Splinter's lips curve appropriately with his speech! Come. On.

(The length of this shot cracks me the hell up. It belongs in the Predators credit montage. SO CASUAL.)


The human characters are kind of remarkable. This viewing made me wish that I had seen more of the credits on Judith Hoag's IMDB page. She brings a bright eyed, intelligent feistiness to April O'Neil and I love every moment she's on screen. Imagine, a female lead who doesn't need to be a sex pot in skimpy clothes (she's adorable!)! Elias Koteas as Casey Jones is a delight. I'm tempted to say I wish he was in the film more but honestly, it's perfect. Any more and he'd get boring. AND BABY SAM ROCKWELL! I will watch anything that man is in. Anything. And you know why? Galaxy Quest. But we're not there yet.


But now, for me, this movie really belongs to Splinter. The puppet is stunningly brought to life. The eyes, so expressive. Full of character with just the tilt of the head. I'm not a huge fan of Raphael as a character so I've previously zoned out in scenes with Raph drama but tonight... Near the beginning of the movie, Splinter calls Raphael over to him and says the following:

"I have tried to channel your anger, Raphael, but more remains. Anger clouds the mind. Turned inward, it is an unconquerable enemy. You are unique among your brothers, for you choose to face this enemy alone. But as you face it, do not forget them, and do not forget me. I am here, my son." Isn't that kind of beautiful? He sees his son so clearly and without judgment. He hurts for him because he's struggling and he can't fight that battle for him. And then he gives an open invitation. "I am here." What a powerful example of love in a movie about mutated turtles.


For a tight, 93-minute movie, there is so much fondness for the characters and what (mostly) feels like earned growth. Each character has dimension and motivation and honestly, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I've cut Danny short shrift. I always dismiss his character as being a whiny, mopey, MISUNDERSTOOD teenager trope but, isn't that what being a teenager felt like? I'm a bit removed from that time in my life *cough* but while that angst felt deep and unique, I'm sure from the outside it looked just as two dimensional as Danny's. His interactions with Splinter are, while brief, lovely in their sincerity. When you feel totally adrift in the world, why not make friends with the sentient, giant rat your boss is keeping prisoner?


And couldn't we all use a sentient, giant rat friend?


Clay, acrylic paint, wood.




Takeaways:

-Objectively speaking, the best parts of the movie are Splinter's flashbacks. Especially him learning ninjutsu in his cage. Ben and I regularly do little rat kata at each other with tiny "hyah!" yells. I planned on doing a sculpt of regular rat Splinter but I so love his fully matured face, I decided to split the difference. I'm not mad about it.

-This was only the second piece I've sculpted and I *really* enjoyed it. I found it meditative (once I really got going...) and soothing. Definitely a medium I want to explore more, lots to learn. I was maaaaaaaaaybe a bit ambitious with this pose - he got a little smooshed in the oven in places.

-Sculpting in this scale (he's about 6" tall) was a treat. I do not enjoy painting in this scale though. I missed my minis the whole time I was painting this guy.


All right! I'm just about caught up so expect a Mortal Kombat blog post soooon!


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