Monday, March 26, 2007


I read the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Or TMNT for short) when I was in Primary 6. A friend brought in the black and white comic book and we crowded around to read it as he carefully turned the pages while supporting the spine in his other palm. (This was back when we thought that comic books were worth their collective weight in gold and we tried our best to keep them in "mint" condition.) I recall thinking how cool it was and without the articulation and the cultural studies baggage that came with university, I didn't think anything about the parody of (Orientalist) pop cultural references of the 1980s that was Eastman and Laird played off.

Almost 20 years down the road (has it been that long?) I watched the fully CGI-ed version of TMNT on the big screen. And has my opinion of the franchise changed with the aforementioned baggage?


It was AWESOME! I realise that I'm saying (writing) this knowing full well that a counter-cultural comic has become such a mainstream movie, but I really did walk out of the theater thinking how nicely my childhood memory of the Ninja Turtles showed up on the big screen.

Now, note that I'm not a fan of the turtles that became (chronologically) a cartoon series, a comic book by the publishers of Archie and 3 movies with actors in rubber suits. I'm a fan of the dark and gritty Ninja Turtles that bled black on the comic books and wore the uniform red headbands. Back when the Shredder was menacing and the threat of death and change were very real themes in the plots. (The turtles, in a plotline were chased out of New York city by The Foot) These were the Turtles that I remember.

The movie brought me back to it.

Labelled by the critics as a hollow reboot of the franchise, admittedly, the film is flashy and not very substantial in itself. The plot is relatively simplistic (beat bad guy, save the world) but I would argue that the plot really isn't the point. The theme of family and the coming together of said family is the real focus of this film while the plot itself is inconsequential. This is illustrated that the pivotal fight scene of the show is not the final fight between the forces of good and evil but the quarrel between two brothers that ends up as a rooftop fight that blew me away.
This was the continuation of the tension that was hinted at (and sometimes outrightly thrown in your face) between Leonardo, the level headed leader and Raphael, the hot headed idealist. This was the continuation of the comic franchise that I grew to love in the 1980s.

This was what TMNT was to me. Cool. Dark. Whole. Complete.

And not a rubber suit in sight.


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