Confused Views: All the good ones end in ‘o’
Matt ponders the inspirational power of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and wonders why the definitive cut of the original live-action film has never appeared on disc...
I'm not violent. The very idea of being punched makes me urinate. But even as someone who would sooner make love than war, I can accept that there is very little in life that is more exciting to watch than a decent fight. I'm not talking drunken louts rolling around in the street, posturing for the best position to fire in a bout-ending nut-punch, outside of a dreary pub. And while I'm partial to a well choreographed cine-scrap, that's not really what I'm talking about here either.
I like real fighting, as fought by skilled professionals. That's why I like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a sport and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as the biggest and arguably best MMA organisation. I've written about MMA on this site before and I think I've made it clear that I think it's top banana.
The UFC recently held an event in London and, in an effort to quench my apparent thirstin' for hurtin', I slunk along for a watch. One of the fighters I was most looking forward to seeing was British fighter Dan Hardy. Hardy is a guy I like. He interviews well, is funny and always puts on a decent show, win or lose. Also, unlike many fighters who'll tell you they started fighting to silence the demons that were torturing their soul (which is code for 'I like to punch people in the face because God loves me'), Hardy took up martial arts when he was a kid because he liked the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.
I did that. I took karate lessons as a kid because I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle (specifically, Raphael). We started at the same the point on the same path. There but for the grace of God, or rather a wealth of talent, dedication and courage, go I.
It looks like an incredibly painful road to travel. At this UFC event Dan Hardy got knocked out right in the face and it looked really, really ouchful. This is something that Leonardo and the gang neglected to tell the likes of me and Dan Hardy about.
Of course, my story of a brief fling with martial arts as a result of hero worshipping the Ninja Turtles is a common one. I'm sure most lads my age have a near identical tale that ends up with a discarded white belt and a comfy spot in front of the television watching the cartoon exploits of the green-shelled gang. Unlike most, I've never outgrown that spot on the sofa, watching Leo and co. put their foot to the Foot. I've never grown up. Sort of like a real life Peter Pan (but nothing like Michael Jackson).
It's lucky that I got into the Turtles as a kid .because as an adult I think I might have found the concept to be a touch too mad. Seriously, they're teenagers, who are mutants, who are ninjas, who are turtles.
A few other things seem a little odd to me now, that I think I would be unable to overcome were I not overflowing with liquid nostalgia. For a start, I don't get the weapons. Leonardo has two swords, Raphael has big, spiky fork things. How was no one ever decapitated or impaled? (Unimpressively, I am aware that this doesn't apply to the comics or even the later TV series, where *Spoiler alert* Leonardo genuinely cuts Shredders head off, in a children's cartoon.)
Donatello was a little easier to accept because he just had a big stick, and Michelangelo just a little stick chained to another little stick. But even then, you'd think that a highly trained martial artist would cause some serious head trauma.
Oh, plus, I'm not sure that I'd have been able to make peace with the idea of Krang, the weird brain alien in a robot suit.
The first film, in particular, holds a great significance for me and I still take a great amount of enjoyment from watching it.
The turtles themselves looked and sounded great. The turtle suits, courtesy of the Jim Henson Creature Shop, were never bettered in the series. (Check out the horrific versions used in the brain-scarringly bad third entry in the series for an example of how awful they could have looked.) The voices in the first film are also pretty much perfectly selected, with Corey Feldman's nasal Donatello being a particular highlight.
If the voice cast were good, the acting cast were better. Judith Hoag and Elias Koteas (who seems to be in literally everything I see now, including everyday life, thanks to a vivid imagination and a very strained relationship with reality) are both genuinely good actors whom can see here putting in good work opposite men dressed as hybrid human-turtles and a wise elderly man-rat.
A keen eye will also spot early appearances by hybrid human-legend Sam Rockwell and Skeet ‘Where is he now?' Ulrich.
The film zips along at a nice pace, which helps immensely when some other elements appear a little aged. (Yes, scored music, I'm referencing you.) The humour in this film also works well. You get occasional bits of silliness in a film that otherwise has a fairly serious tone, where, in the sequels, the silliness tends to hack into the plot and bleed messily all over the tone.
I do find it a bit baffling that there's yet to be a solid DVD/Blu-ray package for this film. While the Blu-ray boxset in America looked very nice and had lots of pleasant novelty doodahs packaged in with it, the discs themselves featured little more than a nice transfer and a couple of adverts (excluding the underated recent CG film, which was packed with conten,t but doesn't really count here).
Where's the alternative ending? It's in Germany, that's where, along with a director commentary and couple nunchuck trimming alternate takes, as well. But if these things can end up on a German special edition, couldn't they have found their way onto the US Blu-ray editions too? Boo!
What I really want to see included on an uber-edition Turtles Blu-ray extravaganza is some of the more wacky things that happened involving pizza-scoffing reptilian rascals. Like, remember the time the Turtles took their band on a tour of America? I don't mean in a film or a cartoon. I mean the Coming Out of Their Shells tour, where they performed songs in front of an audience. The Turtles did. They performed songs. To a paying audience. And I want to own it in high definition. Obviously.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to trying to hunt down a copy of this Japanese spin-off of the old Turtles cartoon, since no DVD company feels this would make an appropriate DVD extra.
Obviously, watch it all, but certainly check out the bit a minute and eleven seconds in, where the Turtles use some crystals to turn into a giant robot.