Film Face-off: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (2014) vs. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (1990)

Film Face-off: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (2014) vs. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (1990)

Aug 12, 2014

Thinking about our past is the key to our pleasure, not attempting to experience it again. With that said, this is a column called Film Face-off -- so we rewatched the 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in order to compare it to the 2014 live-action reboot of our favorite heroes in a half shell.


Splinter and the Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

A rat and four turtles are science experiments gone... right? They evolve to live underground and train in the ways of the ninja.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

A rat was raised by a ninja master and picked up some free lessons. He encounters four turtles and some toxic waste, which transforms them all.

Winner: 2014. First off, "Splinter and the Turtles" should be the name of a band. Moving on, we watched the 1990 version and there is never an explanation as to why a normal rat was able to observe and learn from his master Hamato Yoshi. There are plenty of leaps of faith that need to be taken in order to accept, let alone appreciate these films, but that's an odd oversight.

In the updated version there is definitely less comedy, and considering the level of jokes, that's a good thing. "And I thought insurance salesmen were pushy," is not something anyone could laugh with. The '90 turtles spew "awesome," "dude" and "righteous" a little too often even for that time period, with the update actually making a nice nod to that. Michelangelo is still the most immature of the group, Raphael is the toughest, Donatello is a technology wizard, and Leonardo is Leonardo. The new one features the voices of Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub, but they never really enhance the characters. Still, it was forgettable hanging out with the '14 gang, but never annoying. For the record, it's a shame Splinter is constantly tortured in these films.


April O'Neil

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

April (Megan Fox) is a TV entertainment reporter doing fluff stories, but desperate for more. In her free time, she's exploring an unknown group of criminals known as the Foot Clan when she stumbles upon the Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

April (Judith Hoag) is a TV reporter who is investigating an unknown crime group known as the Foot Clan. All she knows is teens might be involved. She bonks her head and Raphael decides to take her back to the Turtles' underground home.

Winner: 2014. Back in 1990, we never remember anyone talking about having a crush on Hoag during recess. Obviously, the same can't be said for Fox, but more importantly the '14 version doesn't abuse this. There are never lingering cleavage shots, and when Michelangelo and Vernon (Will Arnett) hit on her it's always inoffensive, accept when Vernon calls her a chick. That alone is a major leap for Fox, but she's also giving this role all she's got and that's not bad.

Hoag, meanwhile, is saddled with moments like being scared by a rat, and then -- get ready for it -- really scared when she first meets Splinter. She also keeps a journal, so there's an odd voiceover during the '90s film. As for the end, the times have changed (nicely). Now, women are part of saving the day instead of just being saved.


The Look

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

The Turtles, Splinter and most of the action is CGI.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The Turtles are costumes; Splinter is part puppet.

Winner: 2014 and 1990. It's a tie. Technology has come a long way. Now the turtles are given the motion-capture treatment and an insane amount of detail. The insane part is that they have sunglasses dangling along with so much other stuff that it almost becomes muddled in what you're actually seeing. The reason it's a tie is because the costumes and puppets look good, especially for 1990. The mouth movements aren't perfect, but Jim Henson is behind the look, and that's all that needs to be said. Knowing you could actually touch that Turtle (not a euphemism) gives '90 the tie.


The Villain(s)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Shredder is the leader of the Foot Clan. He's also the apprentice of CEO Eric Sacks (William Fichtner).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Shredder is the leader of the Foot Clan, which is made up poorly trained ninjas and teenage boys.

Winner: 2014. This was almost another tie. Every time Shredder fights in the '14 version, it's entertaining. The magnetic knives are a nice touch. The '90 Shredder gets to give a speech to teenagers about how their families don't love them, which is better (to laugh at) than anything the '14 Shredder says.


Product Placements and Pop-Culture References

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

There are many product placements and pop-culture references. The Turtles' pizza of choice is Pizza Hut.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

There are a few product placements and pop-culture references. The Turtles' pizza of choice is Dominos.

Winner: 2014. More is not better in this case. In fact, it's bizarre. The '90 version involves references to Critters, Jose Canseco, Rocky, Moonlighting, Gilligan's Island, Wayne Gretzky, Kodak, Mike Tyson, James Cagney and Grapes of Wrath. Just look at those last two again. The '14 version has Skype, and references to Karate Kid and the NBA Package. While those don't offer much, we don't have to sit through a turtle doing Cagney.


OVERALL WINNER: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) beats Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), 4-0-1.

Don't believe us? Please don't just try to remember the 1990 film -- watch the entire thing again. The 2014 one is forgettable and ordinary, but bad comedy is not nearly as painful to watch as typical action. If you need the original to win a category, it would have captured the "Lead Good Guy Who Is Not a Turtle." Elias Koteas is the right amount of crazy as Casey Jones, while Arnett's Vernon Fenwick eventually becomes tiresome. Both films have the same lesson, which is four turtles are better than one, especially when they are ninjas. That's not terribly important, but Paramount will keep making these films as long as they keep making money at the box office. Cowabunga?




Categories: Features, In Theaters
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