The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has been capturing the admiration of fans for 35-plus years and shows absolutely no sign of stopping any time soon. From their debut on the black and white pages of a comic book, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, & Michelangelo have worked together to take down their foes using the martial arts techniques that they learned from their father, Master Splinter. Since then, these goofy brothers have been adapted countless times on film and television, both in live-action and in animation, with a new film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, set to open in theaters this summer.
Updated July 1, 2023: If you’re a fan of this mighty foursome, then you’ll be glad to know that this article was updated recently by Amanda Minchin.
The film has a lot to live up to, as the first live-action feature film featuring the heroes in a half-shell cast a large shadow. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released in 1990, during the run of the original TV series. Led by Steve Baron, this adaptation would see the brothers take on the Foot Clan on the mean streets of New York City. It was a breakout hit for a time, becoming the highest-grossing independent film of all time. Let’s take a look at why families should add this cult classic to their movie-night rotation.
TMNT is Fun For Children
While the original comics did feature graphic violence, the franchise would pivot towards family-friendly content over time. Kids enjoy the different personalities that the turtles display, often identifying with at least one of the central characters. Whether it be the determination of Leonardo, the intelligence of Donatello, the anger of Raphael, or the humor of Michelangelo, kids everywhere can always relate to their favorite brother.
The film also debuted in the middle of the original animated series’ run, which of course, led many a child at the time to ask their parents to take them to the theater to see their favorite ninja brothers come to life. Getting to see April O’Neil, Master Splinter, Casey Jones, and even Shredder in the ‘real world’ seemed nothing short of an awe-inspiring feat. It features a level of grit that gives off adult vibes, but the Turtle’s colorful personalities make sure it never gets too dark. It is a great intro film into more mature superhero stories.
TMNT is Nostalgic for Adults
Many of the kids who saw the film when it first came out now have children of their own. With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise still going strong, parents may decide they’d like to show their children the series’ roots. When these parents turn on the film, they’ll be taken back to the ’90s with the old-school cinematography and the gritty looks of New York City.
Given that modern adaptations of the Turtles have had significant changes, such as Raphael losing his sai in favor of tonfas, and Michelangelo using a yo-yo weapon instead of his classic nunchaku, parents will be happy to see the turtles being shown as they were initially intended. While some characters aren’t featured in the original film, such as Bebop & Rocksteady, or Shredder’s granddaughter, Karai, there are some original characters introduced who act as the gateway for any new fans.
Jim Henson Designed The Costumes
The TMNT franchise has gone through its share of ultra-trendy attire. The titular turtles are in suits that blend in with their 90s-esque surroundings. Created by Jim Henson, they were rather advanced for their time, if not a bit of a nightmare for the wearers. The lifelike appearance they pulled off came at the cost of excessive weight, claustrophobia, heatstroke, and, of course, a hefty price tag. In many ways, this has been the iconic look of the team, and when the characters made their appearance in the DC video game Injustice 2, the characters were modeled after the 1990 film as opposed to the comics or the then-recent 2014 Michael Bay produced films.
Another thing this movie did exceptionally well at the time was re-establishing the turtles and their human companions in a real-life space. April O’Neil, for example, is rarely in the same yellow jumpsuit. Instead, she’s dressed in a range of themed separates that give off the same vibe. Casey Jones also maintains his grunge vibe even without his ripped sweats.
A Practical Introduction to Self Defense
While some will be turned off by the violence featured throughout the film, most will be happy to see that Master Splinter generally asks his sons not to go seeking trouble. Instead, he encourages them to use their martial arts skills to defend themselves and others. While some parents don’t agree with violence in children’s media, some are open-minded to the idea that their children can learn self-defense and become more active by practicing martial arts. While children probably should not be wielding katanas and said, they may be inspired by seeing their favorite heroes standing up to their opponents.
In reality, there are many families that come together by sharing a love for martial arts. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may be an easy way to start a discussion with children on essential values, such as self-defense, self-control, confidence, and, in some cases, a healthy competitive spirit. Seeing the turtles stand up for their friends and protect one another even during an ambush helps paint a positive image that while they may be different, they can still use a practical means of self-defense that could be learned by anyone.
TMNT Demonstrates Core Family Values
Modern-day families are more mindful of the positive messages imbibed in this film. One important aspect that is taught throughout, for example, is teamwork. When faced with heavy opposition, the turtles always have a better chance at victory when they work together. Time is devoted to the turtles growing closer as a family and bonding as they spend time together on April’s farm. Even Raphael and Leonardo were able to set their differences aside after fearing they may have lost one another due to the very real injuries they suffered at the hands of Shredder.
Another important message comes from, of all places, the evil Shredder and his gang. They use children, mostly rebels and runaways, to fill their ranks, giving them an unforeseen purpose… And stocking their lair with all the hippest gear to keep their ‘staff’ entertained in the process
This film shows just how easy it is for a kid to be led astray by shiny objects and the promise of place, much in keeping with the fables of old. And, in a very Pinocchio-like twist, by the time the film’s finale rolls around, this movie demonstrates how a person led astray can still rise above the mistakes of their past to create a better future for themselves and others. CommonSenseMedia has the recommended age set to 8 years or older. Honestly, though, parents should be more concerned about all merchandise their children will want after watching this movie.
Financial considerations aside, there are plenty of examples of growth and maturity featured throughout the film. It’s chock-full of full of key moments that demonstrate essential life and values for a growing family… just be sure to keep any katana like objects out of reach. With a brand-new film on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before kids will once again clamor to see their favorites on screen in any way they can!