Welcome to another installment of Movies to Show My Son. This is the blog series were I discuss movies I can’t way to show my son in the future. I’ll be covering my own personal experience with the movie, movie and life lessons I hope he will learn, and lastly my concerns about showing said film. This week’s film is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Of all the properties I enjoyed as a kid the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the one I have the most nostalgia for by far. A big reason for this is just how much of my childhood it took up. I was the prime age when turtle fever hit and absorbed it as many ways as I could. I owned the toys, played the video games, watched the cartoons, and of course saw all the movies.
Doing this series I am beginning to realize how much I tended to prefer the inferior sequels when I was a kid. As an adult I could see how better the first film is compared to the Secret of the Ooze, but as a kid I love the opening sequence in Ooze where the turtles fought the bad ninjas using things like Yo-Yos and inflatable clowns. Looking back at it now it is clear that sequence set in motion the idea of using random items as weapons, which the Bourne series just completely stole with no remorse. Jason Bourne beating a man senseless with a folded up magazine clearly evolved from Michelangelo using sausage links to knock out a group of incoming thugs.
Sequences I loved as a kid make me cringe as an adult. At a younger more innocent age I jammed to the Vanilla Ice smash hit ‘Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!” loudly and proudly. Now as a man in his thirties I jam just as loud but not nearly as proud. Come on, you have to admit it is rather catchy. It’s in your head right now I guarantee it!
It was not until my teenage years when I began to appreciate how much better the original film was. As I grew older I began to find out more about what the turtles were outside Saturday mornings, and how much the original was shaped by the comic and not the wacky cartoon.
Age to Show:
It was not until the last few years that I learned about the controversy this film caused at the time of its release. Apparently many parents were angry over the level of violence and the fact that the turtles actually used their weapons, which shows the internet is not required for people to find ways to unnecessarily complain about something.
So maybe it makes me a bad parent but I have no issue showing my son this film around the age of six or seven. That’s when I watched it and I turned out okay…although it may explain my need to cut pizza with a giant samurai sword.
In all honesty this is not a greatly made film in any stretch of the immigration. This was a movie pushed forward simply to capitalize on the turtle craze at the time. It worked as this stands as the most lucrative independent film of all time. Yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an indie film.
Still, there is one key lesson to learn from this movie. The beautiful benefit of practical effects! Leave it to the brilliant mind of Jim Henson to create suits that hold up better today than the million dollar blockbuster movie that came out last year.
For one the turtles actually look like turtles and not Shrek on steroids. Children films today so rarely use practical effects in any way. Everything is done with CGI and to be fair sometimes it looks great. Pete’s Dragon that came out last year, for example, was a major improvement over the original movie.
That is the exception and not the rule when it comes to children films though. Last year we had the massive box office bomb that was Max Steel that had CGI so bad it made puppies cry. My hope is my son can see how much more physical weight exists with these classic suits compared to hallow computer graphics.
When a movie combines comic book superheroes, pizza, ninjas, totally awesome 90’s lingo, giant turtles, and a human-sized talking rat what lessons aren’t there to learn? All that was missing were pogs and a extreme sports montage to complete the 90’s pop culture checklist.
Outside of that there are some solid lessons regarding the importance of teamwork. Looking at the turtle team you can see each one has a specific main trait. The cartoon theme song sums it up pretty well; Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but crude, and Michelangelo, in turn, is a party dude.
Having all these different personalities leads to conflict and bickering. When they fail to overcome that conflict they face defeat. When Raphael tries to go on his own he does not find the answers he seeks. The only way for the turtles to defeat the Shredder was by coming together as brothers.
Hopefully, my son can use this as a lesson for the way he interacts with his friends, family, and classmates. Seeing that is natural to bicker and disagree, but when the time comes you have to be willing to put those problems aside and help one another to throw a man in cheap samurai armor into a garbage truck.
Chances are if you ask anyone who grew up in my generation they will have a specific ninja turtle that was their favorite.Sure you liked the team as a whole, but when recess time hit and you were going to play ninja turtles there was a specific turtle you would call dibs on before anyone else could. Chances are it was because you identified with that specific turtle based on their personality and interests.
For me it was Donatello. I was shy as a kid, I was interested in technology, and enjoyed being creative. So his character had an automatic appeal to me. My hope is my son will also have a character he relates to on that same level. There is no other present-day equivalent really to a team like the turtles. (At least to my knowledge). Where each character fits a specific role. So this movie gives him a chance he wouldn’t have with today’s current slate of kids movies and TV shows.
One issue I see with that hope is that the turtles in the film do not nearly separate themselves as much as they did in the cartoon. Donatello for example barely shows his love for machines and ends up being more of a watered down version of Michelangelo. My hope for him to find a character to relate to may be moot because of this failure.
In my mind, the practical effects of this film stand the test of time. Are my eyes deceiving me though? Am I being a stubborn old man yelling at these updated CGI effects to get off of my lawn? Maybe that is the case. I am open to that possibility. My eyes tell me differently though. Mostly because I will always trust the legendary Jim Henson over the killer of childhood memories Michael Bay.
My biggest concern comes from the main reason I want to show my son this movie. Sure there are lessons to be taught, but if I am being honest the main reason I want to show my son this movie is that I loved it when I was a kid. I hope he will love it the same way I did but that is asking a lot. For one the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are not nearly as important to him as they were for me. It’s the geek version of the dad who is trying to get his son into football because he loved it when he was a kid. Society largely condemns parents who try to live vicariously through their kids in that manner and cinema depicted in pristine fashion in the classic Varsity Blues.
When it comes to geek culture through most applaud parents who get kids like what they did or watch what they watched. Some even have an entire blog series dedicated to that exact thing. *Awkward Pause* What if he doesn’t want my geek life, but pushing a movie like this on him puts him in a weird place. I think the key is to not have any set form of expectations. Also to be open to what he likes and enjoys. Sharing what we love as individuals can be a great bonding opportunity, which is really the purpose.
I am sure when he is five or six he will have his own fad he will be obsessed with. The Turtles have proven they have staying power. Even today they have a popular cartoon. Still, they are not quite the worldwide sensations they were during my childhood. Maybe they will be. History has a tendency of repeating itself. I mean the biggest movies of the last few years have been Star Wars and Jurassic Park related. Ultimately the film itself can survive on its own merits. It may not have the same impact on him as it did on me and that is okay. At the very least he will understand a bit of the awesomeness the early 90’s had to offer.