Blast from the Past Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
The very first episode of Myopia: Defend Your Childhood discussed the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, for our first anniversary podcast, we discussed its 1991 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. So listen to the podcast here and see my thoughts below...
It turns out the villainous Shredder (Francois Chau) did not die at the end of the first TMNT film. He reasserts his control over the Foot Clan and vows revenge on the Turtles who defeated him in the last film. The mysterious ooze that created Splinter, the Turtles, etc. becomes a bone of contention--and the source of dangerous new foes. The Turtles, their master Splinter, and reporter friend April O'Neill (Paige Turco) join forces with eager young pizza boy Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr) to stop the new threat...
This film is notable for a lengthy appearance by rapper Vanilla Ice, BTW.
*The movie is often quite stupid (I'll get to that later), but it's never boring.
*There were complaints about the original film being too violent, so they made this one more lighthearted. Sometimes this was stupid (the lack of weapon use by anybody), but the opening goofy fight scene was pretty entertaining.
*Raphael retains his tendency from the first movie to run off by himself, but this time around he puts these tendencies to good use--he independently infiltrates Keno into the Foot to spy on them.
*Ernie Reyes Jr. is explicitly described as doing his own fights in the credits. Good on the film for casting an actual martial artist to do martial arts.
*David Warner does a good job as Professor Jordan Perry, the scientist involved in the initial creation of the ooze years before. He has a couple really good smart-aleck moments, including at least one when he's a captive of the Foot. Seriously, he manages to get away with being all smarter-than-thou with the Shredder.
(Or maybe he didn't--we do see him tied up later.)
*I liked the attention to detail early on when Keno takes on a bunch of burglars and the Turtles show up to help him fight the rest. The Turtles take pains to pay for the pizza they took from him while he was incapacitated (by being stuffed into a trash can).
*The filmmakers also remembered Tatsu (Toshishiro Obata), Shredder's lieutenant, and show him commanding the Foot in Shredder's absence. His role in the organization is elaborated on--we see him as Shredder's field commander as well as his earlier role as the trainer of ninjas.
*The police chief that April doesn't get along with makes another appearance in this one.
*Tokka, the mutated snapping turtle, is pretty cool looking and still held up.
*Where's Casey Jones? He was a very important character in the original film, plus over the course of the movie he managed to woo April. Yet in this movie there's no mention of him whatsoever. Keno serves a rather similar role in the sense of being an aspiring crime-fighter (he attempts to make a citizens' arrest of some burglars and manages to subdue several before more show up) who allies with the Turtles, but he's less effective. Given how they were willing to recast April, if Elias Koteas wasn't available for this one (he did appear in the third film), they should have recast him or, failing that, explained why he was gone.
Given how he deliberately killed the Shredder (activating the compactor when the Shredder fell into the garbage truck at the end of the first movie) and Nick thought he might be in jail for murder, maybe a throwaway line about how he's crashing at April's family's house from the first movie until the heat dies down?
*Why did they replace Judith Hoag as April? Paige Turco doesn't do a bad job, but she does look awfully young for someone who's a respected New York television reporter.
*There's some serious Narm in this movie. When Shredder is angry that the new mutants Tokka and Rahzar have diminished intelligence, he straight-up roars "THEY'RE BABIES!" Pretty much everybody in the podcast crew broke out laughing. You'll probably see some of this on the podcast itself. Yes, this is a kid's movie and the goal was to be more lighthearted than the original, but there was plenty of lightheartedness in the film elsewhere.
*The Turtles only rarely use their weapons. Donatello uses his staff a couple times, but that's about it. They don't even use their weapons against objects like cutting themselves free of a net in one scene.
*Tatsu is absolutely wasted as a character. I swear, there're multiple scenes where the Foot ninjas fight the Turtles and he just stands around looking either disgusted or angry. To be Shredder's second-in-command he must be a fierce warrior himself and Obata, according to the TMNT Wiki is a martial-artist and champion swordsman. He could have been a very impressive secondary-boss type enemy to the Turtles, but in the one scene he actually fights, he's disposed of immediately in the most ridiculously stupid way.
*Speaking of standing around during fights, the Foot's capability as ninjas seems to vary as the plot demands. In one scene they mob and subdue one of the Turtles, but other times they engage the larger, stronger Turtles one at a time and at one point allow them to huddle and plan the fight rather than swarm them. Not only Tatsu, but Shredder himself just sits there watching the Foot fight even when they're losing.
*Despite being a journalist (which doesn't pay well unless you're much, MUCH higher on the food chain than April is) and living in notoriously-expensive New York City, April has a very, very nice apartment and no roommates. In the first movie she was living over her father's old store--in the aftermath of the Foot attack, did she sell the property and use the money to get a better place?
There's an article I found once about how movies and TV do people a disservice by showing those in low-paying professions living in housing they couldn't possibly afford in real life, and this might be an example. The 2014 film establishes April's roommate as a character, albeit a minor one. If April had a roommate or roommates, her hiding the Turtles would get a lot more interesting (and complicated). Are the Turtles helping pay the rent?
*Keno's first encounter with Splinter is kind of ridiculous. The Turtles didn't unduly faze or frighten him the first time, but Splinter does?
*When the Shredder returns and seems to be at least partially unmasked, one of the remaining Foot ninjas makes some comment about his face. Shredder himself also comments about wanting to punish the Turtles for damaging his face. Thing is, all we see is a cut above an eyebrow. When the Shredder unmasks himself at the climax of the first film, we see scarring caused by pre-mutation Splinter's attack on him. Whatever damage the events of the first movie did to his face, it doesn't seem enough to justify his minions' horror and his own anger.
Just see the first one. 5.0 out of 10.0.