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JayDee's Movie Musings

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We've gone on holiday by mistake
Not sure that I've ever seen The Crow all the way through, will have to watch it again given you re high review.
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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
I know we got 2 for one but that was epic and great
Thanks nebbsy. Always a treat when you drop by.

You present the case of a true fan. Even though I admit I never cared for it.
Thanks GS. And that's a shame you've never particularly taken to it. Out of interest what age were you when you first saw it?



I'll kill anyone who get's in the way of me killin
i think i saw this at the movie theater somewhere around 8 times when it first came out and was already a fan of the comics, having seen the originals here in detroit through dark horse comics (an underground publisher at the time) and was, and remain to be VERY impressed with the entirety of this movie. DAMN FINE review, jay

also, let me add another DAMN FINE to the Hellboy reviews. I'm a huge fan of del Torro and his fantastical brilliance he brings to his movies. There is a lot of love there in that man for his art and he really expressed it with hellboy and i firmly agree, Perlman was frickin perfect at hellboy



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave

mirror
mirror

Year of release
2008

Directed by
Jon Favreau

Written by
Mark Fergus / Hawk Ostby
Art Marcum / Matt Holloway

Starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Jeff Bridges
Terrence Howard
Gwyneth Paltrow
Shaun Toub

Iron Man

++

Plot - Tony Stark (Downey) is a scientific genius, a billionaire, a playboy extraordinaire and son of legendary inventor and weapons contractor Howard Stark. While giving a weapons presentation in Afghanistan, the convoy he is riding with comes under attack from enemy combatants. During the attack he is severely wounded by an explosion which leaves him with a chest-full of shrapnel. When he awakes he finds himself held captive in a cave by Afghani rebels, with a car battery attached to his heart being the only thing keeping him alive. When the terrorists holding him order him to construct one of his company's missiles, Stark instead uses the materials to build an armoured suit which he uses to escape. Returning to America he refines both the technology keeping the shrapnel from his heart, and the armour. His time in captivity has changed him however and he no longer wants his company to be in the business of producing weapons. This decision brings him into contention with the board of directors and his second in command Obidah Stane (Bridges). With the help of his assistant Pepper Potts (Paltrow), Tony Stark has vowed to become a better man, starting with becoming the superhero known as Iron Man.

Spider-Man. Thor. The Hulk. Captain America. Wolverine. The X-Men. The Fantastic Four. Daredevil. Perhaps even Blade after his forays onto the big screen. Pre-2008 all of those Marvel individuals and teams were arguably more popular than Iron Man, and they certainly had a larger awareness in popular culture. I mean exactly who the hell was Iron Man? Had the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz had an upgrade and got his own spin-off? Who was this guy and why should we care? He was certainly a B-level character, if even that! Well that all changed in May of 2008 with the release of this film. After the film had completed its box-office run and racked up an impressive total of $585 million the character was well on its way to leap-frogging all the way to the top, with arguably only Spider-Man rivalling his popularity, certainly in cinema terms. And in fact you could perhaps argue that Iron Man has actually surpassed Spidey at the cinema considering that no Spider-Man film has ever made over a billion dollars like Iron Man 3 did. Not only did it prove to be a big film for the character of Iron Man, but I think it was a big film for Marvel and comic book movies at large. Iron Man was the first comic book movie that didn't include Spider-Man, the X-Men, Batman or Superman to make serious money, and it just confirmed the rampant appetite that audiences currently had for superheroes. It was no longer just the big names that everyone already knew that were ripe for the big screen. It also augured well for Marvel's ambitious plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Up until that point some people may have thought of it as being an ill-advised and overly ambitious project but this confirmed that it may well work. And as it turned out it certainly did. Iron Man marked the beginning of 'Phase One' which would culminate in the box-office behemoth that was The Avengers.

While the film has a lot going for it, without a doubt it is the performance of Robert Downey Jr that really ensured that I and many other people fell in love with it. Back in 2007 when it was announced that he had been cast I thought it was a great decision that showed both vision and a bit of bravery. Given that Downey and Tony Stark seemed like kindred spirits I thought he would be able to do an excellent job at capturing the arrogance and swagger of the character, of handling his acerbic and witty humour and of relating to the character's search for redemption. In the film, following his escape from capture Tony Stark decides that after seeing first-hand the dangers of his weapons he is going to dedicate himself to making the world a better place and attempts to prove to everyone that he is a changed individual. While it may not have reached the same lofty heights, Robert Downey Jr found himself in a similar predicament. After his much publicised problems (drug abuse, arrests, rehab, relapses) which were very much aired in public Downey had a lot to prove. He had to prove that he could still be a draw at the box office, that he could be trusted with such a big film and that he could be trusted to be the face of a franchise going forward. So while I may thought that Marvel had pulled off a bit of a masterstroke with his casting even I couldn't have imagined just how perfect a fit he would be however. He absolutely sparkles throughout the whole film, tackling the character with a tremendous charisma. And his charisma is important because on his own the character may not be the most easily likeable given his ego and narcissistic nature. Downey however brings depth, heart and lots of humour to the role. In the words of Jon Favreau he thought Downey would be perfect because he felt the actor's past was right for the part. He commented: "The best and worst moments of Robert's life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That's Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic book character having trouble in high school, or can't get the girl." Favreau also felt Downey could make Stark "a likable b*stard", but also depict an authentic emotional journey once he won over the audience.” Of all the actors who have portrayed superheroes on film I think Downey is the gold standard thus far.

While it's certainly Robert Downey Jr's performance that will bring the audience in and resonate most strongly, the efforts of the whole cast are on the whole fairly impressive. The great Jeff Bridges is damn good in the role of Obidah Stane, initially as Tony's reasonably genial business partner and later displaying a substantial amount of sleeze and menace. I may not be a huge fan of hers but I thought Gwyneth Paltrow was also pretty good here, and had a nice, easygoing chemistry with Downey. In the role of Rhodey I thought that Terrence Howard was decent but a bit bland, and I didn't feel it was any great loss when he was replaced for the sequels with Don Cheadle. The other great performance I thought came from Shaun Toub as Yinsen, Tony's saviour and fellow captive in the cave. He may not be in the film for a substantial amount of time but he made a sizeable impact in my eyes with a very warm, compassionate performance. As a result of his showing I also found the death of his character to be very touching. Oh and Iron Man sees the first appearance of the charming Clark Gregg on his way to stardom as Agent Phil Coulsen. Originally it was a much smaller role, so much so that his character was initially only called 'Agent.' During filming however it became apparent how much chemistry he had with all the other actors, so more and more scenes were added for him, and he would eventually become a large part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Film Trivia - You might think that Iron Man is one of those films that had to wait for technology to catch up before it could be produced. As it turns out however the film has been languishing in development hell since April of 1990. At the times the rights were held by Universal who had Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) lined up to direct. Nothing came off it however and in 1996 the rights were acquired by 20th Century Fox. During this stage Nicholas Cage expressed a strong interest in the project but again there was no positive moment. Two years later Tom Cruise became interested in both producing and starring in the film, and was so keen on becoming Tony Stark that he actually commissioned a script by Stan Lee and Jeff Vintar. Despite this it still couldn't make its way into production. In 1999 Quentin Tarantino of all people was approached to direct but once again there was no progress. In 2000 the rights were taken over by New Line, who had a new script in hand and actually started talking to Joss Whedon about directing but that didn't pan out. In 2004 Nick Cassavetes was attached to direct but the project yet again fell through, and the rights finally reverted back to Marvel.
Of all the many comic book movies out there (and there have been many great ones in my eyes) very, very few have come close to matching the sheer spirit of comics like Iron Man was able to. For me a superhero film should above all else be fun. It should welcome with open arms the fantastic and pulpy nature of the material. It shouldn't try to dress it up and make it 'respectable' or 'overly serious' like I felt Christopher Nolan was guilty of at times. And Iron Man certainly does embrace the fun of its premise. It's a brightly-coloured, breezy world of larger-than-life characters and out-of-this-world events. I also loved the fact that its character had a different attitude than most of the other superheroes at the time. In the years previous to Iron Man we had seen the likes of Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Wolverine all having a pretty tough time at being heroes; struggling with the pressure of keeping their true identities secret, struggling to form relationships, suffering personal tragedies, even abandoning their alter-egos etc. Well when Tony Stark becomes Iron Man he completely embraces it. The moment where he first takes to the skies in the suit is fantastic; he just looks so happy, like a giddy kid. And then there's the film's great send-off where instead of hiding his dalliances in the suit he comes straight out and announces loud and proud that yes “I am Iron Man!”

The fact that Iron Man is nowhere near as dark, serious or 'adult' as The Dark Knight (which was released in the same summer) means that people might not appreciate or expect just how 'good' a film Iron Man actually is. It's often been the case that the best superhero films are those which are just as strong or even stronger when they're concerning themselves with the man inside the suit, rather than the suit itself. And thanks to a sharp and witty script Iron Man most certainly falls into that category. While the film may truly soar when its title character does likewise, the reason that we are invested in it is because the script has spent so much time building the character into someone we know and can relate to. It shows us who the character was, the predicament he finds himself in and how it changes him and his genesis as a superhero. I particularly loved the scenes dedicated to him building his suit. So many films just throw their superhero right into their spandex without showing us the process of getting there. So we care about Tony Stark just as much as we do Iron Man, and even without a metallic suit in sight the story is very interesting; first detailing his imprisonment in Afghanistan and then his battle of power with Obidah Stane.

The script is also well constructed and paced though as it doesn't forget to drop splashes of action in amongst this character building. Just as many of the best superhero films do (Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2 etc) the script also allows the film to bridge the gap between the two styles of comic book movies we've become accustomed to. There's the silly, fun likes of Superman and the Fantastic Four, and then there's the more serious and sombre efforts like Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Well by taking elements of both approaches the end result is one of the closest examples of truly brining a comic book to life. It's got the sense of escapist fun which is unavoidable, but grounds it with a dose of reality and substance. And as has become rather customary for Marvel's cinematic output Iron Man is also an extremely humorous film, generating enough laughs to rival and often shame the outright 'comedies' of recent years.

Film Trivia Snippets - Jon Favreau, on directing duties here, would actually go on to provide the voice of Iron Man himself. He did so in a 2009 episode of Robot Chicken. /// Paul Bettany provided the voice of JARVIS in the film, recording all of his lines in just two hours. Although Bettany himself has admitted that he didn't even know what film he was working on. He was merely doing it as a favour to Jon Favreau after they had worked together on Wimbledon. /// Early drafts of the script had the film heading in some very different directions to the finished product. One idea early on was to have Tony Stark's father, Howard, still be alive and a ruthless industrialist who would become War Machine. Another fairly radical idea and deviation from the comics was to reveal Tony Stark as being the creator of Dr. Otto Octavius' tentacles in Spider-Man 2. The original villain envisaged for the film was to be the Mandarin, who was to be re-imagined as an Indonesian terrorist. /// Before Robert Downey was cast several other actors were considered, amongst them were Clive Owen and Rockwell, while Timothy Olyphant actually read for the role. Rockwell would eventually get a part in Iron Man 2 as Tony's rival, Justin Hammer. Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman was also offered the role. /// The roadster that we see Tony Stark working on is actually owned by Jon Favreau. /// There are a couple of musical nods to the classic 1966 Iron Man cartoon. When Tony and Rhodey are walking through the Casino in Vegas the music playing is a smooth jazz version of the cartoon's theme song. While Rhodey's ringtone for when Tony calls him is a midi version of the theme music.
I feel that Iron Man has one of the strongest openings to any film of recent years, and really lets you know what you're in for up front. The first thing that happens is that AC/DCs classic “Back in Black” kicks in, perfectly setting the stage for the raucous, fist-pumping viewing experience you're about to be treated to. And right away we see that Tony Stark is not the typical superhero we had come to know. This is no righteous do-gooder with a heart of gold, this is no victim of a cruel fate which has sent them on a course of revenge. Instantly we see Stark as this arrogant, carefree individual with a glass of Scotch in his hand who is right on the line between being the coolest guy you've ever met and a massive douche. And it's not long before we see him hanging out with and bedding numerous women. He really is like the James Bond of superheroes. Downey is fantastic in that opening sequence while interacting with the soldiers, oozing charm and hitting every one-liner; instantly putting to bed any doubts some people may have had over his casting.

As well as praising the script for its part in moulding the finished product, a lot of credit also has to go to Jon Favreau. Up until now he had been known for light-hearted, 'kiddie' movies like Zathura and Elf. As he result he, like Downey, also represented a bit of a gamble perhaps on Marvel's behalf. Yet again however it proved to be a resounding success. He captures the tone perfectly, moves proceedings along at a beautiful pace and with his comedic background is more than capable of handling the moments of humour. What is perhaps more surprising is the fantastic job he does with the action set-pieces. They are all thrilling, fun-packed and wonderfully realised sequences that are joyous and just bring a smile to the face. There's the tremendous debut of the Mark 1 suit in all its clunky, bulking glory that aids in Tony's escape from his Afghani imprisonment. There's the moment where he returns to face and destroy his captors with his shiny new suit, before taking to the skies where he gets himself into a dogfight with a couple of fighter jets. That dogfight is a particular highlight of the film. And while it certainly wasn't met with universal approval I actually like the final face-off he has with Obidah Stane in his Iron Monger guise. The effects are great, it's hard hitting and avoids the problem that plagues so many big blockbusters - it doesn't outstay its welcome. It's pretty short and sweet.

While Favreau's staging certainly plays a part in the effectiveness of the action sequences, the biggest factor would have to be the film's special effects which are pretty much flawless. The design of the Iron Man suits themselves and their realisation is just tremendous. Huge credit on that front to both Industrial Light and Magic for their digital creations and to Stan Winston for making the actual, practical suits for Downey to wear and just how seamlessly they combine to bring the character to life. When Richard Donner's Superman hit cinema screens back in 1978 it came with the tag-line “You'll believe a man can fly.” With its retro effects that might be a little bit of a stretch these days, but it's a sentiment that you could certainly apply to Iron Man. The scenes of him in flight, particularly in the aforementioned fighter jet battle, are just astonishingly good and downright joyous. There are also a few other instances where we see some fine work in place. Some of the set and art design is very impressive, particularly when it comes to Stark's incredible mansion and the cave in which he is held captive. The cave sequences are also extremely well lit. There's also some crisp, sharp cinematography on show, whether it be of the urban cityscapes of California or of the Afghani deserts. While the film's soundtrack, heavy on rock, is a great fit for the action unfolding on screen.

Conclusion - The summer of 2008 saw the release of two of the most popular superhero films that have so far hit the big screen; Iron Man and The Dark Knight. And while I'm aware that I may be alone on here, I greatly prefer the adventures of old shellhead to Nolan's gritty take on the caped crusader. While I'm not going to argue that this is a 'better' film (but only because I don't want to antagonise the Nolan fanboys! ) there's a great deal that means I prefer it. Unlike The Dark Knight this film has heart, humour, a charismatic lead performance and is simply just a lot of fun. I just love it.


Bonus Film Trivia Snippets - Trying to get writers to be a part of the project proved to be a difficult task. The production met with about 30 different writers and they all passed, as most of them felt that Iron Man was a relatively obscure character in the Marvel universe. They were also a bit nervous about working for an untried studio better known for producing comic books. Even the rewrites led to many refusals. /// During the scenes that feature Iron Man's Head Up Display, the sound effect used to indicate a target lock is the laser cannon firing from the original Space Invaders arcade game. /// All three sets of Iron Man's armor were designed by Adi Granov, a comic book artist from the "Iron Man" comic, and Paul Saunders. The suits were then constructed by Stan Winston Studios. In total about 450 separate pieces make up the Iron Man suit, which the Mark 1 armour weighed 90 pounds. Sadly Iron Man proved to be the last film that special effects legend Stan Winston completed before his death. /// There was a little bit of a directing merry-go-round as the Marvel films go. Originally Favreau was set to direct Captain America: The First Avenger, while in December 2004 it was Nick Cassavetes who was set to direct Iron Man. As opposed to the comedy adventure that his Captain America was set to be, Favreau instead decided to direct Iron Man and give it a more serious tone. Ironically Cassavetes was then chosen to direct Captain America. /// When it came to the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau envisaged it being akin to that of a 1940s screwball comedy along the lines of His Girl Friday. Gwyneth Paltrow subsequently based her performance on that of the heroines of 1940s films, claiming that they were sexy, witty and innocent all at once. /// The montage of Tony Stark's life story was created by editor Kyle Cooper, and was compiled using real-life photos of a young Robert Downey Jr and his father Robert Downey Sr.





As you know I am one of the other people who ultimately prefer the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Nolan DC. And while as a movie I prefer The Dark Knight to Iron Man, The Avengers is in my Top Ten. A big part of that is as you said, the Marvel Cinematic Universe embraces it's source material.



"Hey Look it's Masterman"
Great review. I love Iron Man,
__________________
--I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Thanks guys. And nice to see approval pics back Sexy.

I was 18 when I first saw it. I was forbidden to rent it from Blockbuster as a teenager. By the time I saw it, the movie could not live up to the hype.
That's perhaps a little older than would be ideal, at least in this little idea I have. And I can certainly see that long a wait hurting the film when you finally get to it. Have you ever seen it since?

i think i saw this at the movie theater somewhere around 8 times when it first came out and was already a fan of the comics, having seen the originals here in detroit through dark horse comics (an underground publisher at the time) and was, and remain to be VERY impressed with the entirety of this movie. DAMN FINE review, jay

also, let me add another DAMN FINE to the Hellboy reviews. I'm a huge fan of del Torro and his fantastical brilliance he brings to his movies. There is a lot of love there in that man for his art and he really expressed it with hellboy and i firmly agree, Perlman was frickin perfect at hellboy
Thanks for the compliments Ed. Nice to see you back around the place.



That's perhaps a little older than would be ideal, at least in this little idea I have. And I can certainly see that long a wait hurting the film when you finally get to it. Have you ever seen it since?
I tried a few years later. But I had a chick over at the time and after like ten minutes into the flick... well I was not very interest in watching the movie.

Snap snap grin grin wink wink say no more.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
I've got to say something here. 8 reps for my Iron Man review is garbage!!! You get people posting in the 'Rate the Last Movie You Saw' thread and all they do is include a film poster and a rating, and if it's a popular film they can get like 10 ratings for that. Just for watching a film and somehow locating a poster for it. And yet other people (not just myself) put time and effort into actually writing a review and get less. It ain't fair I tells ya!!! It ain't fair!

Ah that's better. Been a while since I had a good tantrum/hissy fit.



"Hey Look it's Masterman"
I've got to say something here. 8 reps for my Iron Man review is garbage!!! You get people posting in the 'Rate the Last Movie You Saw' thread and all they do is include a film poster and a rating, and if it's a popular film they can get like 10 ratings for that. Just for watching a film and somehow locating a poster for it. And yet other people (not just myself) put time and effort into actually writing a review and get less. It ain't fair I tells ya!!! It ain't fair!

Ah that's better. Been a while since I had a good tantrum/hissy fit.
Hahaha, you never rep my reviews.



I've got to say something here. 8 reps for my Iron Man review is garbage!!! You get people posting in the 'Rate the Last Movie You Saw' thread and all they do is include a film poster and a rating, and if it's a popular film they can get like 10 ratings for that. Just for watching a film and somehow locating a poster for it. And yet other people (not just myself) put time and effort into actually writing a review and get less. It ain't fair I tells ya!!! It ain't fair!

Ah that's better. Been a while since I had a good tantrum/hissy fit.
I actually agree with this, and even if I haven't seen the film your reviewing, and/or don't read it all, I normally try to rep for the effort



It ain't fair I tells ya!!! It ain't fair!

Ah that's better. Been a while since I had a good tantrum/hissy fit.
Go JayDee
__________________
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
Buddha



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Hahaha, you never rep my reviews.
Yeah but my reviews are actually good!

But seriously, I have to say that you lie sir!!! I've just looked at your thread and not even including Amazing Spider-Man which I just repped a moment ago I've actually repped your last 10 reviews (maybe more but didn't go back any further). That despite the fact that I've not seen a fair few of them and that I really don't like Man of Steel or Death Proof. So even though I completely disagree with your views I still appreciated the effort you put into them.

I didn't rep the review because I didn't read it.

I hated Iron Man and didn't want to read a novel about it.
Fair enough. You get a pass. I've got a few reviews kicking about that I think you might like more.



"Hey Look it's Masterman"
My mistake. Your one of few who actually does . Everyone probably spends the whole day reading one of yours, that they have not time for mine haha.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Well here we are with the last review of my superhero season. And this one is special, so much so that I've had to give it a double dose of warning because this really is a very personal favourite which not many people are going to understand. Like many of the reviews just now I knocked this up for my top 100 list in an attempt to explain my love for it and wasn't sure whether to post it as a review or not or just wait. But here it is anyway

Despite complaining about the lack of rep the other day I really don't see this one garnering much at all! It's a very personal, individual taste. In fact I should perhaps dedicate it to Rodent seeing as he might be the only other person on here who has a hope in hell of appreciating and agreeing with this in the slightest.


mirror
mirror

Year of release
1990

Directed by
Steve Barron

Written by
Todd W. Langen
Bobby Herbeck

Starring
Judith Hoag
Elias Koteas
James Saito
Josh Pais
Kevin Clash

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Plot - Down in the sewers below New York a rat and four turtles are transformed when they come into contact with a mysterious ooze. Mutated in size, in intellect and now with the ability to speak, the rat named Splinter becomes like a father to the turtles. He becomes their sensei, dispensing to them his knowledge of Ninjutsu. When a crime wave begins to sweep the city it brings the turtles into contact with a local news reporter, April O'Neill (Hoag). Doing so reveals their existence to the Foot Clan and their leader Shredder, an enemy from Splinter's past. When Splinter is captured by the Foot, the Turtles have to band together and use the skills their sensei has taught them if they are to get him back.

Before I get onto the actual film itself I feel I should first outline my relationship with the Turtles. They are something that has held a special place in my heart since I was a wee young lad. I grew up with them and still dearly love them to this day. In a way they've also kind of developed to suit me as I've grown up. In my early years I had the classic cartoon series to delight me with its colourful and goofy ways. Then as I got a little older I could add the live action films into the mix. During my teenage years I then discovered the original comic series where the characters were born, as well as a new animated series which took a bit of a darker and edgier approach than the original cartoon. And even today at 27 years of age there is a new animated series on Nickelodeon which I have developed a great fondness for. Raphael, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo have always had a part in my life. I have several photographs from my childhood that show my great love for them. I have a photo at Christmas with my newly acquired Raphael hand puppet, and a Halloween photo where I dressed up as one of the Turtles. And while I think I was probably too young to see this particular film I have fond memories of going to the cinema to see at least one of the Turtles films. And what I largely remember is leaving the cinema and as I walked to the car breaking out my best martial arts; no lamp post that I passed was safe, quickly being met with a karate chop or a roundhouse kick.

Now while I enjoy all of the films starring the Turtles (three live action, one CGI and an animated TV movie that celebrated the 25th anniversary of their creation) it is without a doubt this first film that I truly love. In fact for many years this would have sat proudly at #1 as my favourite ever film. While both my personal love for the characters and the nostalgia factor undoubtedly play a large part in how I feel about this film, I also happen to think that in terms of what the film sets out to be it is pretty damn great. The film is actually a lot darker than you would expect and probably remember if you haven't seen it in many years. While it does adopt some elements from the cartoon series and the Archie comics, it most certainly takes a bit of the edge from the original comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The story unfolds in a rather gritty, unglamorous view of New York in derelict neighbourhoods and on streets swept by rain and strewn with graffiti. Much of the film also takes place almost exclusively at night. Even the way the film is shot gives the film quite a grainy, dark aesthetic that makes for an atmospheric experience. It really doesn't look like you'd expect a big comic book film to look.....except for you know, the four big walking, talking, butt-kicking turtles! Even a number of the turns that the story itself takes are rather dark given what you might expect. You've got Raphael brutally beaten to the point of near-death; you've got Splinter chained up and tortured; and while the sequel proved that he actually survived, the film sees a really rather grisly end for Shredder; crushed in the back of a garbage truck. Ouch!

Just the chance to see the Turtles themselves brought to life is a real treat for me. As someone who grew up watching their animated versions, and attempting to drew them over and over again, I still get a real sense of joy of seeing them in the flesh. Bringing the turtles from page to screen was the accomplishment of a number of individuals pulling together with one goal. To begin with you've got the stellar work done by the Jim Henson Creature Shop who created the Turtles costumes and the excellent Splinter puppet. You can definitely tell that the film is getting on in years and that its budget wasn't the biggest but they still hold up as being damn fine creations. The Turtles' suits were great creations, very detailed and even quite expressive at times when it came to their faces. Inside those suits were a series of performers who helped breath life into them. To begin with you had four individuals to handle their movements and interactions, aided by a team of assistants who controlled the facial animatronics. And then on top of that you had an additional four, extremely talented martial artists who performed all of the action sequences. All of the stunt performers deserve huge credit for being able to pull off what they did considering the immense restrictions that the suits placed upon them. They are somehow able to pull of some pretty impressive and complex action sequences that I just absolutely love, with favourites being the huge melee at April's antique shop and the epic final showdown on the roof with Shredder. The production company behind the film was the legendary Golden Harvest, famous for many martial arts classics starring the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. As a result a couple of consultants were sent over from Hong Kong to assist with the fight scenes, adding a nice Hong Kong flair to proceedings. I also love the way that the action is filmed because you can actually see it! In contrast to so many modern action films there is no shaky cam and no rapid editing in sight here. The camera is kept very steady and just allows us to take in and enjoy the action. Using his Transformers films as an example I would expect Michael Bay to go more for the shaky cam and rapid editing when he takes on the Turtles later this year.

Film Trivia Snippets – At the time of its release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually became the most successful independent film of all time, making over $133 million at the US box office. It would hold this record for nine years until The Blair Witch Project came along, grossing $140 million. /// Even though the film was sponsored by Pizza Hut, we quite clearly see the Turtles ordering from and eating Domino's. /// Robin Williams, a big fan of the Turtles, helped Judith Hoag with her character by providing her information gleaned from his comic book collection. /// The late Sally Menke was an editor most famous for being a regular collaborator of Quentin Tarantino's. However it was with this film that she made her feature film debut. /// It took three puppeteers to operate the Splinter puppet. Kevin Clash performs the puppet while the facial expressions are remote controlled by another puppeteer and the arms are controlled by the puppeteer who works along with Kevin during the performances of the puppet.
While the in-suit performers do a great deal to bring the heroes in a half shell to life, the characters require strong vocal performances to complete the illusion. So it's fortunate then that they have exactly that. All four voices feel like perfect matches for the respective characters and their personalities. So much so that they are how I generally imagine the characters to sound and the standard by which I judge all others. Corey Feldman is a particular highlight as Donatello, his rather nasal and geeky tones capturing Donnie perfectly. And then with the Splinter puppet, it comes across as so much more realistic and nuanced than it really has any right to. It's a great little creation from Henson & co. It took three separate puppeteers to control him, with one of them, Kevin Clash, also providing his voice. His vocals also feel spot on, giving Splinter real character and wisdom, creating a Yoda like teacher for his reptilian sons. All of Henson's creations just give so much more soul to the characters than CGI possibly could, and make their interactions with the human cast seamless and believable.

With so much time dedicated to the turtles there are only a small handful of human characters who are given a significant role. Fortunately however most of the actors in these roles rise to the occasion. As April O'Neill we have the pleasure to witness Judith Hoag giving an extremely likeable performance. Her April is strong, feisty and independent. She makes you believe that her character could accept the reality of the turtles mere moments after learning of their existence. While she's tough and all business much of the time, in the company of the turtles she also proves to have a lovely easygoing and fun nature. And man she is really rather sexy. In particular she has a fantastic set of pins on her. As the turtles' other ally we have Elias Koteas who just absolutely rocks it as Casey Jones. The man is just bad ass! He brings a terrifically vibrant energy to the role and delivers a number of laughs. He is able to make Casey likeable without having to soften the character, retaining his vigilante edge. And you've got to give it to him, it's not easy to stand out and make an impression when you're sharing the screen with four full-grown turtles who know kung fu! But Koteas manages it. His interactions with the turtles are a lot of fun. Together Koteas and Hoag have a fun sizzle to their chemistry. Both put in great performances and provide my favourite interpretations of the characters so far seen on screen. It's also a real shame that Hoag would depart the role for the two sequels. On the villainous side of things we don't exactly get well-rounded characters, but what we do get are a couple of very colourful individuals who make you take notice. James Saito helps to make the Shredder quite the imposing villain. In fact between the character's striking look and formidable vocals (dubbed by David McCharen) there's a little bit of a Darth Vader vibe to him. While as his second in command Tatsu there is the visually arresting Toshishiro Obata. He doesn't have much else to do but talk tough and look menacing, but he pulls it off with flying colours. The man is a scary dude. Oh and something I only just noticed for the first time I think - in the role of 'Head Thug' the film features a very young Sam Rockwell!

Film Trivia Snippets - Toward the end of the movie, one of the street punks says to the police chief "Check out East Warehouse on Lairdman Island." This was a reference to the two creators of the Ninja Turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. /// In the script and novelization, the young boy that Tatsu attacks was to die from the beating. The sounds of the boy breathing and others saying he would be all right were added at the last minute after the movie ratings board objected to the scene. /// The four actors inside the suits all lost at least 20 pounds during filming. This was as a result of the already heavy suits, the 60 pounds of animatronics stored in the shells and the intense heat and humidity of North Carolina. /// Judith Hoag decided against reprising her role as April for the sequels because she “was never satisfied with how the film came out”, apparently unhappy with substantial edits that were made to scenes involving her character. /// Despite its New York setting the large majority of the film was actually shot in Wilmington, North Carolina. In fact the fight scenes that take place on the streets and rooftops were actually filmed on a giant New York city set that had been re-purposed from another cult classic, Big Trouble in Little China.
I also happen to think that the film is really quite well written. The central story at the film's core is really quite simple but I personally think it's really well constructed. To establish the overarching story the film employs a series of interconnecting sub-plots. There's the relationships between all of the turtles and Splinter; there's April's investigation into the activities of the Foot; there's the possible romance that develops between Casey and April; and very importantly there's the thread detailing the experiences of Danny Pennington, the son of April's boss. It allows us a way to learn about the inner workings of the Foot. While the main thrust of the film is most certainly concerned with four mutated turtles who kick butt using martial arts, I think if you look closely there are a few interesting little tidbits to be found. A large part of the film is about family, and how you can sometimes find it in the most unusual of places; such as between four turtles and a rat. There is a real love between those five. Through the story of Danny it also shows the problems that can sometimes arise between families. His strained relationship with his father leaves Danny feeling unwanted and like an outsider, leaving him vulnerable to being recruited by the Foot.

And while it may not be humour of the most sophisticated and high-brow variety I also find the film to be very funny on a number of occasions. The script delivers to the cast a lot of witty fun in their dialogue, particularly when it comes to their back and forth banter and bickering. I thought the script also did a really nice job of capturing the distinctive character dynamics of the four turtles, and also of creating the interactions between them. In particular I love the classic sibling rivalry that is constantly on show between Raphael and Leonardo. In terms of personalities those two really are polar opposites. Raphael is hot-headed and impulsive, always reacting with his gut rather than his brain. While Leonardo is the cerebral and responsible one, always sizing up the situation and carefully considering his options before acting. Bring them together and sparks are sure to fly. And yet just like all brothers when you get down to it (perhaps very deep down in this case! ) they do love each other.

The film was directed by Steve Barron; a name I've got to admit to having no recognition of whatsoever. And it's perhaps no surprise. Known more as a director of music videos for the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson and David Bowie, his only other feature film before the Turtles was 80s cheesefest, Electric Dreams. And since the Turtles he has been largely absent from the big screen, delivering just 5 films in the intervening years; the most notable of which being Coneheads and Mike Bassett: England Manager. Despite this rather lacklustre CV I think he does a damn fine job here in the director's chair. He handles the action sequences very well and has an eye for a great shot. I particularly love how he depicts the introduction of Shredder to the film; initially showing him as this long, ominous shadow before revealing the source of said shadow. I can easily picture that image of the stretching shadow as a panel in a comic book. Working alongside Barron to bring life and energy to the film is John Du Prez's brilliant score. While it will never be considered as a classic alongside the likes of Jaws, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Psycho etc it has got to be one of my personal favourite scores. It's a great piece of storytelling, whether it be fun and funky when the times are good or brooding and emotional when things take a darker turn.

So is this film as perfect as my 5 star rating indicates? No. Are there flaws? Yeah probably, but I personally am completely oblivious to them! And I couldn't be happier with my ignorance.

Conclusion - I'll be the first to admit that as reviews go this was not the most unbiased critique of the film's merits. Instead it was purely a love letter to a film that has a substantial place in my heart. Perhaps the best way I can think to sum up my feelings for this film is to say that in many ways this film is like my Star Wars. My relationship with the turtles is like the experience many people have with George Lucas' 1977 classic. It's a film that I first discovered at a very young age and that became an instant favourite, and that I watched countless times. And I hope that I will continue to watch and enjoy it on many more occasions to come.


Oh and as a fun little bonus to further highlight my personal connection with the film and the Turtles in general I dug out the couple of childhood photos I mentioned in the review. One from Halloween and one from Christmas

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