How do you make something as strange as mutated turtles who learned to become ninjas and are teenagers, one of the most popular franchise of all time? I don’t know, but clearly creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird found a way to do that when they created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984.
The comic series was originally published by Mirage Studios in Dover, New Hampshire, until it went under on December 31, 2009. The series focused on four mutated turtles, who were raised and trained by their mentor/father, Splinter. A rat, who learned ninjutsu from his owner, before he was exposed to a canister, which mutated the turtles and their adoptive father. Splinter trained the turtles to become ninjas how to defend themselves and use their training for good. The turtles would go on to fight aliens, other mutants, and their greatest enemy, the Shredder.
The series gained its popularity in the late 80s thanks to the television series, which ran from 1987-1996. The series would later be given multiple incarnations over the years from The Next Mutation series (1997-1998), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 series (2003-2010), the 2012 series (2012-2017), to the current Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018-present). The first ever film for the turtles would be the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which ended up being a huge success for the series.
This leads to the sequel, which would go on to be the last good TMNT movie. At least, in my view.
The Secret of the Ooze is the sequel to the 1990 film and came out on March 22, 1991. So, nearly a year after the first film and with a lot of changes made since then. The original director, Steve Barron, being replaced with Michael Pressman, who has been more involved with television series like Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Med, Blue Bloods, and a few films.
Producers Kim Dawson and David Chan returned to the film, but not Simon Fields, who was replaced with Thomas K. Gray. With the story written by Todd W. Langen, who was the writer for The Wonder Years.
The film had a budget of $25 million dollars and made back $78 million dollars. A disappointing number considering the original film had a budget of $13 million dollars and made over $200 million dollars. The film also received mixed reviews from critics, who cited that the film appeared childish and less serious compared to the original film. This was really true, especially when you watch both films side to side to see the huge differences in the tone of the film.
This felt a lot like what happened after Batman Returns, where parents were upset with how dark the film felt and how it didn’t feel like something their kids should watch. So, much like Batman, the turtles became more child friendly. But not in a good way. Still, despite this, is the film really that bad?
Is there anything about it that made it feel good, compared to the other films we’d get years later? Or is it as bad as the other turtle films?
The story of the film takes place after the events of the first film. The turtles are now living with April O’Neil, a news reporter who the turtles saved in the first film and became their friend. The turtles lost their home in the first film and had since then been staying with April.
All while remaining hidden from the city because their mentor Splinter feels the people are not ready to accept them.
Despite the turtles saving the city from the Shredder and his Foot clan ninjas.
It is revealed though that the Shredder survived death from the last film and has returned to what is left of his Foot clan. However, instead of rebuilding his army of ninjas, he decides to use the same mutation that made the turtles what they are and use it to make his own monsters to fight them. The turtles find out Shredder is alive and has created two monsters of his own to fight them. So, the turtles have to stop the Shredder and his monsters before they can destroy the city.
Now, here’s some of the positives of the story. I like how we find out about how the turtles came to be and how the canister that made them made its way in the sewer. It was also cool to see them fighting against two dangerous mutant monsters, who are too strong for them to beat. However, that’s all that I can remember liking about the film.
My negatives for the story is everything else. I hate how the film has been become childish, less serious, filled with a lot of dumb jokes, slapsticks, and didn’t have the same kind of passion as the original. Now yes, the 80s series are very childish, but that was a cartoon and we’ve seen in other turtles’ series like the 2003 one that they can be kid friend, but also still be serious. The 2012 series is also a good example of this.
It appeared childish at first, but as time passed on the series did become more serious and you became more invested at what was going on. You wanted to see our heroes succeed and saw how well they made their enemies appear like a credible threat.
This film though, has none of that. You don’t aren’t invested in anything our heroes are doing, you aren’t worried what will happen, and you don’t care what happens in the end.
The Shredder and the Foot are basically a joke. They were actually a threat to the turtles and the Shredder almost killed them. But instead, he’s taken out twice in the dumbest more embarrassing ways possible. Once by a guitar along with a large speaker, and the other by getting himself killed just after we finally got Super Shredder.
Also, the two monsters that the Shredder made are sadly not Bebop and Rocksteady. But just two non-canon monsters that had nothing to do with the series at all. Now, they did appear to be a threat at first, but then they made them into a joke and couldn’t take them seriously after that. Again, such a huge disappointment.
I really love the story of the first film, and I had hope to see something like it in the sequel. Instead of seeing that, we ended up getting a less fun and more childish turtles’ film.
Most of the original cast from the first film didn’t come back for this one. Judith Hoag who played April O’Neil was replaced with Paige Turco, who then returned for the third film. Elias Koteas who played Casey Jones never returned for this film and wasn’t even mentioned on what happened to his character. He would return for the third film and that would be the end of Casey Jones till the Michael Bay film in 2016 and played by Stephen Amell.
James Saito who played the Shredder never returned for the sequel, but the voice actor who voiced over him, David McCharen did return. Toshishiro Obata who played as Shredder’s second-in-command Tatsu did return, along with his voice actor Michael McConnohie.
As for the turtles, only Brian Tochi and Robbie Rist, both who played Leonardo and Michelangelo returned to reprise their roles on voicing the turtles. However, Josh Pais and Corey Feldman, never returned to reprise their roles as Raphael and Donatello. They were instead replaced by Adam Carl who voiced Donatello and Laurie Faso who voiced Raphael.
While Kevin Clash who voiced their mentor/adoptive father Splinter did return to reprise his role.
Voicing the two monsters, Tokka and Rahzar was Frank Welker, who has done other voices before as well. Such as the monkey’s sound in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the dog sound from Cujo (1983), to Megatron, Rumble, Wheelie, Frenzy, Junkion, Soundwave, and Ravage in The Transformers: The Movie (1986).
Now, some positives for the actors involved. I didn’t mind how Adam and Laurie voiced Donatello and Raphael. They did a good job getting their characters down, while not minding Raphael’s character going back to basically how he was in the first film. Mostly because any time in any series where he did learn his lesson, he still remains the same as before.
I was disappointed that Judith never returned to reprise her role as April, but I felt like Paige did an okay job with her role.
Honestly? I had no problem with some of the actors who came back to reprise their roles and even those who took over the roles of those who didn’t come back. My only problem is, some of the new characters didn’t do so well and then there’s how the theme of the story. How I said before, it went from being serious and fun to being more childish.
Shredder is a pushover and his Foot ninjas are all just a joke. Even his second-in-command is never given a chance of redemption or a chance to show why Shredder keeps him around if he’s beaten so easily. I also find it offensive with how they have him just grunt a lot of times. And spoke the way Hollywood thinks a lot of Japanese people spoke.
The chemistry the turtles had one another also felt like it was missing. I got the sense in the first film how their characters were close to one another and saw how strong their bond was. Hell, the bond they had with their adoptive father Splinter was so strong in the first film, but here? Not so much.
Hell, Splinter, who kicked Shredder’s ass in the first film, does absolutely nothing in this film. Oh sure, he helped save the turtles get out of a trap, but then after that, he left! He left them to fight the bad guys on their own. He didn’t even fight the Shredder at all.
It also sucks that Casey Jones wasn’t in the film. They really couldn’t find someone else to play as Casey? They found other people to take the role of the other characters, but not a guy like Casey? Sheesh, that was a dumb move there.
My biggest gripe though comes win the form of Ernie Reyes Jr. as Keno, a pizza delivery boy, who also knows martial arts. When he first appeared, I thought maybe he could be a good replacement to Casey and be a great ally to our heroes. Instead, he just becomes absolutely useless and annoying. A good example of this is when he’s with Splinter meditating.
He gets frustrated and runs off to help the turtles, who honestly? Had the situation under control, until he showed up. He tried to fight Shredder, but almost gets killed and the turtles have to save him. Again, why couldn’t they have found someone to play Casey again and be involved?
I have no idea and it’s a damn shame with how the characters went in this film. The story really hurt them a lot and how they were told to act didn’t help them at all.
The setting for the film is mostly done at night in places like a junkyard, a laboratory, in a mall, to even a dance club. Shelly Johnson did a decent job with how the film was shot and would go on to be involved in other films. Like Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo, Sky High, The Wolfman, Captain America: The First Avenger, Greyhound, and Bill & Ted Face the Music. He made the way the fights were shot look good and made sure we could see what was going on.
Not really any special effects, except for the suits and puppeteers controlling the faces of the characters. In the original film, we had Jim Henson involved in the film and used his studio to help with designing the suits of the turtles. Even used puppeteers to help control the mouths, eyes, and try emoting expressions for the turtles. They looked a lot better than what we would end up getting with complete CGI turtles from Michael Bay.
Now, in this film, the suits here aren’t that bad and I would dare say there seems to be some improvements. Maybe due to more money in the project. So, its not all bad. I even enjoyed the design of Tokka and Rahzar.
A shame they couldn’t come up with suits for Bebop and Rocksteady, which I think they could have done. Still, the two monsters for the film didn’t look bad and who they got to be in the suits did a good job.
Now, the music for the film was done by John Du Prez, who composed the music for the original film. He also was involved in a few Monty Python projects, Bullseye! (1990), and Fascination (2004). The music he did for this film wasn’t that bad and was a lot better than Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap song. Although, the score he had for the original film was a lot better than this one.
My only complaint I can have is just the theme of the film. I’ve ranted enough about it as it is, but yeah, the theme of the film made it feel less exciting. Not as good as the first one and couldn’t get as invested in it as I wished I did. A damn shame too, but not much could be done about it.
So, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is not a good sequel. It didn’t live up to the same hype as the first one and I feel it’s because the studio maybe wanted to make it more kid friendly. They wanted to make it less violent, throw in a lot of the jokes that made the cartoon series work, and think that would make it a good film. That didn’t work out well and as a result it didn’t do well.
However, is it the worst turtles’ film out of the many that came out? Oh, absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a good sequel and the first one is still amazing. That doesn’t mean though it’s as bad as the others. The third turtles’ film was a piece of garbage, the 2007 TMNT film wasn’t that great, and the two Michael Bay films were a hot piece of garbage.
I would rather watch the sequel than watch any of those films. It’s also harmless. Its not the worst of the worst, but it’s a harmless film that you can show to a younger audience. And one that I think they will enjoy.
It isn’t my favorite turtles’ film, but it’s not the worst one I’ve ever seen. I do recommend this to anyone who has kids, who wouldn’t mind this. If you also don’t mind this kind of turtles’ film, then I recommend watching it. If you just want to watch it for how goofy it is, then this is the film for you.