DVD Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)

Even if I were the world’s greatest clairvoyant and had envisioned the coming of Blu-ray only a few years back, I still would not have believed this could have happened: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.” The mere title sends shivers down my spine — not so much owing to the fact that somebody went balls-to-the-wall to create and market such an elaborate Blu-ray boxed set, but because of the whole “25th Anniversary” thing. You see, I was there when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles conquered the world the first time around. That, combined with the little-known-truth that I am creeping up on yet another birthday, has me shuddering at any montage of words that reminds me how old I am truly getting.

The other unbelievable thing about the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is the fact that Warner Home Entertainment…well…did it!

I could see Warner releasing the dynamic “Dirty Harry Collection.” Even the box set of “Casablanca” is fathomable. But “TMNT?” Well, it just so happens that millions of other tweens and teens alike once sat by idly in front of their TV sets — how else do you think the TMNT phenomenon caught on?

Fortunately, old fans (and new ones) will dig this set, which resembles a pizza takeout box (naturally). The set kicks off with 1990’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a movie that caused kids everywhere to say “Cowabunga!” and their parents to sigh. The first film (a live-action adaptation of the animated series, which in-turn was inspired by the comics introduced in 1984) brought characters Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael to life via some über-creepy costuming combined with equally-creepy animatronics. The story reintroduces the tale, with the TMNTs (all of whom are portrayed by stuntmen and voiced by other actors, the most “notable” of which is Corey Feldman — which says a lot) meeting their friends, reporter April O‘Neil (Sheila Hoag) and tough-guy Casey Jones (Elias Koteas). When their master Splinter is kidnapped, the four turtles and two humans team-up to save him and defeat the evil crime lord, The Shredder (James Saito). Sam Rockwell and Skeet Ulrich can also be found in this film financed by Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest productions.

The second flick, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze,” finds our heroic half-shelled creatures and April (this time played by Paige Turco — most of the other actors/voice actors are different, too) facing the most diabolical evil ever known: Vanilla Ice. Oh, The Shredder, too. Apparently, The Shredder escaped his Fuad Ramses-esque demise at the finale of the first film and has returned to seek vengeance (again). His plan? Discover the radioactive green goo that created the TMNTs to begin with and start up his own master race of mutants. While neither of the original TMNT films are masterpieces, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze” did benefit from actually featuring a real actor: the great David Warner co-stars as Professor Perry.

That timeless adage “The third time is the charm” doesn’t always hold up in court. I believe there’s another old saying which goes something like “When all else fails for a sequel, take your characters back in time.” Case in point: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” (aka “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time”). This time ‘round, our heroes take a journey back to 17th century Japan with the help of a magical scepter. Fortunately, the people of Japan are more prone to accepting big turtles as their friends (just watch the “Gamera” films, kiddos) and adapt to their new visitors rather well. Taking the time to hone in on their skills, the gang take on the film’s enemy (Sab Shimono) to reclaim the magic scepter so they can all go back home. Chinese beauty Vivian Wu brings the entire series’ only glimpse of worthwhile eye-candy.

And finally, we find ourselves at the doorsteps of 2007’s “TMNT,” an animated adventure that, depending on your point of view, is either better than the first film or worse than the third. Personally, animation isn’t my thing — especially when it’s voiced by professional actors to make it more marketable. Tell you what, I’m just going to skip ahead to the Blu-ray specs.

While the fourth “TMNT” had been previously released to Blu-ray, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” marks the High Def debut of the first three films. The widescreen 1080p/VC-1 video presentations are a step up from the older New Line DVDs. Having said that, the visuals here are not the greatest. The colors look a bit dull at times, and the blacks retain a fair amount of grain — but it is easy to understand why when you considering their low-budget late 80s/early 90s indie origins. Sound-wise, the first three films feature new English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks as well as English 5.1 Dolby Digital and French Stereo soundtracks. English, French and Spanish subtitles are included. “TMNT” appears to be the same Blu-ray that was released separately in 2007. Each 25GB disc features artwork to go along with the pizza box packaging motif.

Only “TMNT” has any “major” special features on it — but again, they’re the same from the 2007 release. The other discs only include their respective theatrical trailers, and there’s a look at the new Smash-Up Wii game on Disc 1. The box set itself comes with eight character cards and a copy of a signed sketch (which come in an envelope), a TMNT beanie (sealed safely in a cellophane wrapper) and a reproduction of the original comic book adaptation from the first film. The packaging also has some phony “grease stains” on the bottom of it — just to give it that worn pizza box look.

So, I suppose the big question here is: is this set worth it? Well, if you’re not a fan of the franchise, then your answer is a “No.” If you are, or you’re just the type of guy or gal that loves to buy collector’s sets, then the answer is a big “Hell, yes!”

Buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on DVD