Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is a 1991 martial arts superhero film based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. The sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), it is the second theatrical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and the second installment in the original trilogy. Directed by Michael Pressman and written by Todd W. Langen, the film stars Paige Turco and David Warner with the voices of Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist, Adam Carl, and Laurie Faso.
The film follows the adventures of the four Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, and their Master Splinter. Resuming from the events of the last film, the villain, the Shredder, returns to take back command of the Foot Clan, and work towards getting revenge on the Turtles. When he learns the secret behind the Turtles' mutation, he becomes more dangerous than ever. The film sheds some light on the origins of Splinter and the Turtles, as well as introduces two new villains, Tokka and Rahzar. Unlike the first film, it differs from the first film which showed the use of the Turtles' weapons. They instead fight bare-fisted for much of this film, as part of an attempt to tone down the violence of the previous installment.
The film was released theatrically in the United States on March 22, 1991, by New Line Cinema. It received mixed reviews from critics, who felt it departed from the much darker tone of the original 1990 film. However, it was financially successful, grossing $78.7 million against a budget of $20 million, becoming the thirteenth highest-grossing film domestically in the year of its release. The film is dedicated to Jim Henson, who died less than a year before this film's release. Henson's Creature Shop created the animatronic creature costumes for the film, like the first film.
A sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, was released in 1993.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mark Caso, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, Kenn Troum) again battle their archenemy, the rogue ninja Shredder (Francois Chau). Shredder attempts revenge by obtaining the same radioactive ooze that created the Turtles and unleashing two new monstrous mutants: Tokka, an oversized snapping turtle, and Rahzar, a fearsome wolf-like creature. When Shredder plans to use the remaining ooze on himself, the Turtles must harness their ninja fighting skills to stop him.
- Due to parents complaints of the first movie being too dark and violent for there children, the studio tone down the darker elements of the first and made this movie more kid friendly which results in a jarring tonal shift, similarly to what happen in the Burton/Schumacher Batman films around the the same time.
- While the animatronics on the turtles and Splinter are still impression, the designs that they went with made them less imposing a more cartoony, further resulting in the parents response of the first film. Not to mention that the more lighter color palate can somewhat kill the illusion of seeing actual mutated turtles and a rat, compare to the more mutated color palate in the first.
- The lighter tone also Transends a lot of the cleaver jokes from the first movie to completely juvenile humor.
- Shredder has been drastically reduced from an intimating leader of a secrete clan of ninjas to a more bumbling Saturday morning cartoon villain, which results in a less threatening presence.
- Also Shredder shouldn't have any reason to get his revenge on the turtles as it was Splinter who defeated him by the end of the first movie. The movie even mentions that Splinter defeated the Shredder, not the turtles.
- Shredder's mutated henchmen Tokka and Rahzar come off as boring/cheap replacements of Bebop and Rocksteady.
- Raphael seem to have regressed back to his temperamental self from the first as he yet again has a brief argument with Leonardo which result in him once again separating from the others.
- April doesn't get a whole lot to do compare to what she did in the first as she barely gets involved with the story, and spends most of her time doing her reporting.
- Corey Feldman who voiced Donatello in the original did not return, and the one providing for Donatello makes him come off as an annoyance.
- Casey Jones who played a major role in the first movie at no point appears in this movie, nor is there any mentioning of him in the slightest.
- As catchy as Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap is, it can be quite cringy especially when in the context of the movie, he does the number without even knowing about the turtles.
- The turtles barely get to use their weapons, and would end up using supplies they could find, and while it does pay respect to the original cartoon, it once again cause a major tone shift from the first movie's more moodier feel.
- One of the turtles new friends Keno, gets a pretty under cook arc of learning when he must fight as it doesn't come in the forefront enough.
- In-spite of Splinter punishing the turtles in the end for revealing themselves in public, they pretty much revealed themselves at the very beginning when thwarting a heist.
- The Foot Clan has become total pushovers, as opposed to special trained Martial Artist, which like the Shredder himself makes them feel less like a threat.
- The final showdown between the turtles and Super Shredder it extremely anti-climatic, as it results in Shredder knocking down the dock's support causing it collapse on him while the turtles do nothing but escape.
- While the animatronics are a major stepdown from the ones in the first, they still remain to be impressive, especially compared to what we would eventually see next.
- Despite not following the same tone as the first, the movie is more of a love letter to the 1987 cartoon, while the first was more of a love letter to the original Mirage Comics.
- The turtles are still likeable, and do work together really well for the most part.
- While not getting much to do, Paige Turco as April O'Neil makes for an exceptional replacement to Judith Hoag in the first movie.
- New comers Keno and Professor Jordan Perry are also likable.
- Super Shredder's design is pretty cool.
- Splinter's line of how the turtles should not be define by there origins is pretty inspiring.
- Aside from Donatello, the voice over work of the other three turtles and Splinter are still pretty good.
The second film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 35% based on reviews from 43 critics, with the consensus: "Not only is the movie's juvenile dialogue unbearable for adults, but the turtles' dopey and casual attitude towards physical violence makes them poor kids' role models". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 45 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Dave Kehr of The Chicago Sun Times calls the film "a fast, funny, engagingly unpretentious 88 minutes that, moving between martial-arts dustups and random satirical jibes, achieves a more successful mix of action and humor than the first. There is plenty for adults here as well as children".
Janet Maslin of The New York Times notes that "the Turtles fight less, clown more and stray too far from their beloved sewers" and calls it an improvement, and is relieved that they have at least made a mainstream movie. Maslin stated that the Turtles "clean up their act" in the movie and also praised Secret of the Ooze for containing scenes referencing then-growing popular culture trends which were considered major competitors to the TMNT franchise's "greatest assets," such as rap music and Bart Simpson. Lloyd Bradley of Empire Magazine gave the film three out of five stars, saying, "This lacks the darkness and subtlety that makes the first film so good, and so adult, but its simplified plot and gags will appeal to the under tens".
Gene Siskel at The Chicago Tribune was just as unimpressed by this film as the first, calling it "a martial-arts movie in rubber uniforms". Siskel considers that he is an adult "forgetting the sort of mindless entertainment that he himself enjoyed as a child" but rejects the idea and calls the fight scenes "more depressing than joyful". Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times complains that the Turtles look essentially the same, and suggests they are an "emblem of our drab and dreary times" and that they are "an example of the hazards of individuality". He says kids are getting a bad deal and compared to the comic book heroes he grew up with they are being robbed of "a sense of wonder".