It is readily apparent Ninja Turtles II is not going to be the same. Instead of conversation to introduce the characters, the Turtles brawl a gang of electronics thieves. They end up on screen just past the three-minute mark, quickly satisfying an undoubtedly Turtle-hungry audience of kids.
The unnamed crooks show little surprise or shock in fighting the mutated creatures, despite other characters such as Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) standing stone-faced as they enter the frame for the first time. There is an obvious lack of care in the scripting, something the first film did not suffer from. It feels rushed.
That doesn’t mean entertainment value is low. Some of the writing is legitimately witty and funny. April O’Neil (Paige Turco, replacing Judith Hoag) is cleaning her apartment due to the mess left by the Turtles who now live with her. She has a point when she states, “The rat is the cleanest one.” It is a fun gag, as is Michelangelo’s retort as the four brothers are being introduced. He looks back at Raphael and says, “All the good ones end in O!”
Unfortunately, the gags and jokes dominate. Colors are noticeably brighter, and locations are better lit. Fights are far more playful. It loses the serious tone the original carried, and a perfect blend of the comics and TV series.
Improvements to the suits/animatronics (especially Splinter) are noticeable. There is also a nice sense of continuity. Splinter carries noticeable scars on his face from the previous film, and Raphael’s shell shows damage from his beating in the original. Likewise the new foes for the Turtles, Tokka and Rahzar, carry enjoyable personalities through the fine suit work.
Of course, any previous enjoyment turns sour during the infamous “Ninja Rap” sequence, one in which ‘90s pop icon Vanilla Ice comes up with an entire song based on the Turtles on the fly as they fight on the show floor. It is odd that the Turtles end up on stage, and what happens looks cheap and generic enough to actually be a kid’s stage show. Likewise, their final battle with the transformed “Super Shredder” is pointless since they don’t do anything to defeat him. So much for drama.
Nostalgia for this film undoubtedly plays a role in how you see it. As a relic of the early ‘90s, Ninja Turtles II is at times laughably bad, but there is a certain charm to it. The film is harmless, the energy undeniable, and a lot of the jokes actually generate laughs. It may be a sign of things to come, but this is a mindless fantasy farce worth 90 minutes of your time.
New Line seems to have darkened this film significantly. Black crush is a consistent problem, and comparing it to the somewhat ancient (by technology standards) DVD reveals lighter blacks. It doesn’t fit the film at all, especially with the bright colors.
Grain is intact, but this VC-1 encode makes it especially noisy against solid backgrounds, even off-color. Sharpness is only fair, and detail, despite some now obvious texturing on the Turtle suits, is rather flat. This needs a re-encode.
Audio also takes a dip in comparison to the original. Punches no longer deliver a satisfying shot of bass, and in fact the subwoofer is flat throughout. Surrounds are not as forced, but also less apparent. The junkyard fight is their highlight, with foot soldiers jumping through the sound field. The cringe-worthy concert is also lively, with screams and a TrueHD rendition of “Ninja Rap” coming through without distortion in all channels.
A trailer is the only extra included. A making-of VHS was released in time for the movie’s theatrical run. Why that content isn’t here is anyone’s guess.