What You Need To Know:
(L, VV, NA, H, M) Comic-book violence, Eastern mysticism and New Age references, humanism, and revenge.
Those four ninja-fighting turtles, named for Renaissance painters, return in a new adventure battling New York City’s notorious teen gang known as “The Foot”, as well as keeping the nuclear-activated ooze which gave them their superpowers out of nefarious hands.
This time, the four hip superheroes, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello continue their search for a new sewer home, having taken up temporary residence in beautiful TV reporter April O’Neil’s apartment. Shredder, the evil Darth Vadar-like leader of a gang of teenage thieves, resurfaces from the landfill where he was buried after his last battle with the Turtles and vows revenge.
Meanwhile, at a toxic waste site, April does a field report with the Professor who created a radioactive “ooze” 15 years prior. Splinter, the Turtle’s ninja rat and Yoda-like mentor, realizes it is the same ooze that spilled on him and the four baby turtles years ago, giving them their amazing strength and human powers.
Arch-villain Shredder concludes the same, kidnaps the professor and his ooze and forces him to ooze-mutate a wolf and snapping turtle into enormous super beasts more powerful than the Turtles. Knowing they are overpowered, the Turtles grab the professor, hoping that he can come up with an “anti-mutant” antidote. Yet, their worst fears are still to come when Shredder ingests the remaining ooze to become a super-powered monster himself.
Although technically better than the first, without the language problems, NINJA TURTLES II still sends the same messages as the last picture: the way to solve problems is by beating your opponents to a pulp. The violence, though comic-book, runs throughout and is synonymous with the action. The movie blatantly encourages children to develop martial-arts fighting skills and insinuates that one can rest secure in his knowledge of the martial arts.
Teachers from around the country who responded to a survey conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children said that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are bringing violence to the classroom. The study’s general conclusion from the 73 educators from 19 states is that youngsters emulate the Turtles’ karate chopping, but little else.
Also, there is a distressing amount of Eastern mysticism and New Age thought in the film. Splinter, for instance, teaches the Turtles to be masters of themselves and their environment. There’s even a tie-in with humanistic evolutionary-thought when the Turtles learn that mistake and chance were responsible for their origins. Raphael questions Splinter with despair as to why there isn’t more to his existence, but Splinter tells him not to confuse the randomness of his origin with his special worth.
Where does such secular, humanistic thinking lead? To a ridicule of prayer, for one. Take an early scene in which the Turtles huddle around a pizza they’re about to devour. One of them says, “Let’s take a moment to reflect.” The reference, though, is to wafting in the pizza’s aroma, not to prayer.
Furthermore, what kind of example does it set to use revenge as the main plot device to move the story along? Not a very good one. Nor is the Turtles’ arrested stage of adolescent development an appropriate role model for teenagers wishing to advance beyond the age of fifteen. For the very young, the horrific nature of the super-mutated beasts is sure to give them nightmares. Overall, the film is forgettable and not worth time or money.