After the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990 it was generally assumed that a sequel would follow. Brought out just a year later, and with a budget almost double that of the first movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze turned out to be a very different animal to the first film, taking on a much lighter tone.
Of the three original TMNT movies it was the second one that I remember watching the most growing up. I still remember how dark the first film felt, a sentiment that is shared through much of the fan-base, and how as a kid who liked the animated show the second movie felt a lot more like that. The first film was definitely closer in tone and style to the original comics, with a grittier story and more violence, but when it became a success New Line Cinema wanted to appeal to as big an audience as possible, choosing a much lighter tone for the sequel.
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The second film picks up not long after the events of the first movie, with the Turtles and Splinter living in April O’Neil’s (Paige Turco) apartment. Having lost their home in the last movie the heroes are still looking for a new place to live, though are continuing to fight crime at night. At the same time Shredder (Fancois Chau) has survived being crushed in a garbage truck, and returns to take back control of the Foot Clan.
When it is revealed that the research company TGRI may be behind a toxic waste leak that causes mutations, it’s learned that the same mutagen was responsible for altering Splinter and the Turtles all those years ago. Unfortunately, Shredder also learns of this and sets out to capture the scientist in charge of destroying the mutagen, Professor Perry (David Warner), and uses him to mutate a wolf and snapping turtle into monsters to fight the Turtles. With the help a their new friend Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.), the Turtles battle against the Foot and their new monsters, before having to fight a mutated Shredder in a final battle.
There are some big differences between this movie and the first, and we’re not just talking about the fact that half the cast have either been removed from the film (goodbye Casey Jones), or simply recast with new actors. No, some of the big differences comes down to how this film approached the Turtles in a completely different way. In the first film the heroes were left in the dark a lot of the time, hiding in the shadows and taking down criminals with the lights out, leaving a lot of what happened up to our imaginations.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze goes the complete opposite direction, choosing to have their action sequences out in the open, showcasing the Turtles in all their ninja glory. Also in contrast to the first film, the Turtles hardly used their own weapons in this film. There was some controversy around allowing children to watch a movie where the heroes wield dangerous weapons, and as such in the sequel the Turtles ended up fighting hand to hand much of the time, or using objects in the world around them to help them out. Apparently they forgot they have swords and nun-chucks on their persons. Despite that, however, the action in this film tends to be a lot of fun, even if it isn’t as impressive as the first movie.
Another big change, one that fans of the comics and animated series were not expecting, was the two ‘evil’ mutants. Tokka and Rahzar, the snapping turtle and wolf mutants, were completely new creatures created just for this movie. Most people were expecting Bebop and Rocksteady to make an appearance, and it appears that was the original plan, but thanks to an appparent disagreement with the creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird these plans had to be changed.
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Despite these alterations and additions the sequel proved to be quite popular, especially with younger audiences. Its lighter tone definitely made parents much more willing to allow kids to see this film over the original, and that certainly helped with its success and popularity. I guess the surprise appearance of Vanilla Ice and the Turtles dancing to the ‘Ninja Rap’ as they battled the evil mutants also helped to convey that this was a very different kind of mutant animal than the original.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze might not be as good as the first film from a technical perspective, it might not have as solid a script, as good action sequences, or be as close to the original, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch as a kid, and as such if I were to choose one of the original trilogy to throw on for a bit of fun it would definitely be this one.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was released in the UK on 9th August 1991.