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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
by yo go re

So, what... this is what happens when you spill mutagen ooze on a cheese grater?

"You fight well... in the old style. But you've caused me enough trouble. Now you face: the Shredder!"

The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was the first piece of media to make Shredder a serious threat: in the comics, he was killed off for real in the first issue (because Eastman and Laird were only producing a one-shot, with no expectation that they'd be successful enough to make any more); in the cartoon, he was a bumbling goof beset by incompetent henchmen (because it was an '80s cartoon). But the movie needed to keep him alive for more than 22 pages (or 22 minutes), so there he was dynamic, intimidating, inspiring, threatening... everything a villain is supposed to be. Hell, there's a scene where Shredder just gives his underling, Tatsu, the long, silent, stare of disappointment, and it cuts Tatsu so deeply he flips out, starts breaking stuff, and beating up Foot Soldiers. Just 10 seconds of quiet is enough to mentally break people!

Surprisingly, Shredder uses the same body molds as the Foot soldier - at first glance, they don't seem identical, but that's mainly an effect of the new armor on the forearms and shins (explaining why those pieces were separate on the Foot, not sculpted) and the new color. Yes, just like the original comics, Shredder is wearing maroon, not the blue and purple you'd expect from the TV show. The color here is dark, but covered in glitter to make it look spangly. And to make your fingers look like you've been shaking hands with a stripper. Shredder's pointy armor has surprisingly sharp blades arranged in accurate patterns (2-3-2 on the shins, 1-3-1 on the arms, and 3-2 on the shoulders) and tiny rivets painted on the edges. One thing that does set this body apart from the grunts? The addition of a little "collar" piece hanging around the neck.

Shredder's helmet was surprisingly accurate to the existing design. Considering that "the existing design" involved a samurai-style neck guard and a sharp metal trident wrapped around the scalp, that's something special! It sticks way out from the head, for whatever reason, with the neck guard flaring way out to the rear and the crest jutting forward, but the oddest feature has to be the face plate: this isn't some cloth stretched over his face, but an actual solid item, which is fine enough; what's weird is that it sits so far away from the mouth - at full human size, we'd be talking a gap of several inches. Why is it not closer to his face? NECA did an excellent job crafting the piece, particularly the mesh ventilation, which is some finely molded plastic! It's done as a separate piece plugged into the interior of the mask, for the most realistic look.

Oroku Saki was played by James Saito (but for some reason, not voiced by him - guess they didn't feel his voice was deep and resonant enough, so he was dubbed by David McCharen). NECA obviously got the likeness rights, because you can see his face through the mask. Also, you can remove the mask and just see the face! They even sculpted the rat scars on his cheek.

Existing body, existing articulation. Just like the Foot, Shredder moves with swivel/hinge rocker ankles, hinged lower knees, swivel/hinge upper knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, a balljointed waist, swivel/hinge wrists, double-swivel/​hinge elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, and balljoints at the top and bottom of the neck. He does not get the additional swivel on the back of the head for the bandana tie, because he does not wear a bandana. The hinge part of the knees was very stiff, and took a little work to get moving. Also, the way he was in the tray had him end up with his head jutting forward at a weird angle, one that the accurately oversized helmet disguised until the mask came off.

The toy's accessories include alternate hands for when you don't want him to be shaking his fist, splayed or gripping. It's weird that he only has the blades on the back of his left hand, isn't it? Wouldn't you expect them to be on both hands? The movie says different, so the toy follows suit. His large black-and-silver cape is bagged behind him; it has a working metal hook and eye clasp at the neck, and wire inside the front edges so you can pose it. As for weapons he doesn't wear, he's got the spear he used in his rooftop fight against the Turtles, and the dagger he threw at Splinter. There's a sheath for the knife, but it doesn't attach to the figure in any way, so that seems a bit of a waste.

While this figure was originally available in a 2019 SDCC exclusive four-pack, it was later given a solo release at GameStop. Unfortunately, NECA's live-action Turtles toys are going to be moving from GameStop to Walmart this year - bad for fans, because we've already seen how NECA does at stocking stores on their own, but good for NECA, because Walmart is way less likely to go out of business before 2021. The worst part is it means you'll no longer be able to preorder the figures you want, so for Tokka, Rahzar, Casey Jones, and any other movie characters NECA wants to do, it'll be down to luck as to whether you see them or not.

-- 04/25/20

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