Growing up in the latter half of the 90’s, I watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television shows and movies as a kid. I’m not really sure why I enjoyed them so much, but I always laughed when I watched and they were just goofy enough for me to enjoy them. Even now, I’ll laugh at the shows and I fully realize that they’re absurd and not meant to be taken too seriously. If anything, I went into this movie hoping that it wouldn’t take itself too seriously and I was happy when I discovered that they found a happy medium.
In New York City, crime is at an all-time high and a group known as the “Foot Clan” is terrorizing the city at night. News reporter (of sorts) April O’Neil (Megan Fox) realizes what’s going on around here, but she never gets to cover any of the interesting stories that really matter. Instead, she’s busy covering worthless stories and only glimpsing the real deal. Her co-worker, Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) has the hots for her and wants to help her, but April wanders off on her own one night and makes the discovery that some vigilantes are stopping the Foot Clan. Well, they’re more than that… They’re walking, talking turtles?!
Of course, no one really believes April and her story about crime-fighting turtles, but on a second encounter with them, no one has to. After being captured by them, April meets Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Richtson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), learning that they are turtles, mutants, teenagers, and they’re ninjas. Once back to their home in the sewers, April is introduced to Master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), a mutated rat that warns her of the Foot Clan, a villain named Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), and a man named Eric Sacks (William Fichtner). Can April help save the day, with the help of her new Ninja friends?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not entirely what I thought it would be, as it stays fairly true to its roots and is sure to entertain its younger audiences. The turtles have earned themselves a PG-13 rating with all the violence and some language, which almost makes sense, but drastically limits its audience. If you’ve ever watched the show or read any of the comics, the characters are essentially the same and whether or not you liked those characters will probably determine what you think of them here. They’re immature, goofy, weird, and they act like teenagers of all ages. I didn’t personally love it, but I can see why a 12-year-old would.
I’m very pleased to say that I really enjoyed the Turtles in this film, as they’re exactly what I expected them to be. Just keep in mind at all times that they exhibit the stereotypes of different groups of teenagers and if you do that, you should have no trouble embracing them (at least I’d hope not). Michelangelo is obsessed with Pizza, April, and he’s a total goofball. Donatello is wicked smart, but he’s also a total dork. Raphael is a badass, but he’s all angsty and wants to be the leader. Leonardo is the leader, but resents that he is and has a tough time leading. As weird as he looked, Master Splinter is wise (as always) also proves that he can pack a punch. For what these characters are, they work fine and certainly entertain on different levels.
CGI-wise, this film looks pretty impressive and manages to make its odd characters look sort-of cool. The Turtles and Master Splinter look as realistic as they can and you can really see the facial expressions and emotions that are a part of their characters. The fighting sequences are pretty cool, especially because we see how much stronger the Turtles are than humans, as they send henchmen through walls. Shredder is easily one of the coolest looking villains of late and his many blades make him even more appealing. As a man, Shredder is surrounded in mystery and intrigue, with Master Splinter knowing more than he’s leading on.
Unfortunately, we never really get much back-story on Shredder, or why he’s evil in the first place. Oh, and how he knows Master Splinter and the Turtles (or even how they know of him). As far as the Turtles story goes, they have a rudimentary origin story that’s glossed over in 5-minutes and then we don’t really return to that. We get an aging montage about them and then it’s back to the present, where Megan Fox is still trying to convince us that she’s an actual actress. As much as I love him, Will Arnett is so out-of-place in this film and his chemistry, or lack thereof, with Fox does little but add more awkward moments to the film.
As far as a “story” goes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles manages to find the most cliches it can, in order to create what they think is an awesome film. There’s unnecessary corruption, trials/tribulations, and lots of really convenient timing that all represent most of your average Hollywood blockbuster films. That’s not to say that it all didn’t work at some point, but you know exactly what’s going to happen and you’ve seen it done before with far better writing and a more interesting/complex story. The end resolve is ultimately unsatisfying and because you obviously asked for this movie to be made, there are at least another two more TMNT films on their way.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could have fared far worse, but it also couldn’t have been much better either. In general, the show/comics/characters are super bizarre and a live-action adaptation just seems silly, much like this film was. It has its moments of fun and pure enjoyment, but they’re quickly followed by horribly written dialogue that’s said by a struggling Megan Fox. Seriously, I thought we were over her? Her only purpose in this film is the most convenient thing ever and it’s all really goofy how everything blends together. They did do the action right and I’m glad that they stayed true to the characters, because that’s what the kids who see this are ultimately going to end up loving. This movie is for younger kids (despite its PG-13 rating) and while I didn’t completely enjoy it, I know that many younger than I will!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Trailer