Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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I think it’s safe to say that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are ingrained into the DNA of everyone here at Everything Action.  We grew up on the cartoon, the live action movies, the video games and, eventually, the original comics.  The fact that Michael Bay was producing a remake brought a lot of trepidation to Turtle fans, especially after seeing the aggressive decline of the Transformers movies.  Bay’s influence does result in some questionable changes to the mythology and plot but it’s not as terrible as we feared.

The movie follows April O’Neil (Megan Fox), who’s a plucky reporter who’s sick of being Veronica Corningstoned at Channel 6 and tries to investigate a rash of high tech robberies by the mercenary group known the Foot Clan (who are just mercenaries and not the ninja clan we’re used to).  She uncovers a group of vigilantes who turn out to be the Turtles, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael.  Where things get overly complicated and Bayish is when *spoiler* it’s revealed April was vital to the growth and safety of the Turtles when they were young, as her father and his partner, Eric Sachs (William Fichtner), were testing mutagen, that has the potential to cure all disease and empower people with strength and speed.  April’s importance and influence on the Turtles is ridiculous and unnecessary, as is the amount time we actually spend with her compared to the Turtles.  There are only glimpses of the Turtles for at least the first 45 minutes and we’re stuck with April and her increasingly insane effort to convince people the Turtles are real (although to be fair, must people reasonably treat her like a lunatic).  The overall plot of Shredder, who doesn’t really fit into this new, super sciencey origin, is also incredibly generic and the only defining thing about him is his new, robotic suit that has an endless supply of knives, which is cool but also feels like every other comic super villain i.e. Silver Samurai, Iron Man villains..

Going into the movie, the look of the new Turtles was a sticking point for many fans but you do get used to them as the movie goes on and they look much better in motion than in still images.  The thing they are lacking is the personality of the 90’s Turtles.  Donatello is a generic nerd who has a few gadgets, Raphael is a generic, roided out jock who kind of sounds like Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo is somehow even more boring than his previous incarnations (and is voiced by Johnny Knoxville of all people).  These Turtles are in a bizarre no man’s land because they will probably alienate old school Turtles fan and probably won’t entertain kids as much as the new Nickelodeon Turtles.  Splinter gets probably the most drastic make-over, looking even more like a sewer rat but his origins are even more flimsy than the cartoon or the original movie, as he’s learned karate from one book that got washed up in the sewer.  It is a nice detail that he uses his tail as a weapon for his fights and his fight vs Shredder is pretty cool.  There are a few references and nods for old school turtle fans, like at one point Shredder says he will “Dine on turtle soup”.

The action overall is nothing extraordinary but competent overall.  The best sequence is probably the mountain chase you saw from the trailer, even though it’s another thing that makes absolutely no sense (the movie seems to take place in late spring, early summer in NYC but a few miles outside of the city, there’s snow covered mountains).  The final fight with Shredder is pretty good as well, with all the Turtles teaming up and there’s some good use of the unique aspects of being a Turtle in that scene and throughout the movie as well (the Turtles are psyched to find out that they are bulletproof).  It’s fine when you are watching it but nothing is going to stick with you after you exit the theater.

Overall, Turtles is not as offensively and insultingly bad as the latest Transformers but it’s nothing that stands out from the other OK movies from this Summer.  There’s some fun action and some funny bits (mostly from Will Arnett) that might make it a solid matinee if you want to turn your brain off for two hours but for hardcore Turtles fans, you probably want to stick with the Turtles material you grew up with.

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