Bay & Liebesman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Review

Holy Cow- It's not completely awful.
     Since its announcement Bay & Liebesman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has fought an uphill battle against TMNT fandom.  From mild disrespect to outright hatred, I'm sure he got flooded with hate mail.  Many of us had plenty of reservations about the changes to our beloved franchise which only grew in number as more and more trailers were released.
     Eastman & Laird had created something we all loved and it has stood the test of time through each relaunch.  It started out as a joke- a ninja turtle- but became something much, much more.  Somewhere under the initial idea- it contained a grain of genius and grew into something great.
     When Megan Fox was cast as April O'Neil, or even worse- when William Fichtner had been cast as The Shredder, I was horrified.  But as many have forgotten- our long-time turtles have gone through many, many alterations over time.  Some of them far worse than this.  I'm looking at you Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.  So I kept in mind the fact that this was a huge deviation from what I grew up with, and that made a world of difference in my watching the new film, because these Ninja Turtles are for a new generation.  After the recent couple seasons of the tremendously well-done new Nickelodeon animated series TMNT fever was bound to strike again, seemingly on the nose each fourth year of the decade.

     SPOILER WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead.

     Bay and Liebesman may have made these four brothers into The Incredible Hulk's smaller cousins, but it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  This new incarnation of the turtles is by no means a good movie.  But that isn't to say it's a bad one either.  There were moments of genuine entertainment here.

     For one large surprise- something that was both bad and good for me- was the focus on April.  What they did right was make her a real journalist.  She is someone that wants to make a difference and sets out to get it done while being relegated to having to do low brow journalism on trampolines.
     What they did wrong was two-fold- 1. they made her the object of everyone's gawkery, and 2. they tried to cram her into the origin story of the turtles.  For how far she goes out of her way she is never given credit for her intellect- but always gets noted for her looks.  If they at least gave her more credit for her ideas, the problem may not have seemed so large.  As it is it's purely sexual objectification.
     How did her boss not still let her do the story based on the symbol she found at ALL THE CRIME SCENES?!?  That is a great piece of evidence, even if the rest of her story seemed ridiculous.

     The ogling should've been toned down and the story should've been changed.  Seriously, not everyone needs to be related to the origin, and she certainly has a lot of coincidental ties with the foursome AND the bad guys.  Such implausible connections make a lot of viewers roll their eyes.  Give it a rest, that is lazy and cheap on the writers' part.  We don't need over-complicated plots that lose any sense of semblance.  (Strangely enough, she is more the focus of the movie than the our Renaissance named friends and the movie might've been more accurately titled April O'Neil.)

     Speaking of the Shredder, why did they even bring him in?  The film-makers haven't given us a reason to believe this guy is as capable as we have come to know.  He's become a 7 foot tall Transformer samurai... and might be more if they continue with this storyline if you caught the scene near the end.  Way to jump the gun and give him the ultimate armor before we see how well he does in regular armor.
    Why didn't they give us something that showed how dangerous he really is?  They show us he can take down enemies while his hands are tied, but then he never fights without the suit from then on.  There was no build up- he isn't given room for it because the needlessly fast paced clip of the film.  Even his own daughter Karai felt underutilized.  Maybe it has to do with the fact they tried to tell a fate of the city story, instead of a nicely compact story with the shadowy underworld of New York.  Yet again Hollywood tries to make it too big.  This film is best when it's on the small scale.  When the turtles are taking down Foot soldiers and cracking jokes.  They don't need to save the city or entire world.  Not every tale needs to be of disaster proportions.

      Master Splinter was taken too far- both in looks (he's extra creepy looking here, the earlier design was slightly less so.) and his being their father, despite the fact he's roughly the same age as the turtles when in the lab.
     Splinter does get to see some fighting- and they handled that impressively.  I actually really liked how they incorporated his tail into the mix.  I would like to think that that scene is what my admission price paid for.  It is well executed but should've probably been much later in the movie.  In fact, I may have enjoyed it much more had he not looked like a damn Fu Manchu rat-monster.

Good lord- Splinter is downright grotesque.  I just had to say it.
     Even the blatant product placement is something we could handle if the rest of the film was wrapped up nicer.  Clean up the script, tone down the ultra fast pace- not every scene needs to be constantly in motion!  Give us a smaller story- one of actual family- and make sure it isn't a completely formulaic check-the-box list of things.  We can handle the mythical 99 cheese pizza if we are given reason to.  We can grow used to liking the new brutish forms the Turtles have taken.
     We fans want something that'll move us, in a new and interesting way.  Sure we love the little nods to all the old series but we want real substance.  There needs to be real investment into the future of these Turtles if they want to maintain our fandom.  Give us the heart of the TMNT, not just the muscles and weapons spruced up with witty banter.  It isn't only about the action- that's why the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is the one I regard as the best ever.  It tells a story of a family, not an expositional dump of a story of family.  They are very different things.

     Like I said at the beginning, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't the best movie, but it isn't the worst either.  If they get their act together and make another one, which will presumably happen due to the nature of their enduring popularity- they should take notes from the Nickelodeon series' writers.  The property has survived many worse iterations, it'll go on long after this film.  I mean they've got a start already- when the Turtles are acting as the tight knit family it works well- particularly the scenes when they first meet April and the elevator ride.  Those moments nailed the characters perfectly.

     The film may be riddled with plot holes and has an overabundance of preposterous things going on that make no sense at all, but you know what- in the end I enjoyed it.  Not all of it of course- Bay and Liebesman don't wield Director's power with the subtle grace of a doctor's scalpel- they use it like a neanderthal's bludgeon- but just enough to keep me from fully fearing the inevitable sequel we'll be receiving.  Mostly because of Michelangelo, who totally steals the show.

     My apologies for rambling on so long here, but perhaps they'll listen to the fans and make something less generic and subsequently more meaningful in the future.

     For my other Turtles posts [ TMNT ]

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