I was never really big into the Ninja Turtles when I was younger, but having an older brother who was, I had no choice but to watch the ’90s movies over and over again. I have to say, they weren’t so bad. Sure, if you look at them now they are obviously dated and aren’t made up in the impressive CGI technology that filmmakers today often abuse, but they had a lot of heart, and they were enjoyable enough even for a kid like me who didn’t carry around a Ninja Turtle lunchbox and own a million action figures. This most recent rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t quite have the same kind of appeal as those older movies, however. Its failures reside in a lack of focus on the grossly CGI’d mutant heroes themselves, a main character who simply cannot carry a movie, a villain with nonsensical motivations, and a story that is extremely uninteresting in general.
WARNING: May be some spoilers!
April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a struggling, but ambitious news reporter in New York City where a bunch of criminals called the Foot Clan run rampant. In the midst of witnessing a Foot Clan robbery, she spots a strange figure who she believes is a vigilante working against the clan. She tries to explain what she saw to her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) and co-workers, but no one believes her. After an incident in a subway station where Foot Clan soldiers take some people hostage, April finally gets to see the Ninja Turtles in full form and up close, however, they erase any pictures she takes of them, leaving her with little as far as evidence goes. Her obsession to figure out who they are leads her to piece together their origins. She remembers seeing her father and a man named Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) experimenting on turtles in a lab. She realizes that these turtles were once her “pets” who she named after Italian Renaissance painters. She eventually visits Sacks to learn more, but unknowingly gives away information of their existence to the man who is the protégé of the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Now, with the help of Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), their sensei, a rat named Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), and her former co-worker, Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), she must stop Shredder and Sacks from carrying out their master plan, which involves the mutagen that runs through the Turtles’ blood.
It’s pretty obvious that Michael Bay has put his imprint on this movie, despite him not being the director, which I’m thankful for, because if he was, this movie would probably be three friggin’ hours long. It has its usual Bay product placement (i.e. Pizza Hut), objectification of women, some flashy CGI and action scenes for those with short attention spans, and some questionable humor.
Megan Fox, whose face is looking kind of Botox-y in this movie, is pretty much the main character, except that her purpose is somewhat useless minus piecing together the Turtles’ origin story. She may not be so skimpily dressed this time around, but her looks are still the main focus of her character. She is the object of affection for Will Arnett’s character, Vernon, who gets distracted by her butt whilst plummeting down a huge snowy mountain in a big truck, as well as Michelangelo, who makes weird comments throughout the movie like, “She’s so hot, I can feel my shell tightening!” I feel bad for her if a wimpy older dude and an ugly turtle teenager are her only prospects for love. So why is she the focus of this story if she’s so uninteresting? I have no idea.
Now let’s take a look at the villains of this movie for a moment. First, we have Eric Sacks, a guy whose mentor is a Japanese martial arts master, but who doesn’t know martial arts himself. The only thing he can do is be very bad at using a gun, and be easily defeated by a microscope-wielding Will Arnett. He’s also rich, and lives in a giant castle-like mansion. You want to know what his main motivation is for carrying out his master plan? To get rich. Well, to get more rich, because, you know, living in a big ass castle just ain’t enough.
Then, we have Shredder, the Turtles’ arch nemesis. I’m not really sure what his motivation for being evil is, but I’m guessing it’s the usual wanting to rule the world kind of thing, except here it’s just ruling New York City. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. My Freudian explanation would be that Shredder has deep psychological problems and is scarred emotionally and physically, so now he wants to overcompensate by giving himself unlimited power over a large group of people…or something to that effect. But really, I’m the one overcompensating for the fact that his character wasn’t developed much at all. I don’t remember what his suit was like in the ’90s movies or wherever else, but in this, he can eject and recall knives at will, which seems kind of cheap considering he’s actually quite skilled in good old-fashioned fighting, Splinter being the only one who can almost match him.
Let’s move on to the Ninja Turtles. They all still have the same general personality traits. Leonardo is the reasonable leader, Raphael is the serious tough guy, Donatello is the intellectual, and Michelangelo is the goofball. Some differences here are that Michelangelo, while being goofy, is actually a bit perverted and creepy. Raphael is scary as hell, like someone working as a muscle for the mob or something, Donatello has glasses…just because, and Leonardo is…the least interesting. I also don’t get why they’re so gross looking. I guess maybe the filmmakers wanted to make them more realistic, as if actual turtles evolved into bipedal humanoids but still maintained the same texture of skin. It’s okay, though, I can run with it even though they appear significantly less friendly. Their personalities weren’t really developed much either, considering the movie didn’t take the time to flesh them out.
The humor in this movie was mostly corny but I did have a couple of laughs. There were quite a few parts where Megan Fox would scream ridiculously at the top of her lungs, and that was just so over the top it was funny. There’s also an elevator scene where the Turtles start beatboxing in synchrony, which I found to be one of the more humorously endearing scenes in the movie. There were a few other one liners here and there, so it wasn’t all bad in that regard.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles falls short in a lot of ways, partly due to the script, direction by Jonathan Liebesman, as well as the obvious taint that Michael Bay has put on it. Coming from someone who is not as big of a Ninja Turtle fan as a lot of others, it was generally disappointing and I think this movie could’ve been a lot better. I only wonder if the long time fans feel the same way I do.