Before I start, I’d like everyone in advance to understand I’m aware this is a kid’s movie. So, when I complain, feel free to throw it out there like the hula hoop in The Hudsucker Proxy (“You know…for kids”). I may be nitpicking about this movie, looking at it with eyes that are older than the intended audience. It may also be somewhat spoiler filled, so a little warning beforehand.
When it comes to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I grew up on the 90’s Era cartoon. Truth be told, though, the Turtles started way back in the early 80s and the new movie may be closer to that in some ways. I can’t really say for sure due to my unfamiliarity with the comics.
I can say that while Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not be my Ninja Turtles, but they may end up being someone’s Ninja Turtles. That’s really the kindest thing I can say about it. A number of kids in my audience seemed to really enjoy it, though the adults who came for the nostalgia factor (myself included) looked a little disappointed. It’s not a horrid movie. I had moments – particularly the snow sequence – that I truly enjoyed, but at best this Turtles feels like an action demo reel sliced together.
The beginning of the movie explains the Turtles, the Foot Clan, and The Shredder in the space of five minutes. This is helped along with some drawings down by Kevin Eastman himself. Everyone in the city is aware of the Foot Clan, and reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is trying to crack her first big story with anything she can find about the Ninja groups criminal acts. This leads her to discovering the Turtles, Splinter and together they try to stop the Shredder’s master plan – one that involves poisoning all of New York City with a deadly mist from the top of a tower. This involves the Turtles because their blood still contains remnants of the Mutagen used to change them, which assists in their amazing healing factors. The Mutagen also acts as an antidote to the poison. It’s almost the same premise used in The Amazing Spider-Man and Batman Begins. Would it hurt to have a little creativity? Didn’t anyone in the writing department say “wait, we’ve seen this trend in movies about as much as we’ve seen the ‘Captured-Villian-taken-to-Hero’s-Base-who-Springs-Trap-that-Disables-Hero’s-Ability-to-do-Good’. Maybe we should try something different here?” Nope. Let’s simply take a tired plot line and do it again. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deserves to be the final film that uses the Toxic Mist angle for a while.
A moment of silence, if you will:
R.I.P. “Toxic Mist, a.k.a. Mutagen Mist, a.k.a. Scarecrow Dust” – Born 2005 (Batman Begins) – Died 2014 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Here’s what I had a problem with:
Exposition by way of Explanation –
The rule of “Show, don’t Tell” states that it’s better to reveal information on screen – to the characters and the audience – than it would be to have someone just tell you what’s up. Most of Turtles moves in this fashion. When April witnesses a crime thwarted by Raphael, she runs to her boss, her room mate and pieces it all together, telling everyone exactly what we just saw – that a vigilante is fighting back against the Foot Clan. The argument could be made that the explanation is done to help kids understand what’s going on, but the scene before that already covered it.
Plot holes within plot holes-
Turtles also suffers from giving the audience information that the writers completely ignore later on. At one point, one of the members is wounded and the remaining Turtles have to get Mutagen to save them. Wait. The story already mentioned that they all had Mutagen in them – the “Mutant” part that accelerates their healing – so why would you need to administer more when what they have can already save them? It’s face palm moments like these that show how much focus was done on making the movie look good, compared to writing a solid plot. Some things don’t make sense here.
What did work:
Brian Tyler’s score for the film may be the best element of the entire movie. It may sound similar to Thor: The Dark World in some ways, but it’s a good theme for the heroes overall. I’ve had some of it on repeat on Spotify, truth be told.
The action is actually pretty good, though it takes some time to get there. Some of the fight scenes suffer from the Bourne Identity and Batman Begins blur effects, but overall, it works out. Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing that snow sequence again if I didn’t have to sit through the entire film. From that point forward, the action picks up. Each turtle (and Splinter) has their own moment in the spotlight and when it happens, it can cause a smile or two, however brief that may be. The Turtles themselves are huge and highly mobile, which make the fights look like Power Rangers battles before the enemy grows to a huge size. There aren’t as many Bay like explosions in this as you’d find in Transformers, but you can feel his influence on this. That could be considered a problem when you compare Turtles with Battle: L.A. (which I enjoyed).
The In Between:
The casting on this movie is a mixed bag. Megan Fox isn’t a bad April O’Neil by any means (she’s good), but April herself in this version isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. By that, I mean she is as abbreviated in this as Lois Lane was in Man of Steel. In an age where we’re trying to see more well rounded female leads on screen, O’Neil becomes just another Lara Croft / Carol Marcus / Sydney Bristow with issues circulating around her father. Not saying it’s unlikely, but they could have found something else to work with as background. Again, it’s a kid’s movie. Maybe it doesn’t need to be that complex. Will Arnett felt like a sidekick in this, and I found it a little difficult to not hear his Lego Batman when he spoke, but that’s just me. The Turtles themselves could be voiced by anyone, really. I didn’t feel too much of a difference between them, save that they played to their archetypes. Raphael always seemed angry, Mike is playful and so on.
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a kid’s film and maybe only young kids will really enjoy it. There’s action for both old and new fans of the Heroes in a Halfshell, but it’s wrapped up in stories we’ve heard before. This probably one you’ll want to wait for video, at best.