Big budget reboots are becoming the new normal for Hollywood and properties that appeal to both children and adults really help bring in the crowd. Naturally, it was only a matter of time until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got another shot. Reactions and criticisms started flying the day that the movie was made known to the general public. Will they do the characters justice? Will they change the origin story too much? Will Megan Fox ruin everything as April? Tons of questions filled the internet like an out of control wildfire. The initial title dropped the “Teenage Mutant” aspect and threw the world of Turtles fans into a tizzy. Then news leaked that the Turtles would be aliens which pushed already concerned fans into an even bigger tizzy. Then people got their first looks at the guys wearing the Motion-Capture “suits” and all around the world a collective moan could be heard. So much for the great days of yesteryear when Jim Henson created those amazing rubber suits that housed our actors and put smiles on the faces of kids everywhere. Surprisingly, I was still on board through all of that.
As soon as tickets became available my friend (a fellow Turtles fan) and I picked ours up and waited patiently until Thursday; a night that would either make or break our childhood. The results were surprising.
The movie opens with a well done animated sequence which explains who the Turtles are and how they came to be. Immediately thereafter you are thrown into the story of April O’Neil, a news reporter who is tired of doing fluff pieces and wants to chase down something major to help get her the recognition that she feels she deserves in the office. She witnesses criminal activity caused by the Foot Clan and tries to investigate. Four shadowy figures show up and take out the whole army in a matter of minutes without her ever seeing any of them. The next days she tries to take on another case on her own which results in her being held hostage by the Foot Clan in a subway terminal. The same four shadowy characters show up and take out the villains again. April notices an industrial pipe that they all go into and follows it up to the roof of the building where she discovers our heroes in all their glory. A backstory reveals that she has deeper ties with these four and their sensei which results in chaos in the sewers and the beginning of a war against the Foot and their evil master Shredder.
This review will remain spoiler free so that is all that I can really say about the movie without giving away any important details. Yes, Megan Fox plays April. No, she is not terrible in the role, granted she is not especially good, but still not terrible. Will Arnett (someone that I typically cannot stand) turns in a great performance as Vernon Fenwick, April’s loyal but snarky cameraman. Whoopi Goldberg is there playing, well Whoopi Goldberg. William Fichtner turns in a decent (if not campy) performance as Eric Sacks, a man who used to work with April’s father and who seems to be walking the fine line between good and evil. Minae Noji plays Karai, a character that could have definitely played as more of a villain rather than a hired hand to Shredder. Lastly, Shredder is played menacingly and brilliantly by Tohoru Masamune.
Human characters aside, lets get to those four brothers that everyone cares about.
The animation in this movie was fantastic. The turtles looked real and not too creepy. Splinter was extremely creepy at first but his looks become more humanized as his character story becomes flushed out. All four of the actors who played the Turtles turned in great performances. The personalities for Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo are revealed almost immediately and they’re not far off from what we are used to with them.My friend pointed out to me that this wasn’t really the case for Leonardo. Leo felt like he was just kind of there to round out the group and didn’t seem like the leader that he should have been. Leonardo and Splinter were the only two characters to not be voiced by the person who did the Mo-Cap performance. Leo was voiced by Johnny Knoxville and Splinter was voiced by Tony Shaloub. I’m not sure why some voices were cast by actors and others were not but regardless everyone turned in a great performance.
The origin story is re-written for this movie which I’m sure some people will have a hard time handling but I personally didn’t mind it too much. I grew up watching the 80’s cartoon and I am a fan of the current 2012 series and the stories in those, in the original trilogy and in the comics are all different. I’m all up for new interpretations and this one was okay in my book.
The director of this movie (Jonathan Liebesman) does a great job of keeping it from being too Michael Bay-ish but the humor in this does remind me of his work at times. The shining moment in this film is an insanely cool downhill chase involving a big rig, a group of Hummers and Michelangelo’s hover board.
Unfortunately, it can’t all be praise; This movie has a lot negatives to it as well. The run time (surprisingly an action movie that’s under two hours long!) is great but it felt like parts of the story were missed. By the time that we got to the “final fight” with Shredder it felt a little flat to me as well. I ultimately enjoyed the movie but something just felt like it was missing the whole time. I can’t pinpoint exactly what didn’t work for me but something definitely did not. Also, the 3D was pretty unimpressive but perhaps that was just my theater.
Overall, I would say that this is a movie that is worth seeing. I don’t think that it’s anywhere near as bad as the critics are making it out to be (per usual) and while this reboot missed the charm that the first TMNT movie had back in 1990 it was still a very solid attempt.