I grew up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Seeing the first feature film back in the 80s was my first memory of seeing a movie in theaters, so it’s pretty significant. I knew better than to expect this movie to be good though, as Michael Bay is producing and it looks just like his recent Transformers outings. Was it that bad?
The gist is that April O’Neill (Megan Fox) is a news reporter investigating some mysterious criminal organization known as the Foot Clan. She runs into four giant turtles who are trying to stop them. The turtles are voiced by Johnny Knoxville, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Alan Ritchson. Their mentor Splinter is voiced by Tony Shalhoub (Monk). William Fichtner and Will Arnett both also star.
Surprisingly, the turtles were the highlight of this film. They looked better in action than I was expecting. They’re definitely not as agile as ninjas usually are, as they’re much more muscular and strong (I mean, they throw trucks at one point in the opening scene with them). They’re also given unique personalities, asides from just the color of their mask, so it does feel like they just contribute in different ways. It was noticeable that Donatello, who has always been the smart one, was actually much thinner than the others, almost lanky. It was an interesting choice but it worked.
The voices for the turtles worked for me, with Michaelangelo stealing the show.
What didn’t work?
While the director is Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Battle Los Angeles), this is produced by Michael Bay and it shows. There are so many unnecessary lens flares and explosions and the plot is incredibly thin.
I’ll just say it. The story is horrid and predictable and everything I hoped it wouldn’t be. Fichtner is the real villain here, as “Shredder” is basically a one-dimensional character who shows up to beat up the turtles but you have no idea what his motivation is. At least Fichtner’s character is blatant about the money.
And Shredder is horribly executed. He’s like the giant samurai from The Wolverine but he moves extremely fast, which is jarring. And somehow he can shoot swords from his hands and then magnetically call them back to him? I was shaking my head. And you never once get a good look at Shredder without the mask.
Megan Fox is miscast here and overused. She’s in almost every scene and she’s as charismatic as a piece of cardboard. She’s awkwardly teamed up with Will Arnett, who tried to do his best but his character should’ve been a teenage kid, not a 40-something adult man.
While the turtles mostly looked good, the effects for both Shredder and Splinter were a little lacking, so there were some cringe-worthy fight scenes involving them both.
Here’s the thing. The turtles needed to work in this movie. And they did! So this movie is already better than I was expecting, but everything else fell apart around it. The story, supporting actors, and visual effects were all subpar (but on par with recent Transformers outings). Kids in the audience loved it though, so maybe it’s best to not think too critically about it. It’s a fun action ride, if that’s all you want. I’m actually excited about potential sequels, if they can manage to actually make the turtles the focus of the story.