I wasn’t surprised when it was announced that Michael Bay was going to be a part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. He already helmed Transformers, so why not give him a chance to play with our favorite combatting amphibians as well? People claim that Bay “ruined” their childhood with the Transformers movies, but I didn’t mind them too much. That being said, I knew I was going to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came out, bad reviews or not. (spoilers ahead!)
Everyone knows the origins and general backstory of our heroes in the half-shell: four turtles are exposed to radioactive ooze, which makes them grow larger and adopt human-like qualities. Also transformed by this ooze is a rat, Splinter, who becomes the turtles’ mentor and father-figure, and trains them in the art of Ninjitsu.
Early in the movie’s production, there was uproar from fans when news leaked that Bay was going to make the turtles into aliens. Personally, I don’t mind when directors take creative liberties, although I was pretty skeptical about this particular change. Fortunately, the movie dropped the alien origin and returned to the story of the ooze. There is actually a quick tongue-in-cheek, meta-reference to this debacle halfway through the movie that made me laugh.
Even though the ooze was back in the picture, there were still some interesting changes regarding the origins. I won’t give too much of the plot away, but I am sure that fans of the original comics and cartoons will be satisfied. The overall backstory had a very The Amazing Spider-Man vibe going on. In TASM, we found out how Peter Parker’s missing parents and infamous spider-bite circled back to Oscorp. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we discover how both the turtles’ backstory and April O’Neil circle back to the main antagonist, Eric Sacks.
I was pleasantly surprised early on in the movie when Shredder was revealed. The trailers for the movie implied that William Fichtner was Shredder. While Fichtner does play a newcomer villain named Eric Sacks, he does NOT play the turtles’ trademark nemesis. We find out that the real Shredder is actually a brutal Japanese warrior who happens to have a close personal relationship with Sacks. This was a breath of fresh air after the controversy that arose when people thought Shredder was going to be portrayed as an American.
Fichtner does an excellent job as a charismatic businessman whom you love to hate over the course of the movie. He was a little out of place in the story, but what bothered me more was the character of Shredder. It is revealed that Shredder raised Sacks like his own child and is almost like a master or a father to him. But there is virtually no character development for Shredder. We see a lot of awesome fight scenes when he shows up on screen, but he is nothing more than just a muscle. I left the theater wondering, “So, who was master over who?”
Shredder’s armor was interesting. His original costume is meant to resemble a samurai warrior, fitting in with his Japanese heritage. The outfit used in the movie was familiar, but it was upgraded into a huge mechsuit with knives coming out of everywhere. I couldn’t help but think of Transformers whenever Shredder came on screen. The extra armor makes sense in accordance to the movie. After all, the turtles are strong enough to punch through the side of a van. Could a normal human really take them in a fight? No – not without a mechsuit like the one worn by Shredder.
The movie has a heavy focus on April O’Neil, portrayed by Megan Fox. Once again, we had controversy over Fox playing a beloved character, especially since she was not a redhead. Fox’s acting is nothing extraordinary, but she doesn’t drag the movie down as much as people said she would. Though I would’ve enjoyed more attention on the turtles instead of Fox, I’m fine with what we got. Will Arnett’s brilliant performance as the hopeless romantic Vern Fenwick balanced out Fox’s lackluster acting.
The turtles looked and sounded great. It’s obvious that the movie was trying to take on a grittier, darker tone adopted by many vigilante films in this day and age, and I think they did a great job. On a deeper level, I thought the turtles suffered the same fate as Shredder and lacked any real development. Despite being brothers, I couldn’t sense any real connection between them. They were pretty hollow except for a few quirks here and there such as Michaelangelo’s jokes or Raphael’s attitude.
If you like action scenes, then you’ll love the last half-hour of this film. You may have seen the trailers featuring the turtles sliding down the snow-covered mountain and taking out a squad of armored cars; it was even better on the big screen in its full beauty. As you can expect, there is also a climactic fight scene between the turtles and Shredder near the end. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s definitely a fun sequence that will leave you smiling.
I’ve saved my comments on the plot for the end because I wasn’t a huge fan of the story. It was pretty shallow and easily forgettable. It’s not your typical origin movie that revolves around the slow, tedious build-up of the hero. The actual backstory is briefly touched upon, and then we move right into the central plot. I will say this: we see another instance where the plot bears a striking resemblance to The Amazing Spider-Man (2 for 2 – Did Mark Webb have a hand in this movie as well?)
In closing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was not that bad. It is very fast-paced and only an hour-and-a-half long, so it’s not like it dragged on. If you’re looking for strong character development and a deep story, then this movie may not be for you. If you’re like me and you love great action scenes with stunning visuals, check it out.
Have you seen the film yet? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Twitter!