Reboots of cartoon classics are just a fact of life now. Each time they hit theaters, you hope and pray they’ll do justice to your childhood memories. More often than not, they leave you disappointed. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is sadly no exception.
Here’s the uncomplicated premise; you’ve probably already guessed it if you’re even glancingly familiar with the original cartoon or comic books. Bad guy Shredder and his Foot Clan minions have a plan to take over New York City, with the police and politicians at their beck and call. The only ones willing and able to stand up to the menace are a band of good guy mutant turtles who happen to be teens and have a penchant for pizza. At the urging of their rat-sensei Splinter, the adolescent reptiles have been lurking in the sewer, studying karate and skateboarding while NYC unravels above them.
Splinter keeps them sewer-bound until intrepid young reporter April O’Neil enters the picture. Actually in this version of the Turtles, April is not only a reporter; in her youth, she saved the turtles when they were simply a science project created at the hand of her late scientist good-guy dad, who by the way was killed at the hand of Shredder’s master Mr. Sacks. Ahhh the feels! The turtles feel honor-bound to protect April and, in turn, the Big Apple they call home. You can probably take it from there.
Even though the plot sounds familiar, a few things have changed with TMNT since we last saw them on the big screen. There’s a lot that was done right and wrong (mostly wrong).
Let’s look at what was done right first:
- Cinematics – The movie LOOKS good. And with Jonathan Leibesman and Michael Bay directing and producing, you expect that.
- The Foot Clan terrorizing New York City – Simple plot that we all know and love.
- Shredder – was really the ONLY part of the movie that was mildly impressive. Although it does look like his original suit had sex with a dinosaur transformer.
- Splinter – Looks creepy and disturbing, but isn’t that the effect that I’m supposed to get from the vision of a 5-foot-something mutated rat?
- The Turtles stay true to their 1987 stereotypes: Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Rafael’s cool but rude, and Michelangelo is a party dude
- The weaponry is also consistent; Leonardo has katanas, Donatello has a staff, Raphael has sais, and Michelangelo has nunchucks.
- April’s basic details – She’s a hot reporter who owns a lot of yellow jackets.
- The Sewer Dojo fit for teens
- Jargon – “Turtles in a Half Shell” and “Turtle Power” make cameos.
There we go, the framework is there! But it also got some things super wrong:
- New York City: The turtles are denizens of New York City, protecting New York City. But the dialogue plays like they’ve never been here. For example, they lump Brooklyn together as one piece.
- New York City Pizza: No one from New York City—reptile or otherwise—orders pizza from Pizza Hut. I know it was very clear product placement that the turtles did in this movie, but it’s also blasphemy. Why not slap “Ray’s” on a box? That’s believable.
- April: She’s supposed to be a smart but hot chick who keeps these party dude turtles on their toes. The hot part is there, but… welp.
- Channel 6: April looks like a fool in front of her news station bosses when she explains the madness afoot in NYC, but she chooses to keep her turtle friends a secret over getting her story. (Even after pretty much EVERYONE in the city sees the turtles after they defeat Shredder and fall from the rooftop of a Manhattan Skyscraper, but hey,witnessing 6 foot mutated turtles falling from the sky is just something people will forget right?) So she’s never vindicated! Womp womp.
- Juicy J is no Vanilla Ice.
- The Foot Clan never really use their feet, they all shoot guns like a team of mercenaries. I guess a ninjutsu clan of soldiers using martial arts is a thing of the past.
- Splinter didn’t learn his martial arts from his master, he learned them from a book he found in the sewer when the turtles were kids.
- The turtles are weak and don’t know how to fight. Although I admire their spirit and Never-Give-Up attitude, the turtles just get their butts kicked over and over throughout the movie. I mean, I thought they are supposed to be ninjutsu masters?
- April is really the star of this movie. She gets the most time on-screen, the most dialogue and the story really revolves around her.
I think what irk’d me the most was that the film is inconsistent throughout. For example, we’re to believe Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) trained under Shredder, but we never seem him kick or throw a punch once. He even shoots a gun like he’s never picked up a weapon in his life. Did Shredder teach him to look like he’s shooting a gun for the first time? Are the Turtles aliens? Was the ooze of alien origin? Why are there big buttons on machines that tell people exactly what to do? Did April’s dad start a fire or was he shot?
Long story short, if there was ever a movie that should not have been made, this is definitely it. Although cinematically appealing, Michael Bay’s work is getting old and predictable. I felt as though I was watching a bad Transformer’s movie without the awesome cars, and that’s kind of the only reason you go to see the movie. The story was inconsistent. The action never really picked up. The cheesy one-liners were, well cheesy. I’m not even sure who the target audience was. I took my seven year old son (who LOVES the new TMNT cartoons) and he wasn’t even into it. In fact, he asked me three times when it was going to be over so we could go home. Don’t waste your money, folks.