If you are a child from the 90s like myself, or just happen to love quality cartoons, you have undoubtedly seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The cartoon was created in the late 80s and I remember watching it and loving it. I know a lot of hardcore fans have been unimpressed with either the faces of the characters or just this whole movie in general and while I agree that the movie was fantastic, or even close to it, I did find parts of it enjoyable. Director Jonathan Liebesman and Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did have some aspects in it that I appreciated, but unless you were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan as a child, I think I would be remiss to recommend this to a person uninitiated into the TMNT fandom already.
The story follows the same arc that most TMNT episodes followed back when the show was on tv. The Foot Clan is causing chaos in New York City and they need to be stopped. The reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), while trying to figure out a major story to get ahead of her competitors, comes upon the Foot Clan being taken down by a group of who she thinks are regular vigilantes. She soon comes to realize that these are not normal human beings but instead are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What follows is the TMNT group, along with April O’Neil and April’s cameraman man Vern Fenwick(Will Arnett), trying to save everyone from the diabolical scheme that the Foot Clan is trying to pull off.
Michael Bay does some good things with this rendition of the TMNT franchise, but he also misses at times. This film does a good job of showing the relationship between the four brothers (Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael) in the fighting sense and how they are much stronger when they work together. Leonardo acts as the natural leader of the group, Donatello is the smart one who can figure out almost any technology, Raphael, while incredibly angry most of the time is also quite strong, and Michelangelo acts as the comic relief when things seem to be getting too serious. Michelangelo and his crush on April throughout the movie may have been one of my favorite aspects as it provided a nice aside from the seemingly serious nature of the task at hand. No matter what the circumstance is as long as the team works together things will get solved. The other thing that I enjoyed most about the film were the action scenes. The fights are mostly well put together and the scene with the tractor-trailer going down the snow bank may have been my favorite scene of the entire film. While it does seem that the focus in the fights is more on the turtles size and strength rather than the ninja skills that they possess, it was still nice to see the turtles using each of their favorite weapons once again.
That being said, however, there were definite points where the film lacked and hence cannot recommend spending your money unless you already happen to be a fan of the franchise. The storyline was lacking any sort of real depth or emotion. It follows April along with how she first met the turtles, how they have grown up to be who they are today, and how her father and his boss had a huge impact on what is going on at the time in NYC. It just seems as though the whole story is focused on the April’s childhood in the lab with the turtles and how everyone is connected. It just seems unlikely, to me, that it is possible that all of these “people” who knew each other way back when would end up in the same place at the same time. In addition, the only way you will care about any of these characters is if you have some prior knowledge of the show since none of them are given much to relate to. Another issue I had is with the turtles themselves. Aside from their odd-looking faces, which I honestly still do not like, they just do not have enough of a role in their own movie. We never get to see a time where the turtles really connect as a family except for when they yell each other’s names as one is getting hurt or even a small scene in the elevator where they come together and sync nicely. They basically are brought to the screen to fight and then sort of disappear again until the next time a fight is happening. Likewise, the human characters themselves get even less of a focus and you know next to nothing about any of them aside from April and really the only thing we know about her is that she is the one who saved the turtles when they were younger and knew them in her past.
Overall, I cannot honestly recommend this movie to anyone who is not already a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even for those who are fans, I would recommend going in to screening of this film with no expectations as that is probably the best way to get the optimal amount of enjoyment from it. As stated earlier, I did find things that I appreciated about the movie, such as some of the action scenes and the how well the turtles fight together as a unit. However, the fact that the turtles only ever seem to have anything to do on-screen when a fight is taking place and the storyline leaves you feeling little to nothing for the characters, I can only recommend this film to people who are already fans of the franchise and are looking for a nostalgic romp with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that we already know and love.
-Megan Highwind has left the party.