Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review


Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I was a pretty hardcore Ninja Turtles fanboy, so when I heard that they were making another movie under the TMNT franchise, I felt like I had to go see it regardless of how good it was going to be.  The premise is ridiculous almost beyond belief, but if you can get past it, there’s a lot to enjoy from the Ninja Turtles.  But then I heard that this man had been attached to the production.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
He’s like James Cameron, only without a sense of standards.

Initially, Bay wanted to turn the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles.  TMNT would have become TANT, and let us all thank our lucky stars that he didn’t want to go any further and make them into the Teenage Alien Invincible Ninja Turtles.  In the end, Bay was hired on to be the film’s producer, and directing went to this guy.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Jonathan Liebesman

In case you don’t know who he is, he’s the fellow who directed this…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
As of this day, sitting steadily at a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes

I’m not saying that Liebesman was the wrong person to direct the film.  To be frank, he didn’t do a terrible job.  He seemed to understand the appeal of the TMNT and did what he could to try to bring that sense of silly adventure to the movie.  However, that’s the main problem with this one; the director and producer were clearly not on the same page.  Liebesman wanted to make a TMNT movie.  Bay wanted to make yet another Transformers movie.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Clearly one Transformers movie a year wasn’t enough for him.

While Liebesman might have been the official director of the movie, Bay’s fingerprints are all over it (examples to come).  He messed everything up so badly that it’s rather difficult to find a place to begin.  I haven’t even said anything about the film proper yet, and already I have no qualms about writing this movie off as a failure.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep the list of misfires down to three.  We’ll start with the most obvious one.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
These guys!

First of all, look at them.  No, I mean it.  Really look at them.  Do these guys look like fun-loving teens who are out to fight crime for the sake of goodness?  If anything, they look like monsters on steroids with murderous intentions, especially Raphael.  They’re so big that they can’t even use any ninja techniques.  They’re not very stealthy, and whenever they get into combat, they brawl with their enemies and throw them through walls.  Someone also had the bright idea to make them bulletproof.  (Please do not test that on a real turtle!)  On top of everything, their design is butt-ugly and scary.  This is why people complain about movies relying to heavily on CGI.  Not only is it lazy, but more often than not, the design of a character falls into the uncanny valley.  I couldn’t find any photos of Splinter, and I’m kind of glad because his design is even worse.

Secondly, Michelangelo is the only one with any kind of personality or character, and what he is given is annoying.  If not for their color-coded masks and weapons, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell most of them apart from each other.  The only one who does anything memorable is Michelangelo, but all he really does is hit on April without any respect of boundaries.

Thirdly–and this one befuddled me–they’re not even the focus of their own movie.  The movie is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it really should’ve been called April O’Neil.

That’s the second biggest problem with this movie; April is the main character, and not only is her back story very contrived and coincidental to the point of laughter, but she has about as much character development as the turtles.  There were a few moments when the movie seemed to get a piece of her character correct.  At times, she’s very determined to get the scoop on a story that every other reporter is too scared to take on, but once she does, it never really goes anywhere.  She’s always just kind of…there.  And because this is a movie with Michael Bay’s name on it, she looks like this, of course.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

My last gripe is about the film’s villain.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
No, not him. Although the trailer wants you to think that he’s Shredder.

This is the Shredder.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
He’s coming after Optimus Prime next!

And if that looks like a mech suit, that’s because it is.  They even come right out and call it a mech suit.  Apparently armor and blades wasn’t enough for this ninja master.  He needed a robotic coat with magnetic blades that sheath and unsheath at his whim.  The effect of the Shredder’s blades being brandished is so overused that it becomes boring and kills any sense of excitement there could have been.  He still is the leader of the Foot Clan, but they aren’t called the Foot because they use stealth and martial arts.  They’re called the Foot because they step on civilians and push them around.  And no, they’re not ninjas either.  They wear black military uniforms, the Persian army masks leftover from 300 and carry guns.  I won’t even bother explaining what their diabolical scheme to take over New York is about because it really doesn’t make any sense because their motivation isn’t clear, the conspiracy is transparent, and even if they won, we have no idea what they’d do with the power once they got it.

If you want to introduce children to the Ninja Turtles, show them one of the first two movies using Jim Henson’s make-up, costumes and puppets.  Not only do those movies look much better, but they’re a lot more fun and have a story that keeps you engaged.  However, do yourself a favor and skip this one.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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