Like most Michael Bay movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a movie that is almost bulletproof from film critics. The movie is dumb, the dialogue is atrocious and the entire structure of the movie is to jump from one scene to the next with little rhyme or reason. The heroine of the movie also does more damage than good from the start of the movie to the end. Honestly, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is possibly the dumbest heroine in any movie.
However, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a movie about six-foot, mutant turtles who happen to be ninjas and are led by a giant talking rat. Honestly, how much do you expect from this movie? Sure, there are a lot of people who love the original movie, but that movie is as cheesy and eye rolling as any, and most people who love it, just love it for the cheesiness of it. But, at the end of the day, it is nothing but dumb, ridiculous fun and there is no reason that a movie can’t set out to do anything more than that.
The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie opens with April O’Neal trying to interview a dock worker about a robbery by a mafia styled group known as The Foot Clan. However, it turns out that she is an entry level fluff reporter with high aspirations, but her job won’t support her attempts to break the big story. When she returns to ask more questions, she happens upon an actual Foot Clan heist where she witnesses unseen vigilantes stopping the robbery and saving the city.
This entire scene is so much a rip off from Batman Begins that it isn’t even funny. However, to give the movie some slack, the film wears its influences on its sleeves, even having someone call out Rafael for using his “Batman voice.” It is a mishmash of every superhero movie we have already seen before, but it never shies away from it either.
One thing leads to the next and soon April O’Neal finds the Turtles and puts all their lives in danger thanks to her stupidity.
There has to be a lot of credit given to this movie for really making each of the Turtles unique. Sure, Rafael barely matches up with the same character from the original movie, Donatello is a little too much like Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters and Michelangelo is a little TOO goofy at times, but each of them are full realized characters. The same can’t be said for Leonardo, but three out of four ain’t bad.
April O’Neal is a different story. In the original movies, in the cartoons and in the comics, she is a very helpful and useful character. In this movie, she leads the bad guys right to the Turtles underground hideout, continuously gets in the way, acts like an obsessive fool (the movie has a roommate for her whose comments makes it clear that the filmmakers knows how ridiculous her character is), and she almost ruins all their carefully laid plans. She is an embarrassment to every April O’Neal in the past.
However, as far as the much discussed and despised (sight unseen) changes to the origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the changes actually were for the better. Without giving too much away, these weren’t random turtles that got ooze dropped on them. These were turtles that were specifically injected with what mutated them before they were lost to the bad guys. That change in origin is what drives the story of the movie, which isn’t horribly bad.
Shredder could have been a lot better, and it was slightly disappointing to see him as such a one-dimensional character, almost only seen in the giant battle. The better villain was his main underling Eric Sacks, as William Fichtner completely bought into this role and gave it the right amount of cheese. Props should also be given to the character of Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who is very loyal to what long time fans expect.
The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie lives and dies by its action and comedy beats. For the action, everything is over-the-top and borders on ridiculous, but it makes the movie fly by with little time to contemplate the gaps in logic and silly stunts. The comedy is hit and miss, and most of it is juvenile at best – poking fun at the fact that these turtles are teenagers. It is low brow, but this is a movie about giant ninja fighting turtles. Anyone who takes the movie seriously enough to condemn it is clearly missing the point.