That’s “glower” as in “rhymes with ‘flower,'” by the way– not like “one who glows,” as that’s not even a word according to Merriam-Webster.
Anyway, with Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming out on DVD, Blu-ray, and the rest tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to review the film. Sure, reviewing it in theaters was an idea, but doing so while the film is brand new is so passe. Reviewing it right before it hits home viewing, though? That’s the new hotness.
At least, I can sure hope it is, because that’s all I’ve really got here.
In case anyone was wondering, a little background on my status as a TMNT fan going into this: I’ve been a fan since 1989, have watched every television series (including Next Mutation), played most of the available video games from back in the 80’s/early 90’s (and some newer ones), seen every movie, read nearly all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics (among some from other series as well), have collected a ton of toys over the years (primarily from the old days), and I’ve even written a few things about them.
The point is, I feel fairly confident in calling myself a fan, and while I’m sure there are bigger fans (i.e. more dedicated to every piece of minutia that comes out), I still think I’m a pretty big fan. So, what did I think of the movie?
I thought it was alright.
Not fantastic, not terrible, not as good as the original, maybe not as good as the second… probably better than the third, and– in my opinion– not as good as the fourth. In the context of a motion picture, though, I think it has some unique ideas that help it stand apart rather than being the nth reiteration on the same concept we’ve come to know oh so very well over the years. I wouldn’t, for example, want the current cartoon to conform to what this movie did, but I can enjoy it as a stand-alone branch of the franchise, and it has some interesting ideas. Some shoehorned in, some underutilized, but overall interesting.
I will say this: On length versus enjoyment alone, I’d rewatch this well before I would Transformers: Age of Extinction. In fact, I enjoyed this more as it went on.
One thing I thought was interesting was the Turtles themselves, particularly their appearance. This has been a huge sticking point for people, but if I have to be honest, they grew on me as I watched… well, except for Mikey. He’s just the worst of the lot in that regard, and it’s kind of a shame that the trailers– particularly the early ones– lent so much focus to him over the others, who look alright when they’re still and just look better in motion. I also enjoyed the different outfits on them as well, as I’m pro-distinct TMNT.
Another interesting aspect about them is the way the movie portrays them as these big, heavy, hulking guys. Enough so that they seem superhuman in strength, making for an interesting departure from everything we’ve come to see before. It makes a certain degree of sense, too– virtually any other mutant throughout the franchise tends to seem superhuman, but the Turtles usually feel like they and they alone (and Splinter) are compensating with their ninja skills. Here, it’s like they’d be physically on par with other such characters, but are taken even further by their martial arts prowess.
One other big point of contention was the Shredder. In some ways, he was kind of awesome– imagine if Tony Stark created armor for Oroku Saki, and you have the gist of what we’re dealing with here (though he didn’t fly or anything).
The downside is that as a character, he was practically a non-entity. Rumor had it that another character, Eric Sacks (a more English-ified play on “Oroku Saki”), was to be the Shredder, and the fact that Eric’s actor provided the voice for Shredder in the Nintendo 3DS game all but clinches it. What’s more, it shows. Sacks answers to Shredder, but the two are depicted as different characters, and while Shredder fights the Turtles, it’s Sacks running the show. I suppose if they went into panic mode and made the changes just before release, it’s a good enough job, but you can still see the stitching.
On that same point, people questioned having Splinter be voiced by Tony Shalhoub, an American actor, rather than someone of Asian descent. It turns out there is a very good reason for this: There’s not a drop of Japan in Splinter. Without going into spoilers as to what he is, I will say that he is not a Japanese ninja master turned into a rodent, or even the pet of a Japanese ninja master turned made humanoid. As for how he became trained in the art of ninjitsu?
He read it in a book. Seriously.
That, admittedly, is probably the worst thing about the movie and what rubbed me the wrong way more than anything.
What I did find rather fascinating about the whole endeavor is that, issues such as that aside, the movie is based more heavily on the 1987 cartoon more than anything. This is apparent in making April O’Neil a reporter once again, as well as not only having her work for Channel 6 (rather than 3), but also introducing new versions of the cartoon-exclusive character Burne Thompson (now Bernadette, as portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg) and Vernon (now “Vern”) Fenwick, who is has both a lot more spine and a much bigger role here.
If that wasn’t enough, plans for the sequel(s?) are to include Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Dimension X. Casey Jones is in the works, too, leaving me to wonder if they’ll try to have him be more Clint Eastwood as per the old cartoon.
The movie even features an updated version of the old cartoon’s Turtle Van, as seen above (or you can compare the toy versions here). To me, the disappointing part of that is it’s horribly underused, only appearing at the end– even the Dinobots got better than this. Hopefully it gets more time in the sequel.
As for April herself, the casting of Megan Fox drew a lot of groans, but honestly? I thought she did alright here. “Good” might be too strong of a word, but I think she played the part given to her here well enough for me to buy into it more than her parts in Bay’s Transformers movies. The general consensus I’ve seen is “she doesn’t suck in this,” and I can agree with that.
The Turtles themselves were largely enjoyable… for the most part. Again, the exception here is unfortunately my childhood fave, Michelangelo. Not only is he generally “the ugly one,” but a friend said he figured Mike would be the “sexy” one.
Rather, he’s the horny one, going from the semi-cute “Can we keep her?” of the first movie to one line or another about his shell “tightening” and such. It’s the one thing I really felt like I could do without, as it’s kind of creepy, and in a movie like this? It stands out, and kind of breaks immersion. They do it just infrequently enough that you forget about it before they hit you with another moment.
That stuff aside, the Turtles are pretty much who you know and love: Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, and Raphael… is less cool but rude, per the original cartoon, but remains the surly guy who’ll sock you one that he is in most versions anyway. And they have their fun moments together, such as the beatbox scene in the clip above.
Beyond that, I’m not sure what more to say. It’s not my favorite version of the Turtles, but one I enjoyed nonetheless. The movie has some interesting ideas, and while the execution was lacking at times, I’d still like to see it explored further, perhaps by more capable hands?
If you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan who isn’t too attached to any one version of the green teens, I’d say this one is definitely worth checking out– via streaming like Netflix or something, if nothing else. As long as the cartoon gets to keep doing its own thing and IDW’s comics theirs, I think there’s room for this version of the Turtles to coexist alongside the rest.
Dedicated to BigBoss, whose conversation helped me gather my thoughts for this review. If you got to see the movie, I hope you liked it.