The strangest thing about this film is that it wasn’t the suckiest movie I’ve ever seen. In fact, it really fell right in the middle of “just Ok”. And that is significantly better than any of us thought it would have any right to be. I’m pretty sure we’re all thinking it was saved by the fact that Michael Bay did not direct it, but only produced it, though, frankly, that had it’s own potential problems. Luckily, it didn’t pose any major issues, at least none that were so glaring that I couldn’t find any good in it.
So, speaking of the good, I’d say they got the whole overall tone of the turtles right. Each character, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, were all pretty solid. Even the voice of Master Splinter was good, even though it was oviously Tony Shaloub. Would it have been better with someone unrecognizable? Probably, but not necessary. But they stuck pretty close to the overall tone and didn’t mess with things too much. Even the look of the turtles was fine with me. People may forget that these characters have been through various incarnations and none of them have been totally true to the original comic books.
They did, however, seem to add a little mix of the cartoon stuff in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Gadgets aren’t necessary for my turtles, but they gave Donatello some toys like a rocket skateboard. Whatever. At least it didn’t go completely 80’s James Bond on us. They tweaked the April O’Neil story on us a bit as well, but then they ‘ve been doing that since right after the comics as well. Frankly, you can barely keep track of all the variations. And speaking oaf April O’Neil, let’s talk about the lovely but inappropriately cast Megan Fox. Yes, she’s still hot. No, she’s not really right for this character, ironically, not because she sucked as an actress. She was actually not bad. Not amazing, but I only cringed for a moment, once early on. Then she was fine. But, she just isn’t the right actress for this. More things like Jennifer’s Body for her, please.
And all the hoopla about making the turtles aliens? The public outcry worked, and they didn’t do that. They are indeed mutant turtles that are also teenage ninjas. The story is pretty straight-forward and kept close to the real origin. Pet turtles and Splinter in a lab where guys are trying to make a serum that will help with healing, turtles and Splinter get dosed with it, then the lab gets attacked and destroyed by Shredder and the foot Clan. Turtles and Splinter grow up, Splinter teaches them all kung-fu, etc. Now they must defend the city against Shredder and the Foot Clan and their evil plot. Ok, there are a few little changes as usual, like apparently the turtles were originally April’s pets as a kid? Ok, fine.
Shredder is cool, but wears WAY too much armor to be an effective martial artist, but it makes him look more menacing, so…yeah. This makes for some fun action scenes, though, as he is a really formidable opponent for the turtles. The CG is pretty good, as is the motion capture stuff, and there are some pretty fun sequences, notably the downhill fights and the climactic scene. They keep the humor and darkness balanced, and that reminds me of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics.
Overall, though, there is a bit too much of the lighter incarnations, like the cartoon. What’s with the souped-up green and yellow van when you’re trying to be stealth? What are you, the Scooby-Doo gang? And on top of that, ultimately, there just wan’t enough to make me care a whole lot. I try to not be a total douchebag purist about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially when the whole concept by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird was to be a parody of the early 80’s comic books like Daredevil, New Mutants and Frank Miller’s Ronin. I like the dark brooding elements paired with the humor, not the potentially goofiness this franchise looks like it could become. (word has it that more cartoon elements are ahead for the next two Turtles films – yes, TWO).
So, maybe two and a half kittenhands. Could have been worse. Could have been better. But the future looks worse. Frankly, I’m pretty surprised how long the Ninja Turtles have been a viable commodity. Still nothing better than the original comic books.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, wondering when someone is going to bring Evan Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese to the big screen!