The Maze Runner
A Walk Among the Tombstones
This Is Where I Leave You
As a kid back in the late 1980s I was a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. From 1987, when I was around 10 years old, to 1996, when I graduated high school, I would do all that I could to make sure that I was in front of a television whenever an episode would come on. The newest 30 minute adventure of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael were a highlight to my week.
Naturally, being the fan I was, I was also not going to miss the turtles’ big screen debut back in 1990. I saved up my money to make sure that I could go to the theatre with my friends to see my heroes on the big screen. When 1991 and 1993 brought sequels I couldn’t miss those either. Every offering got my attention; and because I was a kid that didn’t know any better, I loved them all.
Based on my history, I am the exact person that Michael Bay was after when he decided to make this new Ninja Turtles movie. I have the history with the brand to be inclined to come to the theatre and drop $10 for a little bit of nostalgia mixed with some cutting edge technology. In Bay’s eyes, if all goes well I will drop the cash on this movie and then several sequels.
In order for Michael Bay and his team to get me to love this movie, there were a few things that needed to happen…
1: The turtles had to be “right” as I remember them.
2: The story had to fit the characters and be in line with what I wanted out of a Ninja Turtles movie.
3: The origins of the characters that I fell in love with as a child could not be screwed around with.
4: The action scenes had to be truly bad ass!
I know that my list is rather short, but I think that despite the length it is a valid set of criteria for Michael Bay’s new movie to live up to. So, how did he do?
To start, the Turtles themselves looked more like monsters than the lovable group of teenagers that I remember. Instead of the soft and cartoonish mutants from the first incarnations of the characters on the big screen, we got 6 foot tall bundles of roided out musculature. I got the impression very early on that this version of the boys was going to be edgier and more “grown-up” than the versions seen in the past. Their movements, expressions, and demeanor fit with what I remember and expected but the overall visual impact of the characters really hit me in a way that I didn’t expect.
Putting the looks of the turtles aside, the worst looking of the characters has to be Shredder. He looks like the love child of a Swiss army knife and a cheese grater. Instead of being a martial arts master in a suit that emphasized various blades, he is a faceless dude in a robot suit that has remote controlled knives that he shoots out; blah.
On a positive note, I was happy with the voice actors that were brought in to give life to the turtles. Leonardo was voiced by Johnny Knoxville, Donatello by Jeremy Howard, Michelangelo by Noel Fisher and Alan Ritchson as Raphael. All of them did a good job with the respective personalities that they were assigned. To compliment them, there did seem to be an effort from the writing team put toward having the guys say what you expect and behave as they should even if they didn’t look right.
Next, the story was also not what I expected. Going in, I knew that Megan Fox was playing April O’Neil. I actually didn’t have any real issue with that casting choice considering the character of April was a supporting one only. Megan Fox can only do so much damage in playing a supporting role right? Well, about that…
It seems that the writers, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daughterty, missed the memo about April being a sidekick at best. They went out and wrote a story that could have been titled, “April and Her Turtle Buddies” as she was the central figure in the story. So much for Fox being in a supporting character role with minimal damage potential.
Third, everyone knows that Splinter is the teacher and father figure of the turtles’ right? But where did he come from? Apparently, that detail was up for revision from the original story, and not for the better. Gone is the backstory of Splinter being a Japanese master of the martial arts that gets exposed to the ooze that causes him to change into a human sized rat. Now he is a regular old lab rat that gets mutated into a human sized rat that can teach himself to read. Once he learns to read, he teaches himself and the guys Ninjitsu from a book he found in the sewers. Way to screw that one up guys. As for the turtles’ origins, I’m not going to spill that here, but suffice to say, April is pivotal to that as well.
Finally, we get to the action scenes. Here was the opportunity for Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman to really shine. Everyone knows the background of Michael Bay and action movies, but Liebesman is no stranger in that area either. He most recently directed Wrath of the Titans and Battle: Los Angeles from the action flick genre. I hate to say it, but I was not given what I expected in this area either.
The fight between Shredder and Splinter that happens early on in the movie looked okay, but the follow-up battles involving Shredder all looked incredibly cartoonish. There seemed to no attempt at making the movements of the fights look authentic in any way. To be honest, it looked like a scene from the Nickelodeon TV show and not what should be seen in a big budget summer action movie. The icing on the cake is the scene that can best be described as downhill skiing meets the movie Speed; very hard to watch.
If you have not caught on yet, I was very disappointed in this new incarnation of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am sure it is going to make a boatload of money and spawn a couple of sequels, but it is nothing like what those of us with memories of the past would want or expect. The new generation of fans will probably jump on board with the franchise without missing a beat, which is all Bay and company really care about anyway. I guess I will just sit back with my action figures and remember the good ole days on my own.