I can’t think of a single person who had any faith in this Turtles movie. Let’s count down all the things that went wrong with it before it even came out.
- Michael Bay – fresh off his increasingly bad Transformers franchise, Michael Bay attached his name to the Turtles. He wasn’t directing it like those monstrosities, but even being a producer was enough to taint this film from the get go.
- Megan Fax as April O’Neil – Another transfer from Transformers, Megan Fox can’t hope to hold a candle to the original portrayal in the cartoons or the previous movies. I don’t care if she’s a reporter, or that she wears a yellow jacket.
- A new origin – Michael Bay hinted at a new origin for the Turtles, moving away from the Mutant aspect enough that the movie was at one point just going to be called Ninja Turtles. What was their new origin going to be? Aliens. Yeah, they quickly back-pedaled on that one. In fact, back-pedaling is something they did quite a bit of for this movie.
For these three reasons alone, I didn’t even bother to see this movie until it was out on home video for a few months. And what was I greeted by? A terrible mess of a film that tarnished everything I loved about one of my favorite cartoons the same way the Transformers movies did.
First of all, let’s get the Turtles out of the way. All the cartoons and movies before had portrayed the Turtles as about 4-5 feet tall, but this movie has them standing at about 7 feet. Why? What is the point of them being that big? They can barely hide in the shadows when they’re so freaking massive. Of course, this time around, the Turtles are all CGI, and they don’t look nearly as convincing as actors wearing rubber suits. I mean, when Megan Fox is the most realistic thing in your movie, you’ve screwed up.
One thing I did like about their design – probably the only thing – is the individualized costumes. Each of the Turtles has different armor or clothing on – Leo looks kinda samurai-ish, Donnie’s got tech stuff all over, etc. It does more to establish their character than just colored bandannas and this movie needs all the help it can get in that regard. I’m not familiar with any of the voice cast except Leonard’s Johnny Knoxville. Why would you cast someone known for their comedic work as the all-too-series Leonardo?! The rest of the Turtles sound okay, but none of them stand out, and Tony Shalhoub is only okay as Splinter.
Onto Splinter and the Turtles’ new origin. No, they’re not aliens, thank god, but it’s still all sorts of screwed up. After rescuing April and bringing her back to their den, as you do, Splinter tells her about their beginnings. After they fell in the sewers and started growing, Splinter found a book, but instead of naming the Turtles after the Renaissance artists within, the book was about Ninjitsu. Splinter, who was just a regular rat I guess, learned from the book and taught the Turtles from it. So how’d they get their names? When Splinter found them, their names were written on their backs on tape. Not sure where Splinter learned to read, but that’s the least of our problems.
Here’s where April comes in; they used to be her pets, four Turtles her dad and his lab partner were experimenting on. When April’s father’s partner sets the lab on fire, she escaped with the Turtles but lost them down the sewers. To be honest, I didn’t hate seeing April be a part of their creation, although it’s a bit contrived that they save her later on since they didn’t know who she was.
So it turns out, Eric, the guy who burned down the lab, is in league with the Shredder, who’s this Asian guy that’s constantly hiding in the shadows. Here’s where Bay had to do some serious back-tracking – originally, Eric was supposed to be the Shredder. Test audiences hated the idea of Shredder not being a Japanese ninja, so they made some shitty edits to include this guy in the shadows. Now, Eric is just some scientist working with the Shredder who wants to release the mutagen across all of New York. Honestly, I have no idea why, and the movie doesn’t do a good job of making me want to know.
So finally, there’s a confrontation between the Shredder and the Turtles atop Eric’s office building/lab thing. One positive I’ll give this movie is how cool the Shredder looks. I admit it’s a little over the top in terms of mechanics, but all the knives are pretty awesome looking. The Shredder had almost killed Splinter in the sewers, and unfortunately, that’s the only connection between the two of them. We get a big flashy fight scene that we’re used to in Michael Bay movies, and April gets to be the big hero that saved the city, of course.
Overall, this movie tries to blend so much stuff into one cohesive story and I think it failed miserably. They switch around pieces of the Turtles’ origin unnecessarily, they add in extra people that add nothing to the story, and the casting is all wrong. And in the end, after all the over-done action scenes, we only get one really enjoyable moment in the movie.
If you want to see more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle goodness, check out my blog, where I’m reviewing each cartoon series, from the original through Rise. If you want even more mutant mayhem, why not check out Old School Evil, my books inspired heavily by the original Turtles cartoon.