Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Score: 3 out of 10
The first film I ever saw at the theatre was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990. It was such a big deal that I remember it even though I was just three and a half years old. For people of a certain age, the Turtles are part of some of our earliest memories. It’s easy to forget just how huge they were at the time. They were a pop culture phenomenon that rivaled Star Wars, and they’ve managed to maintain a steady level of popularity ever since. It makes sense that the Turtles have connected with people for so long. They’re just such well conceived characters. Each one has a distinct personality that allows them to appeal to everyone, similar to the Ghostbusters or Schulz’s Peanuts, and the obvious absurdity of the concept makes everything more silly and fun. Because the franchise has such a solid foundation, it would be hard to make a bad Turtles movie.
Enter Michael Bay, the man behind the offensively stupid Transformers commercials that some people mistake for films. Many fans were nervous when they found out that Bay was taking the reins of the franchise through his Platinum Dunes production label, worried that he would ruin the beloved heroes in a half-shell the same way he’s destroyed the robots in disguise. Thankfully, this movie is nowhere near as bad as Transformers. It gets the characters right. This may be a result of the fact that Bay is only a producer, but each one of the Turtles is handled with the respect they deserve. Their origin is a little different this time around, but there’s no doubt that this is the same Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo that everyone loves.
Everything else about this movie is wrong. The story sees the Turtles struggle to stop the Foot Clan and their villainous boss Shredder from unleashing a poisonous gas upon New York City (exactly like The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man), and they team up with the human reporter April O’Neil along the way. This story is simple and should be easy to follow, but because of how it unfolds, it isn’t. The writers tell it in the most confusing and inelegant way possible. Scenes that lead from one thing to the other are a jumbled mess, and characters sit around telling us what’s happening instead of actually showing it. Literally every sequence that isn’t an action beat is devoted entirely to bland exposition. This is the laziest kind of storytelling.
Many have complained about the new design of the Turtles, but the biggest flaw with the visuals is the way the film was shot. Everything is handheld and shaky, and because they converted it to 3D, it’s even more difficult to see what’s going on. There are shots where objects and characters are framed in a way that might have looked good in 2D, but looks downright terrible in 3D. It’s actually harder to follow what you’re looking at than the last Transformers movie.
When I saw this film, the audience was filled with Turtles fans of all ages and you could tell how much they were looking forward to seeing it. They deserved a better movie.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!