The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is by no means a terrible, or even bad. There’s plenty this does right, showcasing aspects neglected or bungled in previous iterations. The execution however, ranges wildly from success to utter failure. Despite several initial hurdles, most noticeably the design, there’s a passable experience beneath the surface.
First, what was wrong. The Turtles, when juxtaposed with the environment, looked unrealistic. Considering the stellar competition from Dawn of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy, both prominently featuring CG characters, anything sub-par is a let down. Yes, the noses, and lips were off-putting, but by the end they were hardly noticeable. While some of their designs worked (more on that in a minute), a few didn’t, specifically, Donatello. The need for uniqueness is understandable, it’s a feature of the Nick cartoon, and one of it’s highlights. Here, it’s a step too far. Donnie’s glasses and weird backpack didn’t fit, and were distracting. His voice over, provided by motion capture actor Jeremy Howard, was atrocious. Every time he spoke it was grating.
Continuing with the design, the other three weren’t as bad, though each had one or two things that pushed them over the top. Raph’s sunglasses, Mike’s sunglasses and necklaces all made them a bit too noisy. Splinter and Shredder looked hideous. Splinter look like a rubber doll with dead eyes, and his voice work from Tony Shalhoub was awful. He didn’t fit the character, and his grunts and battlecries were cringe worthy. Shredder made no sense. His suit, along with it’s magnetic (?) ability was dumb. I understand the need for it, if the turtles are over 6 ft tall and can lift a building, they need a villain who can balance against them. Still, there are better ways.
This is very much a Nickelodeon production. From the loose script, to the general execution had the same low quality that’s generally associated with their movies. Logic errors and cliches abound, but at least they were ones that didn’t break the movie, for once.
What did work? Quite a few things, actually. Leo and Raph had a few solid bits to their design. With both of them being more warrior like than the other two, their accessories (Raph’s full bandanna, Leo’s chest-plate), were nice addition. Mike though, I’m ambivalent. Aside from Donnie, their voices fit the characters well enough. None were grating, though they did seem like they were trying to hard.
The Turtles origin was once again modified, though perhaps for the better. They were given a stronger connection to April (Megan Fox) from the onset, which was a nice addition, making her acceptance of them more natural. This did cause a few other issues though. This gave them no connection with Shredder, or the Foot Clan. Speaking of which, mercenaries was a better choice than a city full of runaway teenage karate champs. Splinter learning ninjitsu from a book? Fine.
Karai’s (Minae Noji) presence was nice, though problematic. She’s the daughter of Hamato Yoshi (Splinter), kidnapped and raised by Oroku Saki (Shredder). Without Splinter’s human connection, she’s little more than a henchman. Again, it was nice seeing her, as this was her first live action appearance, and was actually given something to do. Why a 40 year old woman was cast as her though, I have no idea.
The fight scenes were amazingly choreographed. The battle between Shredder and Splinter was fun, as was Splinter smartly using his tale. This was akin to finally seeing Yoda fight in Episode II. The snow scene, briefly glimpsed in the trailer, was easily the best scene in the movie. The final battle wasn’t a let down, either. Most of the humor, such as the elevator or the adrenaline scenes, hit the mark, while others, like keyboard cat, missed completely. More hits than misses though. The pizza on Splinter’s head, Baxter, and the Krang were nice Easter eggs and call backs.
I love the Turtles. I ran around my neighborhood pretending to be Leonardo, daily. You’d be hardpressed to find a bigger turtle fan than me. I went into this expecting it to be an utter disaster, but walked away pleasantly surprised. While there were plenty of fumbles, they still averaged more hits than misses. If you have any affinity for the Turtles, you’ll at least be moderately entertained. Even with it’s eccentricities, there’s still plenty to enjoy with this new installment. Kids will love it. Long time fans will at least mildly enjoy it. Curmudgeons who can’t be pleased need not apply.
Who’s your favorite Turtle? Excited for the 2016 sequel (yes it’s happening)? Comment below!
Holy product placement.