I originally watched the film and had my mind made up based on the ridiculous amount of trailers seen that I would not like this film. I was too attached to the original. I was too attached to the old school cartoons and video games and I had my mind made up on what TMNT is supposed be as well as who should be cast in certain roles. The age old fanboy syndrome.
I ended up watching it a second time for my daughters (two hours later) and decided to give it another chance, with new eyes, realizing that I still have a bias effecting my judgment on this film.
This film is genuinely enjoyable as a popcorn flick, it isn't going to intellectually challenge you or pose any earth shattering questions. If anything, it takes a few specific points from the original 1990's film and replicates it here in a subtle 'nod' manner to the history of the property.
I enjoyed watching my eldest child laugh and jump at the film. I also enjoyed my youngest tilt her head as she'd break down what she was seeing in the film and argue in her mind, apparent from her facial expressions and questions during, how something didn't make sense to her.
I also enjoyed the fight and stunt choreography. It was solid use of camera angles and movement, without too much of the dreaded shaky-cam. The little that was used was purposeful and made sense.
The film is attempting too hard to attain all audiences. It is not really a kids movie. While not an 'R' rated film, the violence in this movie is deliberate, sensical in a few places and awkwardly unwarranted in others without a lot of purpose. Some of the comedy is just too adult for children, while others are extremely too childish. I can point this out from four perspectives. My first sit for the film, I was alone and looking at it through skeptical fanboy eyes. Fixating on many issues I was having with the entirety of the film. Trying to categorize and place the film into a general box.
My second time sitting down for the film (as stated, two hours later), I brought my children along. One of them happy-go-lucky, the other much more analytical (honestly, pedantic) like myself.
During this second sit I was able to enjoy the film as a popcorn flick. My eldest daughter thoroughly enjoyed it because she followed along with the general story and dialogue. My youngest was getting bored with a lot of the random and unnecessary adult themed dialogue and was waiting only for the Turtles to appear on the screen. like any or most children and young adults watching a film that is intended to be action packed, the story somewhat falls behind on real substance.
The voice work was generally awkward, it took the second sit for me to get used to them. Mostly because my mind kept getting angry with my favorite Turtle characters voice. Donatello. I have nothing to say about the Voice Over Artist, Jeremy Howard did a great job. My gripe is focused toward the production. They directed this voice to be the most awkardly geeky it can be. Something I find to be extremely stereotypical and insulting. I can accept Michaelangelo sounding like a stoner-surfer-dude...because that is all we've ever heard him sound like. But Donatello didn't need to sound like a neurotic Jesse Eisenberg lacking his Ritellin all the time.
Whoopi Goldberg in this film was showing up for a paycheck (If I'm allowed to be overly harsh) and her talent was thrown away, her character didn't feel like it had any real purpose other than to simply give April an obstacle. J.K. Simmons ruined this archetype for anyone else trying to fill these roles in Comic Book films, because he was so amazing doing it. Whoopi should have been more keen to study Laurence Fishbourne in Man of Steel and than make the character her own. It was just awful to watch her on screen in such a small and generally useless role. Along with the various supporting actors in that particular environment.
The Foot clan did not look like the Foot clan, they looked like rejects from an Expendables movie. They also had in general 'something' covering their faces (most of the time). Yet Karai, poorly played and lacking in display by Minae Noji, never had her face covered. Suggesting she would be a strong female character in the film with more to say. She wasn't. Karai's character was given more justice as a serious Kunoichi and character in the 2012 rendition of the animated TMNT film. She was also pointless to use in this film; she felt more like a very weak cameo.
There was also no Casey Jones. A fan favorite and staple of the TMNT universe. That's a big "Boo!" in my book.
In terms of Ugly, there is literal ugly, these turtles appeared more like the villainous characters affected by the mutagen they are used to fighting. I kept thinking more about Rocksteady and Bebop and imagined if the turtles were this large, those two would be absurdly huge by comparison. While I can stand back and say I may be biased to what they should look like, I can understand this is a re-imagined TMNT. Either way I can still state my opinion that while part of me thought, "Cool, very Hulk-Like" I can also argue that it was way over the top. It almost looked a bit stupid or possibly oriented toward selling steroid freak versions of their toys. Ah, merchandising! I'm probably closer to the truth than I realize.
There are various inconsistencies in the film that are essentially "state-of-plot" issues but even my 7 year old caught them and argued it didn't make sense. Example (spoiler): The first scene when Shredder is fighting with Splinter there is a moment near the end of the fight where a lever is pulled by Splinter to protect the Turtles. When this lever is pulled, gates drop down and prevent them from getting into the chamber to fight and protect him.
Fast forward to the end of the film, where the Turtles are essentially holding up a large antenna array at the top of a skyscraper. Something 100's of times larger and heavier than the gate they struggled to open earlier in the film. Nonsensical.
The origins of these beloved characters took the same turn other films continue to use to either humanize or make relational the concept for their film.
Here April's father (much like in Spider-Man and previous Hulk Incarnations) is the daughter of the scientist involved in creating the Mutagen. Not only is she involved but apparently helped care for Splinter and the Turtles early on in the experiments...
At some point during a fire, where her father is (himself) burning, April saves the Turtles and Splinter but apparently during the same scene of this event she doesn't seem to notice her dad is dying or unconscious on the ground. My kids both yelled at the screen, "SAVE YOUR DAD!" Without any satisfaction for their plea.
To further confuse this action, these animals, which she seemingly loves, she releases into a sewer drain.
...she saves them, forgets her dad, but now that the Turtles and Splinter are safe, she lets them loose on a sewer drain, never to be seen again???
Splinter in one particular discliplinary scene was extremely harsh, to the point of being completely uncharacteristic. Truly, for children viewing this and seeing the supposedly accepted 'father' figure in this family essentially beating the crap out of the turtles was unsettling. Especially if this is truly trying to be a family film. At one point he was choking Raphael with his tail, regardless of however brief. Child Abuse much? While the training level of discipline was fine and relatively made sense for this material. I completely disagree with the kind of beating he was giving them for disobeying his 'orders' not his wishes. Kids may get the wrong idea from that scene. Mine sure did and I of course had to explain to them he wasn't behaving like their dad he was behaving like their martial arts master. Something they somewhat grasped, I doubt many parents will be doing the same and are just going to dismiss that aspect wholesale and focus on the minute tension breaking comedy a few seconds later.
The fight scenes and the action are truly marvelous to behold, while we get to see all kinds of action in amazing detail these days in other films. I appreciated the depth of the comic-book levels of acrobatics, fight scenes, power and chaotic Ninja action. It was a lot of fun to see it come to life. Even if it was a very deliberate amount of action. While the film was not obscenely violent (Blood, Decapitation, etc.) you can tell that when they struck people, they meant to kill or maim horrendously. Part of me appreciates this as an homage to the original comics that were extremely violent. But another part of me gets irritated when a bladed weapon is used to slash across targets without the payoff of an R rated film showcasing blood, guts and gore. I also hate seeing failure in continuity. When you slash a body, there should be blood on your blade. But for the most part, creative editing and a giant Cyber-Shredder armor allowed for suspension of disbelief.
Splinters Fight with Shredder
If there is a very specific highlight I can state 'blew me away' it was what I'd call the "Introduction to how tough is Splinter" scene. Prior to this scene we get to the same exact plot point for Shredder outside of his iconic costume, completely tied up, and wreaking havoc on those helping him 'Train' (which isn't completely apparent) versus what one might say 'proving a point'. It establishes Shredder as a no-joke martial artist on a very intense and powerful level.
Then we see their fight and Shredder is in his ridiculously powered armor, arguably far more dangerous and powerful than what we saw in his establishment scene. What we see is a Masterful Splinter completely wreak havoc on Shredder. Until he lost his focus worrying about his Turtles. But for those few minutes Splinter was virtually untouchable. Something that reminded me of Master Yoda...the thought was a Hurricane of Fist, Foot and Tail.
I loved how early on in the film, as we're introduced to these characters, there was a near picture perfect live action version of the TMNT intro from the old school series. Basically a live action version of their immediate super-human acrobatic descent from rooftops directly into sewer manholes. I loved it. That brought me back and is something that would normally be impossible to depict with just live action stunt men. Even if for a moment I thought, "Well that's awesome they captured the essence of the old school...but how the hell would they fit in a manhole...they're too big?"
Even so, the display was excellent.
All of the characters were great, but honestly Michaelangelo stole the film in terms of lines and comedy. Leonardo was not the quirky unsure-of-himself leader and Raphael wasn't a complete douche. But their personalities were all quite apparent.
I'll admit originally I hated the Shredder concept, I relegated it to that of the cheesy "Jason X" upgraded armor concept. But honestly going back and giving it a second look I thought it was an interesting suit of armor that had varied levels of badass on it. But of course with the rating of the film there were awkward moments when he had the upper hand and didn't actually do anything with his weapons. It can be argued this was hubris but I know better.
Overall Shredder's fight scenes were fantastic and grandiose. You really believed this crazily iron-clad Super-Ninja was actually there wrecking the Turtles.
The beauty was in the essential concept for the Turtles to focus on each other and find strength together. It was there just as it was in the original film, even if it was completely apparent from early on that it would essentially be about them coming together as a team (again).
What Might have Hurt This Film…
Many things will conspire to hurt this film, the fact that it has an identity crisis toward which audience it is intended for. It's a Micheal Bay movie, I love his movies, I love his affinity for blowing things up; yet, I think a large audience in general may dislike what he's done to these beloved characters.
Some of the voice work was stereotypical and is only really accepted for Raphael and Michealangelo. However, Raphael's voice was inconsistent throughout the film. Megan Fox was not an awful choice for April but of course in the end it's always about her rear end. Even if I did think she looked the part of April really well. Personally, she looked much better than the April we had in the earlier films. But she was always primp and perfect, even after a slip-and-slide scene through the sewers. She seemed mostly dry and her hair was nearly perfect.
The inconsistency and plot holes in the film, the general lack of any real substance, the timing in the films release and the general over-their-heads (for children) content of the films dialogue and large breaks between the action we care about...Not to mention going up against the Marvel Juggernaut that is their MCU and last weeks "Guardians of the Galaxy" release.
All of these factors may hurt the film at the box office. The critics in general seem to nearly universally hate the film but that is a matter of biased taste, objectively speaking there will be many people that love this film and for a wide variety of youngsters this will be the TMNT they grew up on.
Returning for a second viewing allowed me to just enjoy the film, having made all of my notes for this review the first time around I can admit that I might have given it a lower score due to many of the problems inherent with this live action incarnation.
It is enjoyable, if your kids are old enough to follow the dialogue, sarcasm, conjecture and fast paced random inuendo - then perhaps they'll enjoy it. Otherwise I expect if you pick this up as a digital copy with a super-ticket you'll notice at home they'll generally be fast fowarding and replaying very specific scenes. The rest is just unimportant to them. You can also tell the writers may have anticipated this as is apparent in the lazy dialogue...it's the same scenario. Most of it is superfluous to what the audience wants to see.
While it is enjoyable as a popcorn flick and brings a very cartoon level of action to a live action setting, the characters look strange, they're more like Teenage Mutant Ninja Gamma Powered Hulk Turtles. Megan Fox is wonderful eyecandy (as usual) and seems to be comfortable in the roll, but the dialogue and use of the character is tiresome and the supporting characters in her life were a chore to deal with. Hardcore fans (Hardcore in the sense they will consume TMNT in all its forms) will love it. Hardcore Purists will likely hate it. The general population bringing their kids, 8-12 will generally be ok with it. Young Teenagers 13+ may like the action but be bored with the dialogue. It's hard to place a score on this that can accurately lend an opinion that is balanced for everyone, so I'll stick to my own, bias aside.
2.0 out of 5 Comic Book Movie Geeks (Revised after review from 3.0)
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Have you seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet? Are you planning to? Did this review help you? Do you agree or disagree? Which is your favorite Turtle? My kids universally love Michealangelo, I'm a Donatello fan (OG Version that is). I want to hear from you! Comment, share, tweet, pin, form your words out of Lego pieces, whatever tickles your fancy. Hit me up on my Twitter & Facebook accounts and don't forget to hit that awesome giant red thumb. It makes us all warm and fuzzy