Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Originally published on 8/28/14 at The Nerd In The Box (thenerdinthebox.com)

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WARNING: Contains spoilers.

So, I saw it.

I had been very cautious about letting myself feel any genuine excitement about a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie since the minute word of a reboot was unceremoniously breathed upon the world. After all, everyone knows how to the world feels about Hollywood rebooting classic films simply because they have no better, original ideas. But then it got worse. When word leaked that Michael Bay planned to drastically change the origin story of the Turtles by turning them into space aliens, I, along with everyone else who was born in the 80’s and grew up watching those four loveable characters, was ready to storm Bay’s house, breathing fire and venom, calling for his severed head on a platter. That’s too far a cry from four ordinary baby turtles which were accidentally exposed to a mutagen that transformed them into super-reptiles who could stand upright, speak English, practice ninjitsu and fight crime. And then it got even worse. Mr. Bay got really defensive and told everyone whose childhood he was about to shit on to “chill out”. At that point, it was safe to say everyone was just hoping the project would be scrapped, never to see the light of day. Alas, that was not to be.

Once the full trailer came out, my mind was thankfully put at ease a bit, when it seemed that the Turtles would remain mutated creatures who rose from the sewers of New York City to thwart the genocidal plans of Master Shredder. It goes like this…

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their eventual Master Splinter were lab test animals who were subjected to injections of a mutagen that was meant to promote self-healing and regeneration at the cellular level in humans. Eric Sacks, played by William Fichtner, was a scientist working on the serum with Dr. O’Neil (yes, April’s father), when there was an attack on their lab. A young April O’Neil saved the small animals, which she named after Italian Renaissance painters, and set them free into the sewers, where they began to mutate. As they grew, Splinter, a rat, began practicing ninjitsu, and in turn, taught the art to the Turtles. Afraid for their lives, Splinter never let the Turtles go above ground. Once the Shredder came to town with his Foot Clan, a swarm of nameless, barely-useful henchman who carry out his bidding, the Turtles disobey Splinter’s command and rise up to quash Shredder’s plans of tyranny. During one particular crime-in-progress, the Turtles inadvertently meet April O’Neil, who had grown and become a reporter. April O’Neil is played by Megan Fox in the movie, much to everyone’s chagrin, but there was no real reason to waste supreme, or even really decent talent on a role like that and in a movie like this. And this is a Nickelodeon flick, so there were no slow-motion bouncing boobs, if that makes you feel any better. Maybe it doesn’t, depending on who is reading this. And let me tell you, watching an overtired, rambling Megan Fox try to explain to her disapproving boss, played by Whoopi Goldberg, that there is a quartet of 6-foot tall talking turtles loose on the streets disrupting Shredder’s crime wave is HILARIOUS.

As far as the Turtles are concerned, I have very mixed feelings. They look WEIRD. They’re very top-heavy, with huge torsos, ridiculously over-sized shells and strange faces, all carried by comparatively skinny legs. Personality-wise, however, everything is as it should be. You have Leonardo, the noble leader; Raphael, the pissed-off loner; Michaelangelo, the fun-loving goofball; Donatello, the nerdy tinkerer and tech-guru. Comedic highlights for the boys include Splinter taunting them with a 99-cheese pizza as they’re being punished for their disobedience, and the foursome busting into a freestyle beat-box rap in an elevator just before the final fight scene. More comic relief is provided by Will Arnett, who plays April’s skeptical cameraman with an unrequited crush and bad luck with cars.

The Shredder, in all his bad-assery, looks AWESOME. His suit is a combination of traditional Japanese samurai armor and new-school technology, loaded with projectile blades which he can magnetize back to the suit after they’re fired. This was displayed in all its CGI glory during a fun fight scene between he and Splinter in the Turtles’ sewer lair.

It comes to light in a conversation between he and April that Eric Sacks was raised by a sensei in Japan after his parents died, a sensei who would become the man known as Shredder. It turns out that Sacks and the Shredder had been working together all along on a plan to release a toxin into New York City in order to have the government give Sacks billions in funding to develop the antidote. You really hope that Sacks is just a good guy who was brainwashed and lost his way, but he’s really just greedy to the core, dazzled by the thought of becoming, as he puts it, “like, stupid rich”.

In the end, Sacks’ and Shredder’s axis of evil is destroyed by our reptilian heroes after facing almost certain death, during which touching deathbed confessions were made by a couple of the Turtles, like “licking all the icing off the Pop Tarts and putting them back in the box” and “not getting the ending of Lost”. A little birdie tells me that a sequel will be out in two short years, so we’ll see the boys back in action. All in all, I’m happy with the movie. It surpassed my very low expectations, made me laugh, and stayed just true enough to the origin story to keep my blood from boiling. Until next time, COWABUNGA!

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