Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

If you visit this site regularly you’ll know that I’m a huge TMNT fan. The original 1990 live action film is one my all time favourites. Faithful, funny and surprisingly adult; it’s extremely under appreciated.

Putting aside my love for that film, there are still two massive obstacles between me and any enjoyment for the latest take on the heroes in a half shell.

Those obstacles are the current IDW TMNT comic series (that I review monthly) and the current Nickelodeon TMNT TV show (I’m currently halfway through season 2). I’ll even go as far as swiping a line from the bus stop posters for the new film and say they’re both ‘Turtle-y Awesome’. Both are reassuringly familiar yet fresh and exciting. I feel very lucky to have two takes that nail it, as if this film was the only slice of Ninja Turtle action we were being provided with I’d be sorely disappointed.This is not a bad film. But it does have more than it’s fair share of problems, which are compounded by the fact it’s being done far better in two other mediums at the same time.

What is good then? Well, I have a shock for you. I didn’t think Megan Fox was terrible. I know right!? A yellow jacket is never going to put her on the same level as the excellent Judith Hoag but she isn’t annoying and fits in with the overall vibe well (take that how you will). It might be a back-handed compliment but the fact she didn’t stick out as particularly good or bad to me is a triumph.

The action scenes are cool too, with the snow based scene many will have seen in the trailers the main spectacle. It’s good to see the turtles away from the sewers and rooftops for a different sort of battle. They’re fights are well choreographed, exciting, and the mo-cap tech used to create them is far better at showing off their skills than anything that came before cinematically.

The bond between the brothers is present and strong, as is their relationship with Master Splinter. He’s quite the task master, and not averse to punishing them. Splinter has always been a mix of father and coach, and though I’m not sure about his design I can’t fault his portrayal.

It’s exciting to see a new take on the design on the characters but it’s a mixed bag. With lips and nostrils the anthropomorphism has been taken too far for my liking. The detail and how the actors performances have been transferred is to be commended, but it’s spoilt by really obvious touches like giving Donnie glasses (because he’s clever obviously, ugh). The size of our heroes is odd too. They aren’t just human size, but bulky, 7 foot tall bruisers; which make them seem a weird fit for being ninjas.

Continuing on the turtles themselves, they’re personalities are clearly defined in the usual ways but two things really stuck out to me. The first is Michaelangelo’s pervy attitude towards April. The original film struck a very adult tone, with robbery, violence and smoking all dealt with in a way that didn’t make them seem cool whilst not hitting you over the head with a ‘it’s bad m’kay’ message. Here though Mikey talks about his shell hardening and on more than occasion just comes across as leery. One of the turtles having a crush on April is nothing new, but it could have been handled far better.

The second issue is Leonardo’s voice. Johnny Knoxville’s is too recognisable and took me out of the film every time I heard my favourite turtle speak.

Then there are the villains and the plot. I’ve seen concept art from the film and there was a version of The Shredder I’d have loved to have seen, whilst another I would have despised. What we ended up with is something in the middle.

He’s just…..there, and he’s just evil. Though he possesses way more hardware for making coleslaw he doesn’t have half the presence of James Saito’s 90’s incarnation. In most incarnations there is a link between Splinter and Shredder; but with Splinter’s usual back story being abandoned it’s a straight up good vs bad knock-down. There is no drama and everything happens because it has to.

The plot could have been ripped from many films of the last ten years, with the final scenes striking more than a passing resemblance to a certain Arachnid based hero’s recent reboot. By that point I wasn’t particularly bothered though, as the film had lost me.

I wanted to like TMNT. In certain aspects it showed promise but is ultimately let down by an uncompelling story, and an overall feeling that the turtles are better off in the mediums they’re already performing well in. Maybe the already confirmed sequel will improve on things but the creative ‘talent’ involved doesn’t inspire me.

To sum up, in a world that includes armoured ninjas and mutated animals I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact Splinter learns Ninjitsu from a book labelled ‘NINJITSU’. He then teaches it to his sons.

Even with my love for the franchise I couldn’t help but think “Come on…that’s just silly”.

REVISITED – 13/04/2016

I thought I’d come back to this one as the new trailer for Out of the Shadows looked pretty good, introducing plenty of classic elements to the latest take on the TMNT.

Reading back my original review, I stand by most of it. The story made more sense to me this time but it’s still not great. The biggest let down is Shredder, which is made even more confusing by the appearance of a very different Foot Clan Master in the sequel.

Bar Mikey’s perviness the Turtles are as you’d expect. Leo’s voice isn’t as grating to me now, whilst Splinter is better than I remember. Raphael gets a lot of attention whilst Donatello is still overtly clever.

If I was 8 years old and watching this film I’d love it. No doubt. I don’t know if I’d hold it in the same regard as I do the original live action film (one of favourite films full stop), but it definitely would have been enough to get me involved. That’s what it needed to do; it wasn’t made for me.

The turtles are still really big and the story is still disappointing but overall it’s a decent flick. The sequel looks as though it’s fixing some of my issues so whilst I’m not silly enough to expect something mind-blowing I am expecting a fun film.

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