The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett
If the internet is to be believed, the movie-going public seems destined to hate the Michael Bay-produced, Jonathan Liebesman-directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. From the suggestion of the turtles’ alien background, to their new look, to the casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil, to Bay’s involvement post-Transformers, TMNT faced a near-impossible uphill battle.
The turtles have undergone a renaissance recently since Nickelodeon’s takeover of the rights in 2010, with several new comic book series, the Emmy-nominated cartoon and a whole new line of toys. They haven’t received this much attention since the early 90s, but the movie has been unpopular ever since it was first announced some years back.
Having so many strikes against it probably acted in its favour since it dramatically lowered expectations. Being the self-professed TMNT fan that I am, I expected nothing short of awful yet was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was.
Many of the minor details came from the 1987 original cartoon, which is where my primary TMNT love resides. One of Shredder’s first lines in the film “tonight I dine on turtle soup” is straight out of episode 5, season 1 of the original series.
April O’Neil isn’t always a reporter and when she is, she doesn’t always work for channel 6 news. She does here, and this time she answers to Burnadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg) with cameraperson Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) by her side. He plays a surprisingly large role considering his only other appearance in TMNT history was a rather minor supporting character in the cartoon (and subsequent Archie Comics series).
But as exciting as these nods to the 80s cartoon are for someone like me, it’s crippling how much everything about this movie holds on to the old TMNT ways. It’s almost insulting how little credit we’re allotted as viewers when watching this.
The set up was focused on April still doing obnoxiously frustrating things that get her into trouble, either with her boss or her life, when suddenly we’re introduced to Shredder in his hideout, where we have it spelled out for us that he’s the villain and we’ll be in for a lot more of him soon.
No subtly here.
The overall plot is a very generic run-through of every episode of the original cartoon with a paint-by-numbers story about a bad guy who has cheap reasons for doing the evil he’s set out to do.
The movie ultimately suffers under its own ego. We know it’s a TMNT movie. The writers know its a TMNT movie and everybody on screen knows it’s a TMNT movie. Nothing else needs to be said to justify anything about the setting, the backstory, or why there’s a sudden attempt at sentiment thrown in despite the lack of character development for it to make sense. It just is and that’s that.
As for the turtles and Megan Fox? I didn’t mind how either turned out. The turtles were too bulky to have any decent fight scenes and April’s character has always been kind of annoying. Maybe Megan Fox was chosen on purpose to fill a role that suited her internet-wide reputation?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is satisfactory but holds on too much to the past. As limiting as the involvement of Michael Bay and Megan Fox may have been for some people, the real weakness comes with the inability to let go of some of the turtles’ most known characteristics and let them redevelop into characters more suitable for today.