Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise is a staple of many people’s childhood, including mine. Whether you watched the cheesy live-action movies of the early 90s or the animated cartoons of the new century, the mutant-green pizza-eating turtles have cemented themselves as pop culture icons. The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film takes those fond memories and crushes them quicker than Michelangelo can say cowabunga.

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a young New York City news reporter looking to catch her big breakout story and believes that the rise in criminal activity by a gang known as The Foot Clan is her ticket to the big leagues. While doing some investigative journalism on the Clan she discovers that many of their crimes have been thwarted by a mysterious vigilante. Pressing further, she soon realizes that it’s not just one crime fighter but four, and they’re six feet tall walking, talking ninja turtles. They’re also the only ones capable of stopping The Foot Clan and their leader Shredder’s evil plan to take over New York City.

What Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really should be called is “April O’Neil Does Whatever it Takes to get a News Story” because the film focuses more on Megan Fox’s character than the turtles themselves. She’s the one who discovers that the Ninja Turtles are real (and that they just so happen to be her old childhood pets/experimental test subjects). She’s the one who accidentally leads Shredder and The Foot Clan to the turtles. And she’s the one who ends up always having to be saved by them.

Ever since the project was announced there has been a lot of talk surrounding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from their early draft alien origins – the film actually makes fun of this notion – to their controversial designs. Frankly, the turtles’ new look is the least of the film’s worries.

The film’s single biggest problem is that it holds your hand throughout the entire film. Nearly every single bit of dialogue is drawn out exposition between characters about what they need to do or where they need to go next. “What’s Shredder’s evil plan? Here, let me explain it all to you.”

Even worse is April’s cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett). Not only is his role completely unnecessary, but he comes off as just some creepy old guy whose only purpose is to constantly hit on her and make everyone in the audience cringe, not just April.

The scene where April frees the trapped turtles by pressing the big red button marked ADRENALINE sums up the film perfectly.  The entire film is laid out neatly in front of you and requires little or no effort at all. It’s a joyless rollercoaster that will occasionally pump you with a shot of adrenaline with its massive action-packed set pieces.

This is actually where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does something right for a change. The action sequences, particularly the one where they are being chased by The Foot Clan down a snowy mountain, are fairly well done. They’re heavy on the action and demonstrate each of the turtles’ unique fighting style and personality. It’s really the only time you see them be the characters we’ve come to love from the franchise’s past. They’re just as you would expect, with Leonardo as the leader, Donatello as the geeky technician, Michelangelo as the comedian, and Raphael as the brooding muscle. Unfortunately their characters don’t go much further than that.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might work for the younger generation, but it’s a slap in the face for older fans. The story is a boring and predictable sludge that is only held together by halfway decent action while the turtles are a shell of their former selves. Prepare to be shell shocked, and not in any good way.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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