Any time there's a new Ninja Turtles movie, I am helplessly overcome with nostalgia as I think back to my childhood days when I would sit and watch a tape or DVD of six episodes of the old TMNT cartoon show. When I got a bit older, the original movies blew me away when they first released.
The newest iteration of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"--directed by Michael Bay--released earlier this month. All I can say is I hope this movie brings that same joy to the current generation of young kids, because it certainly won't add to the TMNT legacy for the now-young adults who first grew up with the show (and video games and comics) in the 1990s. The old Ninja Turtle movies are still watchable, even at my age now, but I don't think Bay's version will hold up in the future.
I do think kids will enjoy this flick now, however. There was plenty of flair, personality and even a certain "coolness" factor with the turtles. The writers of the script had too much fun at times--when the turtles identify themselves as "teenagers" and "mutants" and "ninjas"--you know that any seriousness is out the window by that point. The dialogue was super cheesy and corny, but kids will relish it. (Note to parents: there was one or two surprising, choice words used in the dialogue, but probably not enough to keep your kids guarded).
The problem long-time turtle fans have is that the film actually starts out really compelling before falling apart. Granted, it's another origin story of sorts, but it was written well. Television reporter April O'Neil is tracking down a criminal group when she discovers someone secretly has been putting a stop to the criminals without taking credit. She works hard to uncover the story and discovers these vigilante turtles.
So O'Neil (played well by Megan Fox, more on that later) uncovers the truth about these giants mutant turtles and realizes she has a personal connection with them. Turns out the turtles were experimented on (at this point, they were normal, baby reptiles) by her father when a huge accident nearly killed them before O'Neil saved their lives and set them free. Nice little twist, there.
After that, though, the storytelling gets weird. The history behind "The Shredder" is incomplete and vague. The plot of the new bad guys--to infect all of New York City with a serum spread from atop a skyscraper--was way too similar to "The Amazing Spider-man." Even Splinter's role is muddied a little.
O'Neil and the turtles begin their quest to save the city, and it becomes one terribly shot action scene after another (I've come to expect nothing less from a Michael Bay film, especially after the last "Transformers" movie). The scene when they're sliding down a snowy mountain is the worst. You lose complete sense of sequence and timing as the ridiculous stunts get pulled. But for the kids, it'll be a fun ride to behold.
The turtles themselves were different than they were originally designed. They tower over other humans, which seemed odd at first, but you get used to it.
Bay and the writers focus on showing the turtles' age and that they are immature teenagers. Raphael goes on his overused "I'm leaving the group" soap box story. Donatello and his nerdy gadgets, nerdy appearance and mannerisms were my least favorite as they were poorly translated; they made him out to be a nerdy kid instead of a genius techy that he really is. Leonardo more or less stumbles into his leadership role instead of embracing it. Michaelangelo, of course, is still a crowd favorite.
The Shredder could've been this awesome, fearsome villain who actually seemed impossible to stop, but the final action scene atop the skyscraper dispensed of that possibility quite thoroughly.
It pains me to say it, but probably the biggest redeeming quality of the film was Megan Fox's performance. No, she isn't getting any Oscar noms, here, but she brought a certain understated dignity to the O'Neil character. She genuinely cared and didn't come across contrived. Kudos to her for not being in a movie just as eye candy (like she was in Bay's "Transformer" movie).
I don't regret watching the movie by any means, but it'll be hard envisioning a scenario in which I'm willing to watch it again.