Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
It has been 21 years since we’ve had a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ live action movie in theaters. In 2007, there was a CG animated ‘TMNT‘ film, which was actually quite good. And of course there have been the comic and two different animated series. And now we have a complete reboot of the entire franchise in live action form from Jonathan Libesman (the guy who directed ‘Wrath of the Titans‘ and ‘Battle Los Angeles‘). You can add to that so-called talent the worst filmmaker to ever come out of Hollywood, Michael Bay (‘Armageddon‘) as a hands on producer. The sad thing about this reboot is that it has tons of potential to be a great film. A really great film. But everything went wrong everywhere with the movie, and poor decisions were made, and now we have a steaming pile of shit for a film that could have run with the best of the Marvel Comic book films.
I was a child of the 80s and if you were too, I imagine you had ‘TMNT‘ action figures, constumes, and trapper keepers of those amazing turtles. I know I did. Hell, I even took Tae Kwon Do until I achieved a black belt and always wanted to mimic the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I could remember running around and yelling ‘I love being a turtle’, no matter if I was in the privacy of my own room or out in public. I watched all of the movies in the theater, owned the soundtracks, played their video games, and dressed up like them. Needless to say I’ve been a huge fan of those characters for a long time.
And no matter what you say, I am the target audience for this reboot. Sure, a new generation will get in on the new action, but it’s me and people my age that are coming to see this movie. I wanted to bask in the comedy, action, and thrills of these turtles, but Libesman and Bay let me down. Big time. I’m not sure how much pull Libesman had as a director here, but I’d like to think that it was the executives who made these piss poor calls to bring this story down to a monotone action film with no depth whatsoever.
I’d like to compare this to the recent Marvel film ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘. Director James Gunn has directed much smaller movies before he did ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘, and has a smaller resume than Libesman by far. And both ‘TMNT‘ and ‘Guardians‘ fall into the same category, having that sci-fi, alien, comedy action vibe to its story. Hell, both hail from comic books and both cater to the same audience. But Gunn told a brilliant story about weird creatures coming together to fight evil with excellent comedic delivery and high octane action thrills.
However, Libesman failed to tell a coherent story of the same order, and failed on every level. The comedic timing and delivery was completely off and awkward and while the image and effects looked very good in ‘TMNT‘, the action scenes were less than stellar. And again, it just has so much potential and the ability to be a great film, but sadly, it never gets off the ground.
So yes, this is a complete reboot with a new origin story of how the turtles became ninjas and over 6 feet tall, which receives the minimum amount of attention here, and is told through flashbacks and narration. It didn’t get the attention it deserved, and being a two hour film, I fell it was a missed opportunity. But alas, Nickelodeon wanted only to blow things up and get to the next action scene as soon as possible. The story starts out with news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her trusty camera guy Vernon (Will Arnett) trying to get a story on the evil Foot Clan, who wear masks like they do in ‘The Dark Knight‘, who are terrorizing New York.
The funny thing is, the Foot Clan are supposed to be a group of well trained ninjas, but here there is no fighting with fists. They instead fight with guns and bombs. Soon enough, April sees a few strange creatures take out some of the Foot Clan and she tries to get a few images of the vigilantes, but fails to get a good shot of them, and is thus fired by Whoopi Goldberg of all people for sounding crazy when she tells her story. Soon enough though, she comes in directo contact with the turtles who bring her down into the sewer to meet Master Splinter (voiced by Tony Shaloub), who tells her and us at the same time her connection to him and the turtles. Meanwhile, there is a bad man named Shredder, who is in charge of the Foot Clan and is hell-bent on destroying New York City, and it is up to the turtles to put a stop to him and save the people of the big city with out being noticed.
It seemed like Nickelodeon and Libesman didn’t know what to do with the Turtles, so they tried a couple of things. They decided to make a realistic ‘TMNT‘ movie, but when it came to the big bad Shredder, they went full on ape shit and made Shredder a giant robot who has the ability to make any weapon from his hands, throw these weapons anywhere, and have them come back to him via a strong magnet. It’s laughable, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. On top of that rubbish, the idiotic writers of the script decided to make Shredder a bad guy with no motive other than being just a bad guy who wants to kill people for no reason. He has the help of someone close to April, but again, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, and it seems like they were trying to be clever, which they weren’t.
The comedy of the original films and cartoon series were great with some laugh out loud moments throughout. But here, the comedy is forced, unfunny, and very awkward. It’s as if some 70 year old man tried to tell us what he thought the kids found funny today, and failed miserably all over the place. There is one exception where the Turtles are in an elevator waiting to fight their arch nemesis at the top of a tall building, and to pass the time in the elevator, the turtles break out into a beat box rap.
It’s a perfect moment as we see the turtles finally being teenagers and fun, but then suddenly turn into badasses in a split second. It’s the best part of the movie and doesn’t last more than 20 seconds. I just wish there was more of that type of delivery and entertainment in the movie. But there isn’t. And bless Megan Fox’s heart, she does give it her all, but man, she’s just not a good actress at all. At no point do you think she cares about any character but her own, and her yelling some of the character’s names throughout is just downright awful. And Will Arnett, as we all know is a comedic genius, but here, his chemistry with Fox is non-existent and it’s as if Libesman didn’t know what to do with him.
His jokes run seriously flat and is very awkward to watch. And it’s not Arnett’s fault, it’s just that he was not given much to work with. The voice acting on the turtles was fairly good, however having Johnny Knoxville voice Leonardo (the centered leader of the group), was a bit weird, because all I could think when I heard him talk was ‘Jackass‘.
There were a few things that I did like. Although I think Michael Bay and Jonathan Libesman don’t have a talented bone in their body, and I dislike their entire body of work, the image and visual effects look quite impressive. This is by far the best looking picture Libesman has done. And they did a good job in giving each Turtle a specific personality, true to their origins, but it is never explained how they got that way, or how Rafael has a thick New York accent when the others don’t. It was also very cool to see Master Splinter have an epic fight scene, but they made Splinter look like hideous hairless rat who was unable to grow hair.
This ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ reboot is a brainless two hour sub par action piece with no depth or character development. And it’s upsetting, because it could have been a movie that had all of that and could have been another $95 million weekend at the box office, but it won’t be. Instead of seeing this piece of garbage, I suggest you find the original film from 1990 and watch that instead, or go see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ again. And for some reason, Libesman decided to pay tribute to the 1990 film a few times throughout the reboot, but there was no mention of Vanilla Ice or the Ninja Rap, and that is a travesty.
1 out of 5 Stars
– Bryan Kluger