Oh, Michael Bay. If there’s one thing Michael Bay is good for, it’s reviving long-dormant franchises and making their core demographics worry fiercely. Even when he’s not in the director’s chair, there’s a long list. Transformers, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, among others. He’s absolutely one of the most polarizing figures in today’s film industry, because by and large, you either enjoy his work or you loathe it. When Bay announced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was simply called Ninja Turtles at the time, he also showed off the new designs of our favorite smart-mouthed reptiles. The backlash was vicious, and instilled a sense of fear and anger in the fanbase. There was a general consensus that the movie was going to be terrible, and it was going to be all Michael Bay‘s fault.
The cast is somewhat hit-or-miss. The biggest miss is Megan Fox as April O’Neil, as none of her dialogue feels natural whatsoever. She feels robotic in her role as Main Human Cast Member A. The part didn’t need a big name actress, it needed a better actress. Give the part to Emma Stone or Hayden Panettiere. They would run with it, and actually give the character some character. Speaking of character, Will Arnett is awesome as Vernon Fenwick. He uses mannerisms that make what should be unfunny conversation lean towards entertaining. I actually feel bad for him, because being the talented comedic actor he is, he’s given next to nothing to work with. He’s split into two halves, one being the funnyman who isn’t given many funny things to say, and the other half being the potential romantic interest who is outdone in every way by one of the Turtles.
I feel so bad about what I’m going to say about William Fichtner, because he’s a great actor. He plays his role as shady businessman Eric Sacks like it’s a science. He seems like the kind of guy that should be compared to a snake in the grass, and that’s exactly what his character calls for. There’s one minor gripe I have with his role in this film, though…he really didn’t need to have a role in this film. The initial rumor was that Fichtner would be portraying the Shredder, and with that not being the case, he feels like he’s just along for the ride. Speaking of the Shredder, we only see Tohoru Masamune a few times in the whole movie, in addition to his voicework as Shredder. He shifts between speaking English and Japanese as if there’s such a switch on his mammoth suit of armor (those knife hands teeter on the line of overkill). If he would have exclusively spoken Japanese with English subtitles for the duration of the movie, it would have given off a B-movie vibe that I feel would have really benefited the film.
The voice-acting for the Turtles is tremendously well done. Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), and Johnny Knoxville (hi, I’m Leonardo, welcome to Jackass) deserve a lot of credit for most of the upsides to the film. After all, they’re who everybody came to the theaters to see. Fisher‘s performance as Mikey has got to be considered the show-stealer, as he always delivers his one-liners with considerable ease. There are some lines that sound too much like summer flick babble (the out of left field “Let’s go save my brothers” uttered to no one in particular comes to mind), but there’s nothing offensively awful dialogue-wise. Well, except for whatever dialogue Fox is involved with.
The CGI and action scenes are prime, providing the wow-factor that people should expect walking into the movie in the first place. The Turtles have a lot in their arsenal when it comes to dispatching their adversaries, and the mountain scene is some of the most fun you can have in a theater right now. Yes, the Turtles have nostrils instead of beaks, but the high quality of CGI work in the film more than makes up for whatever perceived shortcomings there are in the character design. On the topic of questionable character design, most of my grievances can be attributed to the Shredder and his over-sized suit, which is probably sponsored by the Food Network, looking at all the knives. He looks like he belongs in a Crocodile Dundee movie, not a Ninja Turtles one.
By the way, the movie is directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Who knew?
This movie is a summer flick, at its core. That means lots of explosions, action, CGI, and story elements that end up being rather inconsequential to the overall experience. It is also a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. That means action as well, but it also means goofy jokes that shouldn’t make you smile but do anyways because Michelangelo is a dork. It means sentimental attachment to its characters, assuming you grew up knowing the characters. And it means story elements that end up being rather inconsequential to the overall experience.
The film serves its purpose. You come to see Ninja Turtles make jokes and kick ass, you see Ninja Turtles make jokes and kick ass, and you leave. Unless you’re me, then you leave kicking and screaming dressed in full Ninja Turtle attire as security drags you away while you demand an encore presentation, because there’s no such thing as enough Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 7/10