written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
This movie really did not sit high on my list at all, I mean sure I grew up on these heroes on a half shell... when I was in the first grade I met my best friend at the time because of our mutual love of all things TMNT. So when I heard that Michael Bay was attached to a franchise that was so near and dear to my heart... frankly I was worried. But honestly, could you blame me? Early rumors stated that Michael Bay was going to make them ALIENS, thusly dropping the T and the M from the TMNT... sure NINJA TURTLES sounds like a decent movie name... but coming from a guy damn near as old as the franchise itself... and also someone who grew up with these heroes... I would not be easy to impress.
The story does manage to stay pretty true to the origin I remember. Four regular turtles and a rat come in contact with a mysterious substance that transforms them into sentient anthropomorphic lifeforms. All par for the course when in comes to TMNT lore. A shadowy organization called the Foot Clan, led by the Shredder, holds a firm grip on the city of New York. From a young age, these turtles were raised by their sensei and surrogate father, Master Splinter... the rat, and trained in the ancient art of ninjutsu. Still... all par for the course. So the fact that they didn't butcher their origin to something unrecognizable is a major plus for me. The inclusion of April O'Neil (played by Megan Fox) as the young plucky reporter looking for the latest scoop also sits positively for me, though I was not jazzed at all about Megan Fox portraying the role, what were they hoping for? So overall, a good few minutes into the picture I really couldn't complain much... at least it's better than aliens right?
As far as what's different, Shredder looks like a mechanized Transformer sporting hunting knives all over his gauntlets. The Foot clan were no longer ninjas, but rather more like a para-military organization. Honestly, I didn't object to this as much as I thought I would. The change made sense for the world they were in and served to create some awesome action sequences. While earlier trailers had me reeling because of the overall character design to the turtles, the "noses" didn't end up as distracting as I thought they would be, it does serve to be more realistic... always wondered why the original character designs didn't really have any nostrils. The variation of style each turtle wore made sense for their personality and also offered a more varied look beyond bandana colors, my biggest complaint was the thick nerd glasses... complete with tape holding it together... for Donatello, sure I know he's the nerdy computer whizz of the group but did they really have to throw the Steve Urkel treatment at him? I hope Donnie get's lasik come TMNT2.
While the human element is (by large) forgettable, the turtles really took front and center (as they should) in this picture. The voice cast was top notch and each turtle genuinely stayed true to their established personalities. Though the "surfer bro" demeanor of Michelangelo was traded for a fun-loving hip-hop obsessed kid, it still fit the character. The rest stayed pretty true to established archetypes and never felt dated... Leonardo is the natural leader, Raphael is the bad ass hot-head, and Donatello stays true to his geek personality.
Despite the forgettable human element, I enjoyed the picture more than I expected to. I mean, this is no Guardians of the Galaxy but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turned out to be a fun romp through my childhood, much like what I felt when I saw the first Michael Bay Transformers picture. If we gave scores to our movies, I would have rated this a solid 3 out of 5. Not bad at all and a lot more fun than I expected it to be.
I guess you can say I stand corrected, Michael Bay hasn't destroyed my childhood (yet). Here's hoping the sequel will retain everything that was fun about this picture while improving the human element... here's a free tip... Casey Jones.