Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was just as bad as everyone feared. It was awful and insulting to even casual fans of the franchise. Yet, there were some things that made me happy enough to not completely hate the two hour duration.
It opens with a pretty neat comic stylized sequence with a narrative voice over of Splinter explaining The Foot Clan, which they made sure to tell you is named because they STEP ON PEOPLE, and not related to Japan whatsoever, and how they’ve terrorized New York. And then goes on to explain he has raised and trained four turtles to someday protect the city from The Foot Clan and their leader, The Shredder. Okay.
Cut to the docks and we see April trying her best to do a report on a looted cargo ship and the captain doesn’t want to give her the time of day. I get she’s supposed to be a noob, but I hated how everyone in this film treats her less than a human being. It’s endearing she wants to get into bigger stories with her FOUR YEARS OF JOURNALISM SCHOOL and something like her ambition should be something higher ups would commend than condemn and ridicule for no reason, as she hasn’t slipped up to the audiences knowledge. Yes her acting is bad, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed to have a brain and will of her own. It’s true, every male in this movie either checks her out with eyes or a comment and flat out hits on her.
As annoying as Vernon was with trying to get a date with her every ten minutes, he seemed to be the only one that tried to value her. He wasn’t as much of a pig as other people have stated, either. I found Michelangelo MUCH worse. I enjoyed Will Arnett, it’s just a shame he wasn’t let to be funny on his own.
So after a vain attempt at gaining permission to further investigate a store, April somehow bikes across Manhattan in a short amount of time to witness The Foot stealing stuff from boats again. She busts out her Windows Phone (there’s a lot of annoying product placement in this movie…) and sees she can’t zoom in and focus well, so like the thrill seeking journalist she is, jumps the fence and tries to stay out of sight. The storage crates around her start shaking and seemingly moving on their own. The Foot freak out, figuring their plan has been found and flee. April sees a bulky figure and is too late to snap a photo. But does find a SYMBOL (of which they fail to say is a Japanese kanji character, but whaaaaatever) and photos that.
She brings it to her boss, Whoopi Goldberg, and explains what she saw with some vigilante stopping The Foot, and even brings up the symbol as a type of calling card. Her findings are pushed aside as useless not-real evidence. Um! That is legit serious evidence as that will link you to this supposed vigilante.
April then follows the chaos of a wave of people exiting the subway. She joins hostages and hopes the vigilante she saw will show up to save her/them. After they take out the bad guys, she follows them to the roof and sees all four giant turtles, snaps a photo and faints. As she’s coming to, she hears them call each other by name and she’s like “huh that’s familiar”. She does the in aw What Are You thing, and as if trying to avoid saying the title they say “Mutant”, “Turtle”, “Ninja”, “Teenagers” while explaining what they are. While she was passed out, Donatello wiped her phone so she didn’t have the photo anymore. The turtles are like eight feet tall and not friendly looking at all. Mikey does nothing but hit on April while the others warn her off from telling the public about them. Of course, while they take their leave she takes another photo despite them saying “WE WILL FIND YOU.”
She goes home and frantically searches through her neatly organized closet for a box full of stuff and a folder with PROJECT RENAISSANCE on it. Finds a video and plays it on her camcorder and sees herself all little playing with baby turtles that are colored marked like the turtle’s bandanas – turns out the turtles and Splinter were part of a project her dad and a scientist political person named Eric Sacks were doing. We’re lead to believe this experiment was to aid in healing. Apparently the lab went up in flames and April was able to get away long enough to save the subjects and set them free in the sewer. Her father dies in the inferno. Supposedly.
April goes again to her boss to attempt to explain the vigilante thing and says they are part of an experiment her father did back in the day and it worked somehow and now the Turtles are saving the city! … Whoopi says you are crazy and fired. So then she decides to go to Sacks to tell him his subjects survived. Bad idea.
In the trailers we are lead to believe that the character William Fitcher was playing a white-washed Shredder. Turns out, that isn’t the case. Not even a white-washed Baxter Stockman! Eric Sacks is an original character for this film and he and Shredder are working together. Sacks gives April a sob story of how he was born on a military base in Japan and was raised by a sensei and how there was a disease in ancient times and the experiment with the animals was to create an all curing antidote. She leaves all “cool story, bro!”
Donatello hacks into her computer and gives her coordinates to a place to visit them in the sewers as Splinter fears she’s in danger. Splinter gets points for looking like a gross rat, but like the turtles, makes it really hard to see him as friendly. When we are first introduced to him a few minutes earlier when the turtles come back and unsuccessfully lie to where they were, he punishes them by doing weird balancing exercises. It’s not like Splinter hasn’t done that in the past, just made it reaaaaaally hard to buy he is the caring father one is used to.
We get some more exposition. Splinter freaks out that April told Sacks about them because the cure all is actually an antidote for the chosen few to have a cure for a toxin he plans to release on the city/world. Now with the Turtles alive, he can continue his master plan! Splinter says he taught the turtles to be fighters to protect the city from The Shredder, of whom he only heard was evil from Sacks when he saw Sacks kill April’s father when he started to know too much.
The Foot finds April via the tracker and they bust into the sewer and there’s a huge fight amongst everyone. The Shredder shows up in huge samurai armor and they fight like they know each other… how? Cause this version, Splinter is not Yoshi or his master’s pet… Shredder just sees a giant rat and starts fighting it. And Splinter has never seen Shredder in or out of the armor like anybody else in this movie cause he’s like the Japanese shadowman, but whatever. Splinter is knocked out and buried under rubble, Ralph gets chased out and presumed dead while, Leo, Donnie and Mikey are captured.
April was hiding as she was told and she finds Ralph, the lone turtle ala usual and freaking out over Splinter being hurt and they set out to rescue them. But not before Splinter tells them “They musn’t get the antidote!” But, don’t you technically have the antidote in you… too? What?
Anyway, they bum a ride off Vern, whose reaction to Ralph could have been funnier. They drive out to a snowy landscape (wouldn’t that be hours outside New York City for this to even be possible?) By the time they get there, the three turtles are having their blood drained completely out of them. April frees them by taking Donnie’s suggestion to inject adrenaline into them. Uh, wouldn’t that kill you if most of your blood is gone? Either way, they beat up some flunkies in hyperactive frenzy and go after Sacks and Shredder. This results in sliding down a snowy mountain while the hijacked diesel gradually falls apart. The effects are okay, but rather sloppy considering the budget.
They get to the city and with Donnie’s brain are about to get to the top of Sack’s tower to face Shredder. They face off while April and Vern go to find Sacks and stop him from setting off the toxin bomb on his end. Eventually Donnie dissembles the timed bomb and with Vern having killed Sacks, the toxin can’t be let out ala Amazing Spider-Man. The Shredder still tries to go after the turtles and April comes to the rescue. The tower has start collapsing on itself by now and they are all hanging on to a scraper. Dramatically they fall, and while the Turtles put in their last words, they end up landing on their feet.
Quickly they return to the sewer and administer the antidote to Splinter to help him heal, but… he has… the stuff in… his… whatever.
Film ends with the Turtles having fixed up the old Channel 6 van Vern came to the snow lab in and blowing up Vern’s new car.
On its own, the film doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s fairly lazy and generic and even steals things from the likes of Amazing Spider-Man like I mentioned. What makes it worse is because it uses characters that already exists and attempts to make a reboot.
There are no Japanese ties in this movie. Shredder is reduced to a fairly useless villain. He speaks Japanese to a useless Kurai, and Sacks as well, and acts more like a minion than the master mind. Don’t know if he is supposed to be Oroku Saki as it’s never brought up, just that he goes by The Shredder. For a Turtles movie of course you needed the Shredder, but he wasn’t THE villain.
Splinter is also not Japanese nor raised by someone in Japan. How does he teach the Turtles? He finds a book in their sewer dwelling and teaches himself first, all the while dawning on some variations of Japanese garb. They turned Splinter and the Turtles into a Weeboo family. The “symbol” that was left as a calling card was the character for Family and it’s not even made to be a big deal later which it could have been, yet there are no Japanese ties, so it’s all just kind of insulting and racist when you think about it. The Turtles still called Splinter Sensei.
The Turtles themselves were fun to have because of my love for them, but Bay’s iteration left only the basis of the character – Leo the Leader, Ralph the Rebel Grump, Donnie the Nerd Tech, Mikey the Goofball. These aren’t incorrect, they just missed the soul of what makes them all brothers. There were a few instances where this connection was tried to be conveyed, but then it quickly left with some stupid comment and you’re brought out of whatever tender moment was trying to happen. There was a part they are shushing at each other and beat-boxing in an elevator and that’s about as close to the brotherly love as you get. The movie doesn’t give us a lot of time to feel/believe that they are brothers. Well, hold on, there was on instance with Ralph that was a nice touch. At the end when they are falling and having last words, Ralph basically apologizes for being a jerk all the time. Fast character development/reveal, but also accurate no matter how rushed. Mikey’s character was mostly based on being a hormonal teenager and pop-culture references. Leo was almost just as grumpy as Ralph and hardly said anything. Donnie was pretty true to his character even though there wasn’t a lot of time to be dwelled on.
Meagan Fox as April was still annoying. She was better in this than Transformers, but I don’t know if that’s saying much. It’s dumb that she’s treated as an object in this movie. Just… can we not do this?
Whoopi Goldberg was in it for two scenes, so that was weird. Will Arnett as Vernon worked for me, actually.
As awful as the movie was, I can’t say I hated it. But I didn’t really like it, either. While I’ve been complaining above, I did find things I enjoyed. The opening sequence being one of them. There’s a scene where the turtles return to their sewer hole and they jump from the rooftops and that pays homage to the comics and 80s series. Usagi is mentioned in a subtle way of Sacks saying “I’m glad we didn’t use rabbits for this experiment!” There’s a guy at Channel 6 I swear was supposed to be Danny from the 90s first movie. Then there’s subtle things here and there that try to touch on your nostalgia strings. For a moment they work and then you’re brought back and you realize the writer’s of this thing don’t really care about the material. The humor often fell flat and that was a big disappointment. Could have done without the fart, too.
Is it worth seeing? Depends on how big of a TMNT fan you are or how much you like badly constructed movies. But really, Turtles in and of themselves are kind of ridiculous, so I do give all interpretations some leeway. Is this worse than Turtles III? I’d say so. Maybe not by much, though. It was an effort, not necessarily a valiant one, but at least people are caring about Turtles again.
I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars.