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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Falls Short for Fans

Cowabungled, dudes!

Disappointed Leonardo

I’ll start by saying I wanted to love this movie. I was on board. I do not fear the word “reboot” as so many others do, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just missed the mark entirely. One thing it does have going for it though: Megan Fox is kind of a badass as April O’Neil.

Not only is Fox a total BAMF, she’s actually the high-point of the movie. She’s not a passive character constantly needing rescue. When danger happens she doesn’t run and hide. She takes out her phone and starts recording. The movie probably should have been called April O’Neil or at the very least 20-Something Badass Reporter. Yes, obviously there are turtles, but the story follows April from beginning to end. As a character, she’s integral to the turtles’ own origin story. We see in the trailer that her father had something to do with their creation, but it turns out she’s directly involved herself.

Unfortunately, she’s constantly being hit on in the movie by both turtles and humans. There’s even a joke at one point in the film where her cameraman, played by Will Arnett, nearly kills everyone because he’s staring at her ass instead of focusing on keeping everyone alive.

As a reporter April is struggling to be taken seriously. At the beginning of the movie we see her covering some inane exercise program when she’d rather be following up leads about the Foot Clan. She sees the turtles as her way in, but the more she finds out about them the more convoluted the story gets.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is complicated, but it didn’t have to be. Most of the film’s story comes out in dry exposition of one character giving a speech to someone about their past. The story keeps coming back to the turtles’ origin and how April is involved, but who cares? No one’s at this movie for backstory. We want to see turtles fight ninjas.

Even the plan hatched by Shredder and the other main villain of the movie is laughable, and more like something the 80’s cartoon Shredder would come up with than a serious villain.

The filmmakers have been criticized for not being faithful to the source material, but when I spoke with them earlier this week they assured me that every bit of the movie came from the comics, movies, or cartoons that came before. They’re not the ones who tied April to the turtles’ origins. It was done in a comic first. But, by pulling from decades of Teenage Mutant Ninja Source Material, the film feels unfocused.

If you’re only familiar with the earlier movies, this story is very different than the one you know. If you only kind of remember the cartoon as a kid, this story is a lot more complicated than you’re expecting. If you’re a die-hard, read-everything, watch-everything Turtles fan, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll appreciate the scattershot nature of the material that was cobbled together for this film.

By trying to appeal to every Ninja Turtles fan, the film ends up pleasing no one. Even non-fans will likely be disappointed by the unnecessary over-complication of the plot, the forced exposition, and the truly awful character designs. Serious. The turtles just look terrible. Splinter’s even worse.

Shredder is reduced to a weapon. There’s no character there, just an assembly of blades trying to kill the turtles because it serves the story. The final fight looks like a Ninja Turtles/Transformers crossover. The Foot Clan is even more generic than in previous incarnations. They’re not stealthy ninjas. They’re just thugs with guns.

The turtles themselves have more affectations than personalities. There are passing references to the classic power struggle between Raph and Leo, but it has nothing to do with the story. We know Donatello is the smart one because he wears glasses. You know, like nerds wear! Splinter isn’t the wise leader we know him as. He’s just kind of an angry dad. April is really the only fully realized character in this movie.

Without giving anything away, the end of the movie sets itself up for a sequel, but considering how sharply the quality dropped off between the first two Ninja Turtles movies I can only imagine what a second installment in this franchise would be like.

I really wanted this movie to prove the Internet wrong and be something great, but it’s just a generic action movie, and not a very good one at that.

Previously in Ninja Turtles

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.