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Nerdlocker Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


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Your four favorite mutated ninja turtles have returned in a medium that most fans of the original cartoon/films have not seen yet, CGI. I won’t dive deep into how CGI has been embedded heavily into Hollywood the past ten years, but I just didn’t buy the re-formatted look of the Ninja Turtles since day one. I love the craftsmanship, puppetry, and authentic feel of make-up and visual effects. The hours that make-up and design teams put into the characters gives it more of the “movie magic” that helps the audience get involved with the character and film. I have been a “shell head” since 1987 and grew up with the Ninja Turtles from the original films, comics and cartoon in the 90’s, but this movie didn’t seem to stay true to many of the original elements that made the Turtles famous. Safe to say, I hold these characters close to my heart, and when I heard Michael Bay was attached to the new film I was utterly disappointed. With his atrocious track record of butchering most film re-makes, I went into the film with pretty low expectations. Would Michael Bay give the authentic raw sensation that we loved in the original films? Would he surpass the box office numbers since the last Transformers movie? And of course, would he ruin yet another childhood favorite series of mine?

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was all over the place from the beginning and instead of a live-action film, I felt like I was watching a cartoon that was copy-and-pasted into a transformers set. The first ten minutes of the film looked like a film student’s senior project instead of a big screen motion picture, but I will let that slide. The team of John Liebesman as director and Michael Bay as producer take us back to the over-populated and polluted streets of New York City in a regurgitated cinematic presence. The FOOT are at it again, but not in the normal ninja/Spiderman-like attire, but rather in a more menacing futuristic look that consists of masks and machines guns. The channel 6-News Teams have been on the scene capturing their shenanigans and of course the nosey news reporter wants more than just a few pictures of the bad guys. She wants a real story and the reason behind their madness. April O’ Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking camera man Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) are doing whatever they can to get a breaking story for the six ‘o’ clock news. The dialogue between Fox and Arnett, which consisted of too many forced one-liners, awkward pauses and sometimes-creepy harassment by Arnett, was dull throughout the entire film. However, as most people could predict, the news team gets a little too close to the criminals and come across some crime fighting vigilantes that are hidden within the shadows. April is able to snag a photo of the green crime fighters and a Japanese symbol that was left on a dock storage container, used as a superhero calling card. This begins April’s voyage to uncovering the vigilante’s identities and their determination to stopp the bad guys at all costs.

**********SPOILER ALERT***************

A close colleague/friend of April O’ Neil’s deceased father is introduced, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) the billionaire scientist, and from the get go, I had a bad feeling about his character. Why does Eric know so much about Japanese folklore and why is he so knowledgeable of April’s father’s Mutagen creation? Of course, he trained with Master Shredder as a young man and is behind Shredder’s deathly empowerment. As most villains have been portrayed in films and comics, their overall domination is usually focused on power and money. This is true with TMNT and is as predictable as movies come these days, but why would a billionaire of Eric’s caliber want more money when he literally has everything, including an office in the middle of Times Square? Eric has devised a proprietary antidote that will stop Shredder’s poisonous toxin when released into New York City along with more dollar signs.

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Eventually, we are introduced to the masked vigilantes by the names of Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Rafael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher). Each character has a different look that we are not used to, and shows their different personalities. For example, Michelangelo’s hippy necklace he wears to show his laid back personality, Rafael’s toothpick in his mouth to show he is a tough guy, Leonardo the strong and focused leader with no sense of humor and Donatello’s new specks he wears to depict his inner nerd. As much as I liked Noel Fisher’s performance as Michelangelo, I thought the overall comedy of the movie was very lackluster and forced from the main characters. There were a few cameos that caught me off guard and made me laugh, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Abby Elliot. Michelangelo did a great job at keeping the audience laughing throughout the movie, but couldn’t save the movie’s underlying issues and character development problems. Splinter is finally revealed and it was quite traumatizing at first. The CGI work was  sloppy and the casting of Tony Shalhoub voicing the character was very questionable. From there, we are given brief flashbacks of April’s father and his work on the mutagen, and also introduced to what he was experimenting on. Yes, you guessed it, baby turtles!

April O’Neil’s father’s lab is eventually burned down, but the turtles escaped from the fiery inferno, thanks to a peculiar young lady. April was the young girl that saved the mutant turtles and responsible for what they became over the years. Not only is the story coming full circle, but  April is also putting the pieces together with what she now knows and what she saw with the masked vigilantes. The remainder of the film is an all out battle between the Turtles and the metal monstrosity, Master Shredder. The more I think of how Shredder turned out on the big screen, the more I think how un-creative and nonsensical it was. Imagine if an autobot and a hockey player on steroids were to create a kid, it would look exactly like Shredder.

Shredder in the first 1990’s Turtles film was done right with a simple mask, shoulder pads, and gloves. This film, in typical Michael Bay fashion, takes everything overboard and to the most extreme. Shredder and The Foot tear the city to shambles and hurt anyone in their path. We are taken through many overdrawn action scenes that have camera work much like that of all the Transformers movies. Zoomed in sequences, the characters falling through the air in slow motion, autobot sounds when Shredder moves, and probably one of the worst scenes in the movie that consisted of the Turtles, a semi truck, and mountain fall that lasted for about 4 minutes too long.

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It seemed as though the production and writing team of this movie didn’t really care about the overall value and development, and so put a lot of predictable story lines and characters together to pay their mortgage. Even the seductive Megan Fox couldn’t save this film, and I have mention her makeup was flawless the entire film, even in the disgusting and polluted sewers of New York. I can’t bypass all the holes in the plot, the storyline, and the CGI doused Turtles to say this film was enjoyable. At most, it had some good comedic parts, but everything else was a train wreck since the opening credits.

If there were more effort put into the writing, producing, casting, and character development, I really would have thought this film was worthy of the 90’s greatness, but it is not the case. Michael Bay has succeeded with my low expectations of this film and taking the easy way out with another “play safe” movie. I will always consider myself a fan of the franchise, but I am hoping the generation of today will take a peak at the old movies/comics to gain a “real” respect of the true prize, TURTLE POWER!

Rated PG-13 for: Language, Violence.
Run time: 101 minutes

After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Noel Fisher, Tony Shalhoub, Whoopi Goldberg, and Abby Elliot.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Producer: Michael Bay
Out of 5 Nerd Skulls
Story: 2/ Acting: 2 / Directing: 2/ Visuals: 2
OVERALL: 2 out of 5 Nerd Skulls

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