REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – Did Liebesman Destroy My Childhood?

There has been a lot of hate generated for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which hits theaters this Friday. Was the hate warranted? Find out as I share my thoughts on Turtles with lips, Megan Fox as April O’Neil and more!

Reviews Opinion
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

Like many of you that frequent the site, I’m a TMNT fan and grew up with the Turtles on TV and in film. I was also a fan of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s comic book - Thanks to my brother bringing an issue home one day after school (I think I stole it from him and stashed it within my comic collection. Don’t tell him!) – Which may not be as common as the latter…
To put it mildly, the film has been met with some trepidation by CBM users and TMNT fans. The film has even destroyed precious childhood memories, prior to being released in theaters, if recent stories are to be believed. There has been outrage for the film due to changing the Turtles into aliens and giving them lips, casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil, choosing Jonathan Liebesman to direct (the same guy behind Wrath of the Titans), having the film produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes… There’s quite an extensive list of issues with the film, all of which were foremost in my mind as I entered the theater last week for a press screening of the film. I was more than a little nervous for the film.
Did this new incarnation of the Turtles destroy the past 25 years of memories that I’ve built up with these whacky teenagers that were Turtles, mutants AND ninjas? What about the rat that served as their role model, sensei and father? Were my fears warranted? Absolutely not!  If you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan, you’ll LOVE this movie!  NOT a TMNT fan? I think this film will make you one.
These aren’t the Turtles that you remember from your childhood. They’re better.  My hats go off to Jonathan Liebesman and the producers for being brave enough to create a new story, including new origins, yet remain true to what we love most about the Turtles; their personalities. This new generation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not only has the personalities that we love and grew up with, but they also look the part.  No longer will the Turtles be distinguished by the color of their masks and the letter on their belt! No longer will they all appear with the same body, head and shell! It’s a full-blown Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle revolution! Each Turtle gets their moment in the spotlight, but Raphael and Michelangelo see more screen time and lines than the rest.  When it comes right down to it, Michelangelo steals the show. His repeated attempts to win April’s heart are downright hilarious!
Pablo Helman and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) did an amazing job with the Turtles and the visual effects. The new technology that they created and used to capture the facial expressions was quite amazing. You can see even the most subtle changes on the faces of the Turtles. If you’re lucky enough to see some of the behind-the-scenes visual effects footage, you’ll see that each actor’s performance translated almost perfectly from their face and body to that of their individual Turtle.  It’s actually a bit creepy watching them side-by-side, but amazing at the same time.  The visual effects for the Turtles hold their own with any other film you want to put them up against.
The story is pretty straight forward, although it does put a new spin on the origin of Splinter and the Turtles (No, they’re NOT aliens. That would be stupid). I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but you get the gist from the trailers for the film; April gets into trouble, Turtles save April, Shredder wants to kill the Turtles. Liebesman has said that the brotherhood and family bond of the Turtles was more important than the story and the plot (read more). This rings true throughout and is one of the things that I enjoyed most about the film.
April O’Neil, the television report that can’t seem to land a big story and get away from the fluff pieces she’s assigned, is portrayed by Megan Fox.  April has a lot that she’s trying to prove in the film, chief among them is proving that she’s not just a beautiful face, but that she can do an outstanding job as a reporter.  Real-life and fiction have met as Megan Fox is intent upon proving the very same thing; that she’s more than just a pretty face.  Fox is great as O’Neil. I’m not saying that because she called me and to task publicly at the press conference over the weekend, although the stare-of-death was quite intimidating (YES she knows the site, and she sees what is written about her!). This is Megan’s best performance and goes a long ways towards showing that she’s “more than meets the eye”, as Liebesman is fond of saying. Not only is it her best performance, it’s also a performance that gives us an April O’Neil that isn’t your standard “damsel in distress.” She’s willing and able to fight back.
Will Arnett, the comic star known for Arrested Development and 30 Rock plays across from Fox as Vernon Fenwick, O’Neil’s trusty photographer. Vern offers several laughs during the film and is portrayed well by Arnett. The annoying Vern from the cartoon is gone, and I say “Good Riddance!”
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight, Elysium, Prison Break) plays Eric Sacks. Anyone under the impression that Sacks is Shredder was living under a rock when Paramount released the third trailer for the film (read more). That being said, he IS a villain in the film, which is confirmed in the afore mentioned trailer. I’m a huge fan of Fichtner, back to the Prison Break days, but his role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t quite work for me at the end of the film. I thought the performance was decent, but something was lost in the final confrontation. I can’t quite put my finger on it…
There are a few problems with the film. Some of the editing seems a bit awkward, including the scene that finds the Turtles beat-boxing in an elevator.  While the scene itself was humorous, possibly one of my favorite scenes in the film, the transition to the scene feels choppy and rushed. There are a few other scenes with this same problem… It’s quite possible that it was an issue of the time constraints imposed upon the film.

Splinter, while having perhaps one of the best fight sequences in the entire film, didn’t have the same high-end appearance as the Turtles. The rendering of the fur on his face didn’t appear natural… Yes, I’m talking about a mutated rat who raises four turtles as his sons and teaches them ninjutsu, but you’ll know what I mean when you see the movie. As much as I love Splinter, he freaked me out a little bit… The scene depicting their transformation/mutation was a bit choppy as well.

Shredder was severely lacking in regards to backstory and character development.  He’s the main villain, but we don’t know much more than that. His 21st century Foot Clan is more SWAT than ninja, which was somewhat disappointing, but understandable considering the fact that it must be VERY difficult to be a ninja nowadays, not to mention being an army of ninjas. Bullets beat swords, unless you’re within a ten foot radius, or you happen to be a 6'5" foot turtle that also knows ninjitsu.

Note that this isn't an exhaustive list of problems found in the film. I could attempt to list them all here, but I won't. How did they survive at the end? I have no idea, but it didn't take away from the fun that I had watching it. The film with the perfect story, cast and film makers is yet to be filmed. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles succeeds in what it attempts to be; a fun film with fun characters.
If you’re a Turtle fan, you’ll love this movie.  There’s a very good chance your kids will love this movie as well, thanks to great performances by Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), Pete Ploszek and Johnny Knoxville (Leonardo).  Not a Turtle fan? I think this film will make you one. There’s action, laughs and plenty of nods to Turtles of old that will have you leaving the theater hungery for pizza, Orange Crush and more Turtle action!

4 Stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits theaters this Friday, August 8th.

The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Characters Created by PETER LAIRD and KEVIN EASTMAN with a Screenplay by JOSH APPELBAUM & ANDRÉ NEMEC and EVAN DAUGHERTY, Producer MICHAEL BAY (the blockbuster Transformers franchise) and director JONATHAN LIEBESMAN (Wrath of the Titans) bring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the popular franchise that has captivated audiences of all ages for decades, into the 21st century.
Seth Rogen's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Reboot Gets An Official Title And Updated Released Date

Seth Rogen's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Reboot Gets An Official Title And Updated Released Date

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