Okay, haters don’t really have to “shut up”, but all the hate on Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is kind of picking on the little guy. It’s easy to find something wrong with it, but then that would be nitpicking just for the hell of it, which is what other reviewers are basically doing. If you’ve read my thoughts Michael Bay‘s last flick, Transformers: Age of Extinction, you will know I didn’t even bother seeing it for a number of reasons, one of them being my sanity. However, Bay and Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) made a believer out of me.
I went to see TMNT with three kids. Matter of fact, most of the people in the theater were there with kids. Now, I didn’t want to see it. It was not a priority compared to Guardians of the Galaxy, but I figured, why the hell not? I say this just so you know that I expected it to be trash. I dreaded seeing it, to be brutally honest. But by the time we got out, I’d laughed, at one time almost spitting out my water on the seat in front of me; smiled, and felt a little sad after Master Splinter was seriously injured. I was uber perplexed at the fact that I actually liked the movie considering my utter disdain for most things Bay does cinematically. Oh, and the kids? They freaking loved it. The 11 year old gave it a 10/10, the three year old wants to see it again, and the six year old was super pleased (he was transfixed by the soundtrack too). The kids in the theater lapped it up, and so did most, if not all, of the adults.
What works for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the lack of complexity. The bad guys are laid out neatly, as are the good guys, with a simple story about deceit, family, friendship, and a host of other values. It was seriously no more complicated than one of the cartoon episodes. The only thing complicated was Shredder’s armor. More on that later…
It’s easy to follow along with, and the turtles are affable and funny. I will say that they weren’t very “teenage”, with the exception of Donatello and Michaelangelo. Raphael and Leonardo were like adults to me, kinda like in the cartoon, but more intense. Master Splinter didn’t deviate from the cartoons either, with the exception that the movie really drove home the fact that he saw the turtles as his sons, and wasn’t afraid to show tenderness.
Megan Fox and Will Arnett were actually pretty good together as well. The chemistry wasn’t as strong as say, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but you already know that chemistry didn’t save that film from sucking. Fox isn’t the strongest actress, but she got the job done. The cool thing is they didn’t need her to sex anything up. Bay being Bay, however, he did get a cute little ass shot of Fox, but Will Arnett saved the scene from being a creepshot. She played a very determined, focused, and dedicated April O’Neil on a hunt to discover the truth effectively. Mind, I said effectively, not amazingly. Will Arnett is always hilarious, so while he was toned down a bit (for the kids), he still provided quite a few laughs. Of the turtles themselves, Michaelangelo was the funniest and probably garnered the most laughs throughout the entire movie.
Okay, so here’s what did NOT work for the movie. Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) was hobbled by a story that made William Fichtner, who played the villainous Eric Sacks, take front and center. Don’t get me wrong, Ficthner does smooth-talking wickedness masterfully, I just wanted more Shredder. It’s not the end of the world. Like I said, everything was neatly laid out. Still, the first Ninja Turtles movie in 20 years should have focused more on Shredder and Master Splinter first. Shredder was more like an errand boy for Sacks.
I also thought the ending fight scene between Shredder and the turtles was a little cliche. While it was beautifully shot, it was just a bit overkill. However, I will admit it was necessary given the story of cohesion and brotherhood/family. Still it could have been shorter. Oh, and as for that armor? It was done in The Wolverine. The armor was freaking amazing, but part of Shredder’s appeal was the fact that he was a man who happened to be a ripped badass. I hope they tone it down with the next movie. In the meantime, they can send me his outfit, because, uhhh, reasons.
Make no mistake, there will be a second movie. It was a hit with the people I saw it with, and for mid-afternoon on a Friday, the movie was packed. Bravo, Bay. Bravo. This is the third film you’ve had your hand in behind Bad Boys and Pain & Gain that I can say I really appreciated. I didn’t feel the nostalgia this time, as opposed to the old school joints from when I was a kid, but it stopped being about us 80s/90s kids a long time ago.
Go with an open-mind like I did, and don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed. I’m not saying to lose your expectations, just recognize it for what it is: A big-budget, part live-action version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series and cartoon. You’ll be surprised at how impressed you can be with it.