Let me start by saying that I LOVED the Ninja Turtles growing up. I mean, I lived, breathed, and slept Ninja Turtles. I had the clothes, the action figures, the comics, and the movies and episodes on VHS (yeah, I know--LONG time ago!). That's why I wanted to keep a COMPLETELY open mind when it came to this movie. I fought HARD to do that, especially with Michael Bay and Megan Fox being involved.
Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed this movie. I didn't expect it to blow my mind or be the Ninja Turtles I remembered as a kid because let's face it, we're all going to make those images larger than life, and no amount of hype could ever live up to that. But it was entertaining, and I really enjoyed a good amount of it, especially the comic relief parts.
I actually didn't mind Megan Fox as April O'Neil as much as I thought I would have. She's normally a very annoying person to watch on screen, and I had accepted that fact going into this. My love for the Turtles made it a worthwhile trip to the movies even with her there. But she actually did a decent job.
Will Arnett also did a good job as Vernon, April's sidekick/cameraman, and as usual, William Fichtner performed very well.
Now it's time to get to my criticisms.
Characters and Development
This iteration of TMNT finds our green heroes having gone through a serious facelift. Serious is the operating word in that sentence because, despite the playful nature of these teenagers, they are SO serious. Michelangelo, thankfully, doesn't fall into that category, but the rest pretty much do. Leonardo has no real character in the movie, Raphael is just ANGRY throughout the whole movie for no apparent reason, and Donatello has bits and pieces where he's involved, but again lacks personality.
There's really no character development to be seen in this movie. There's nothing that gives the Turtles the playful charm that made them who they were. Giving Donatello glasses doesn't make him intelligent, and it barely alludes to his intelligence. The most developed character is Raphael, and he's not really all that developed at all other than having one emotion: Anger.
The problem is, Raphael was not JUST an angry dick in any iteration of the Turtles as he is in this movie. He was symbolic of teenage angst, frustration, and impatience, but he wasn't angry just to be angry. His biggest trait actually, was his wit and his sarcasm. Not only that, but none of them are supposed to look SCARY! I could see kids having nightmares about Raphael the way he acts and looks in the movie.
The only redeeming part of this (if you can call it that) is at the end when Raphael has what is supposed to be a moment of clarity and confession where he opens his heart to his brothers as he believes they are about to die, but even that feels very forced.
The Shredder. Oh what can I say about good old Oroko Saki? Well, they never reveal his real name or his face in this movie. That could be a cool effect to add to the mystery of the character, but why? It doesn't add anything in this movie since most of the audience already knows who he is, or is about to find out in say 15 minutes. He's also introduced to be an excellent fighter and all-around badass, but then all of that is made completely irrelevant by the fact that his armor makes him into a knock-off of the Silver Samurai from The Wolverine.
Now I'm not a Michael Bay hater by any means. I really enjoyed the first Transformers and to a certain extent, Transformers 4. I even liked Battleship (mostly because I took it for what it was worth, not expecting it to rival The Dark Knight). What I HATE about Michael Bay, though, is that all of his machines look ALMOST IDENTICAL. He did it again with Shredder in this movie, and it really annoyed me. Shredder looked like a Transformer. It didn't work well. Period.
So this is where this movie really goes downhill: the story. Not that the original story was particularly believable or realistic, but this one just doesn't make any sense. FYI, SPOILERS ARE COMING! If you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know what happens, just skip the next part. The spoiler-free version: there are a frustrating number of plot holes and moments when you're left scratching your head instead of enjoying the movie. CGI can't make up for that.
My first issue is that April O'Neil suddenly is involved in the genesis of the Turtles. She remembers all of this through a flashback that she has, not immediately upon meeting them, but after going back to her apartment to re-read and watch videos from her father's research. More about that in a minute...
TGRI is still the laboratory that creates the mutagen, but in a very Spider-Man-Rip-Off way, April's father is the scientist who was working on the mutagen experiment (ironically titled "Project Renaissance"--see what they did there?), and she considered the Turtles and Splinter her pets as a child (which is completely normal for a father to let his 9ish year old daughter to play with lab experiments displaying abnormal strength). Then, a mysterious fire breaks out in the lab one night, and April somehow appears there to rescue them from the fire before getting them outside and releasing them into the sewer. So many questions come to mind. Why is April there at night? Why is her father not getting her out of there if there's a fire?
One question that plagued me was why April doesn't remember them upon first meeting them? Granted, she wouldn't necessarily think that little turtles would become 6 foot mutant warriors, but her realization wouldn't be triggered by watching her father's research. It would be triggered from hearing the names alone.
Next, there's no Hamato Yoshi. Splinter is just a lab rat. Nothing more. He's had no exposure to Japan or the art of Ninjitsu, except for what he found IN A BOOK! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he finds a book on Ninjitsu in the sewer, READS IT, and learns Ninjitsu to the point where he's adept enough to begin training the Turtles. So why does he have a Japanese accent? Why is he able to fight and almost beat the Shredder, even with his armor? (more about the armor later) I'm not Japanese, but I would consider this kind of offensive if I were. Suffice to say, there's no reason Splinter should have a Japanese accent. Even a bad one.
There are a few more areas that I could touch on, but one that I will mention is the main plot. Sacks (miscellaneous rich, seemingly good, but really bad guy who killed April's dad, his partner in research) partners with Shredder to try to destroy the city by creating a super-virus that only he can cure. His plan is to infect the city, killing millions, and then cure those left alive, thereby making him the hero of the city. Does this sound familiar? It should. Pick a comic book or comic book movie that didn't do very well, and you'll probably find a similar main plot.
Despite the length of the Cons section versus the Pros section, I did still enjoy this movie overall. I walked into it with no real expectations, and so it was difficult for me to be disappointed. Bottom line: it's a movie, and it's meant to entertain. I don't take it personally that they changed the storyline or the characters. I do consider the older version better than this one for many reasons, not the least of which are listed here. But that's another article.
Scores (each out of 10 points)
Character Development: 2.5
Fun Factor: 8