The Next Mutation
It’s not half bad. [The opinions of this blogger are not the opinions of Rhymes With Nerdy. Don’t kid yourselves, it’s wretched – Beth] But it’s nothing spectacular, either. Any other statement about the quality of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is either yanking your chain about how totally radical it is, or being too harsh on it for being a huge bummer, man. On the Cowabunga scale, it gets somewhere between a bodacious and a tubular. One major element that would tip the scale to this being a total bust- the absence of Michelangelo. If the hero on the half shell with the orange bandana was omitted from this movie, it would be fruitless. He IS the humor in this.
I will not go ranting about this new Turtles franchise being produced by Michael Bay, and he destroyed my childhood, and yada, yada, yada. I did that this summer with “Transformers” 4, and the honest truth is this is not Bay’s movie. He PRODUCED the thing, along with probably twenty other people who had nothing to do with the final product in some cases except for paying the cast and crew and bills, and getting their own checks when this movie made a good amount of money. Do you think Stan Lee has creative input on every Marvel movie? No, but he’s a producer on them. And when The Dark Knight Rises sucked, did you blame Emma Thomas or Chris Roven? No, because you don’t even know who the fuck they are. Jonathan Liesban directed this, so quit acting like you know what you’re talking about.
But anywho. So, we get another Turtle movie. Probably because the Ninja Turtles pretty much have, what, a seven year life cycle between new versions? The difference now being, that since they’ve been on Nickelodeon with a new “CGI” cartoon (which I find to be poorly animated) they have found a popularity not seen since their initial heyday when I enjoyed them as a lad. And as those movies are the only theatrical live-action comparison, of course this is bound to fall short of the mark laid out in days gone by (no CGI will ever replace the Turtles created by Jim Henson Creature Shop).
Like the original movie starring Judith Hoag, Elias Kotes, and a Donatello voiced by Corey Feldman, this new one gives us an origin through the introduction of the Turtles with April O’Neil (Megan Fox in this on, a major upgrade from Judith Hoag). The wannabe intrepid reporter is trying to expose the mysterious Foot Clan, who for a uniformed and masked group of ninjas have the least personality of any Ninja Turtle incarnation, which is saying something. Because we have to tie everything together in movies now, April’s and the Turtle’s pasts are connected as is the death of her father with the villain. This isn’t such a big deal, especially since similar inbred ties existed in the 80’s version, because if you stick to the descriptors of the title (you know, teenage, mutant, ninja, and turtle), you’re pretty much solid unless you make Master Splinter, still the heroes’ mentor, a raging alcoholic.
The action is decent, and I get why the close ups are done of the martial arts, at least in the beginning, but c’mon. Despite trailers and 30 years of showing these characters, we still need to shroud them in secrecy for the sake of the “story?” The humor? Like I said, without Mikey, this thing is a stinker in the comedy department. His is the most true to the fondly remembered personalities of the Turtles of yore, with the others remaining close but not given any moments to shine. Aside from their archetypes, all the Turtles were able to spin a funny yarn or two. Aside from Whoopi Goldberg giving a few solid hits as a totally unbelievable TV news editor, we get Will Arnett trying to deliver shitty jokes sounding like he just got done with an all-night chain-smoking bender.
The creature design? Like I said, they will never top Henson’s work. The biggest misstep to me was making Splinter look like a hairless, melted version of himself. He more resembles voice actor Tony Shaloub’s character from Men in Black after getting his head blown off than any furry little sensei I can think of. One thing I do like about the Turtles in this is the individualized accessories each one wears, showcasing the aforementioned personalities. Mikey is basically a horny beach bum, while Donatello looks like he could be a relative to Data from The Goonies. Leo’s garb is pretty straightforward, showing him to be the most serious of the four. Raphael kind of looks like he just got done fighting Jean-Claude Van Damme in a street fight. All-in-all, not bad.
Judging by the fact that this was a huge hit signifies a few things. One, Turtles is very popular again for a movie that looked okay to have raked in so much interest and dough. Two, this version isn’t going away- a sequel was announced the weekend this flick was released. So that begs the question of what they can do to keep it rolling and devolve into a poor man’s “Transformers raped my childhood” scenario. First, lose Arnett or tell him to act like he wants to be there, and lay off the smokes. Second, populate this movie with all the critters from the comic/cartoon you can. Don’t do the Superman thing and always use the same villain. I love Shredder, but how about some Baxter Stockman, the Rat King, Krang, or for the love of Pete, Bebop and Rocksteady.
It’ll be interesting to see where they take this. I just hope they don’t make it too generic and awkward. The upside? If it blows mutated donkey balls we have a couple of 90’s era movies to fall back. Go, Ninja, Go!