(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = OK, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
“Something good, something bad, a bit of both.” Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The first half of the movie is a boring exposition fest while the second is fast paced and a ton of fun. Mash the two together and you get an okay film. The turtles were true to form, cracking jokes, kicking butt and loving pizza. Whereas the human cast was just kind of there. In terms of the plot, it was less of a story and more of an excuse to see the turtles do cool things, which isn’t bad but does make the proceedings a little harder to swallow. All in all it was a decent action movie that doesn’t shit on your childhood TMNT memories, you can do a lot worse (2007’s animated venture).
April O’Neil (played by Megan Fox) is a young reporter searching for a story that will help her break out of doing fluff pieces and looking pretty on camera (that second part is impossible). She unwittingly walks into a drug deal between the Foot Clan (a paramilitary force lead by the Shredder brought to life by Tohoru Masamune) and some other thugs. The turtles do their ninja thing and O’Neil has hit the jackpot… if she can get people to believe her. The next 45 minutes involves April running around the city looking for “the vigilante” and attempting to convince everyone that there is a superhero in the city (but only succeeding in convincing them she belongs in a psych ward). During this introductory half we get almost no action or clean looks at the turtles, we just get heaps and heaps of heavy handed dialogue delivered through by the numbers performances. Luckily the second half cranks it up to eleven and saves the film.
Once April finally confronts the turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo voiced by Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher respectively) and Splinter (Tony Shalhoub (voice) and Danny Woodburn) another dose of long and irritable exposition ensues, only to be interrupted by the Shredder himself. Splinter and the Shredder, who is actually a ninja master in giant robot-samurai armor, battle it out in one of the best one on one fights in recent film history. From there its all action and hilarious quips from the brothers. In an act of vengeance in the wake of their father’s defeat the turtles follow the Shredder to the Sacks (William Fichtner) lab where more fighting, and the most inventive action set piece in recent action film history, takes place. Sliding down a snowy mountain facade while being chased by Foot Clan troops and dodging a giant transport truck really ups the ante in terms of creative action choreography, plus it offers a chance to really show off the smooth animation and CG of the turtles (A+ on that front).
The plot becomes an after thought once the turtles come into their own. The classic goofballs are here in all their glory; Mikey is hilarious every time he opens his mouth (or farts), Raph is macho and bullheaded, Donny is the oddball geek and Leo is the stoic leader (probably the only boring turtle in the film but alas, 3 out of 4 ain’t too shabby). One scene involving an elevator in the later stages of the film is guaranteed to make even the most stone face audiences crack a smile. You can’t help but love these guys, had they not been done correctly this film would have been a disaster (I haven’t heard so many “I will save this city”‘s since Arrow).
The look of the turtles may be initially off putting but once you get to know them it shouldn’t phase you. Sure they’re more Hulk than ninja but it all works in context. The Shredder is a massive robot samurai (who wouldn’t look out of place among the Decepticons) so he needs an equally imposing adversary. Speaking of Shredder, he looks awesome. Blades sticking out of every orifice and moves like a wild cat, he is a good time in an action sequence I can tell you that. His motivations, and those of William Fichtner’s character are paper thin and the plan was poorly thought out (kill EVERYONE with a gas you created decades ago, use a single canister of mutant turtle blood to somehow save the entire population, get rich). As I said, less of an actual story and more of randomly cobbled together ideas to facilitate the action pieces.
Even with all of these positives in the second half, they don’t make up for the snooze fest that was the first 50 minutes of the film. Nothing of import happens, characters are flat and boring and it runs in circles at a snails pace. Had the turtles not showed up to save the day I would recommend skipping this one and watching the old 1990 version (still my definitive TMNT). With all of the frenetic action and funny dialogue in the final act Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles becomes an okay film, not the greatest actioner on the market but definitely not the worst either.
Overall I give this film 6/10