Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Movie Review)

So here we are; it's August 2014 and after what seems like years of waiting, I’ve gone from a kid to a well seasoned adult, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have  finally returned in a live action movie. Like any new start-up to a franchise some things are familiar and some things feel foreign. This time around the Turtles are placed in a Michael Bay world so yes, some elements of the movie have received the "Transformers" treatment. There are moments of uber cheese, the movie has a super, super thin plot, and some elements of the story have been altered in a way that will no doubt turn old school fans a very irritated shade of red. Though, just like Transformers, you get your action packed popcorn movie fun.

So with all that taken into account what do I think of the movie? It's a mixed bag. Visually it can be great. All the turtles look extremely well done. The CGI is nice and they look interesting. The turtles performances were done by actual actors and the CGI was added. I will also note some of the characters voices were re-cast (Splinter & Leonardo). They've gone through a re-design which I'm not the biggest fan of, but I don't mind the take on them. Overall the creators capture their look and they are fairly well voiced. Johnny Knoxville only irritated me once as the voice of Leonardo. Michelangelo’s re-design is a goofy wannabe rapper type with a Puka shell necklace and shirt tied around his waste. It works pretty well for the character. He adds a ton of comedic moments to the film that will no doubt have kids slapping high fives and giggling in their seats. Donatello is geeked up to the extreme and is sporting some oversized glasses and an electronic tech backpack that has all kind of goodies. Raphael's ruff and tumble personality is amplified with a more biker style mask, sunglasses sitting on top the mask, and a scar on his upper lip. Leonardo sports an NYC button. I think overall the personalities of the turtles are kept pretty well in check and that worked well for the film. You've got the leader, the brains, the goof-off, and the loner. Splinter's CGI on the other hand is lacking in my opinion. He looks fake and I wasn't a fan of the voice acting either (sorry Monk's Tony Shalhoub who did the voice). Aside from the thin plot this was one of my least favorite things about the movie. I did not like his design. The only thing about Splinter that comes off well in this movie is how he uses his tail as a weapon. This is something in future sequels I hope they can fix because it's one of the biggest sore spots of the movie. The turtles always look great so I was surprised to see such a poor representation of Splinter.

The actual human actors are also a mixed bag with some working better in their roles than others. Megan Fox as April doesn't work great but she doesn't do much harm to the movie. She does a pretty good job with the material presented and overall I didn't mind her performance. I thought she fit in pretty well with the turtles. I can't deny there's that nagging feeling when you watch the movie that she just doesn't seem like the person who should be playing April. No doubt her connections with Michael Bay helped her land the film. Whoopie Goldberg shows up as her boss, which could have been played by anyone as she really didn't add anything to the movie. Will Arnett is April's cameraman/wannabe life guru. He provides some comic relief. He did have a few funny lines. He didn't add much to the movie, but I like his casting and it worked well for the movie. William Fitchner plays Warren Sacks. He does a decent job with what he's presented with material wise. A lot of his arc in the movie is pretty stereotypical and probably won't shock many viewers over the age of twelve. The arch villain, the Shredder, maybe loses the most as his character barely feels like much of an arch villain. He more so feels like he's there to just be the Shredder and fight the turtles and that's about it. Sadly he almost feels less like the leader and more like a henchman. Shredder's character development is so thin in this movie that he definitely loses a lot of what he is about. There are moments, when's he's first introduced, when you get that classic Shredder feeling, but it's not nearly enough. Shredder is mixed live actor/CGI and for the most part that works. It would have been nice to see the live actor more to possibly get some of the character development he desperately needed.  Minae Noji is Karai and she basically doesn't do much but be there and do a poor job commanding the foot clan. It is cool she's in the movie though and definitely a note-worthy fan favorite character that could be better developed in a sequel. The foot clan come off more as armored assassins and less as ninja capable in this movie. 

The action sequences of the movie are pretty well done. It was pretty visually rewarding to see the turtles in car chase scenes, fighting the foot, and riding skateboards and gliding on their shells in the sewer. The movie wins some big points for those action scenes and they are definitely the most rewarding part of the story and movie. With the plot and storyline so thin it leaves plenty of room for the four turtles to have some pretty impressive fights throughout the movie. When I let go of my preconceived notions and what I personally wanted and just watched these nicely done action scenes I found myself more pleased with the movie. This movie delivers big on giving you the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles showing off their skills and personalities. Ultimately that's what gives this movie the charm it has and what will keep old and new fans in their seats and ready for more movies. Some of the fight scenes are so visually nice I'd say they are easily some of the best live action scenes the turtles have ever had on the big screen.

Let's be honest. This is a Nickelodeon movie so it is geared towards a younger audience. The younger audience will probably really like this movie. It packs a heavy action punch and won't bore them with a super heavy plot and build up. They came for turtles and they want turtles! For adults movies like The Dark Knight Rises or Captain America: The Winter Soldier are going to provide you with a deeper plot, better acting, and will be leagues above this. This is more of a fun summer movie that's good for the whole family. It caters to both a young audience while throwing in enough plot points and adult references that older fans can relate to it as well. Older fans might walk away slightly disappointed by the lack of storyline, changes that were made, or not getting to see their favorite character in the film (I wanted Casey Jones!). While admitting that those turtle fight scenes looked pretty darn cool I still think Nickelodeon's newer Ninja Turtles cartoon is way better than the movie and nothing beats the latest IDW comic book series. (Adult fans who were a bit disappointed with the movie should read that series because it's fantastic.) I can't help enjoying quite a few parts in this new movie and crossing my fingers for a sequel that can help improve on this new franchise while hopefully introducing more fan favorite characters. I know I came out mixed on this one, but honestly I'd probably find myself buying a ticket to a sequel. I'm glad it's as good as it is while wishing and knowing it probably could have been a lot better.

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