I must have been 6 or 7 the first time I experienced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I was hooked immediately. These heroes in a half shell were my life and I consumed as much of it as I could. Unfortunately I missed out on the comics as my comic fandom wouldn’t start for another year or two, but the cartoons, and the toys, then the fateful day when a live action movie was made came and I was in heaven. Weird side note, this was the first time I made a note of the film company and was probably the start of my love for movies.
When the announcement came of a rebooted movie invading our screens, I was hesitant at first, like everyone else, but I knew I would eventually watch it. Then a new cartoon aired on Nickelodeon, and I was pleasantly pleased with it (I still get up on Sunday mornings in time to catch the new episode) so I started getting a little more excited for the new movie. Then I saw the trailer and decided I would see the movie. I never got around to catching it in the theater, but I as I procrastinated wrapping presents on Christmas eve, I finally watched it.
And I was disappointed.
Though not in the ways I thought I would be. My main complaint was that I was bored. Not that there wasn’t plenty of action, but there is just something about Michael Bay-over-the-top action that just doesn’t do it for me. It was the same for Transformers. It’s just too much and too far. For instance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is a sequence where a couple of trucks are barreling down a snow covered mountain hill. The turtles were trying to save their pals in one and stop the bad guys in the other, and there were some cool things they were doing involving ninja stuff, and faux extreme sports type maneuvers down the hill. We were treated in knowing they were heading toward a cliff. It was at this moment I was taken more out of the movie. There was nothing I could grasp that made me believe there was a legitimate way they would avoid falling to their doom. So all the action to me was deemed too cartoony, and I say this as someone who loves cartoons.
In a live action movie about 6 foot tall, talking turtles I need there to be more to ground me in reality. The end battle was more of the same as there was scaffolding atop a building that was falling, or something. By the time I reached that point I was completely distracted by the Legion of Doom action figures I had just bought. That’s right, this 31 year old couldn’t focus on the ninja turtle cartoon because of wrestling toys.
This movie also seemed to be short on ninja turtles. They were all there, but I never got the sense they were the focal point of the movie. It had a lot more to do with April O’Neil. April is fine and all, but when I see a movie titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I expect much more with the turtles, and much more with the ninja stuff.
The turtles having a diminished role also meant we were never treated to any character development on their part. In the original live action movie we were shown, from the start, who these turtles were and we could pick up on strong personality traits. We could see how each turtle experienced the world and how all the events affected them. In this one we get none of that. We are given a very basic concept of who each turtle is. It’s as if the writers asked their young nephew about each turtle and the nephew answered like the child they are, “That’s Michelangelo. He wears orange and is funny.” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Michael Bay was never known for his nuanced character development.
I will say that character of Vernon, maybe you remember from the cartoon as the worst returning character they had, was top notch in this movie. I credit that almost entirely to Will Arnett, but this was a character that was actually written well and was interesting.
What I think this ultimately comes down to is what comic book fans face in this time when adaptations are all the rage. These characters and stories have a vast span that what one writer decides to focus on may not be an area that other fans find that compelling. That’s not to completely excuse this movie, but I understand the difficulties involved, and I will most likely watch the sequel.
At least I still have the new cartoon.