The unremitting raping of movies, cartoons, and comics from the 80’s continues. It's glaringly apparent that nothing is sacred or revered enough that someone won’t take a crack at in order to make a few bucks. Now, more than ever before, remakes, re-imaginings, and reboots have become more commonplace in modern film making, and it seems to be escalating every year. If one didn’t know better, it would appear as if every single television show, cartoon, or profitable commodity from the past is being brought back in one form or another, as Hollywood continues to remake everything that anyone over the age of 30 holds dear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stars Megan Fox (Jonah Hex), Will Arnett (The Lego Movie), William Fitchner (Elysium), and Whoopi Goldberg (A Little Bit of Heaven) and features the voice talents of Johnny Knoxville (The Last Stand), Jeremy Howard (Accepted), Tony Shalhoub (Pain and Gain), Noel Fisher (Battle Los Angeles), Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror), and Alan Ritchson (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). This newest adaptation of the beloved comic book characters, that were originally created in 1984 by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, is the fourth film to feature the 'Turtles' and the first live action movie since 1993.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an underwhelming, substandard abomination that pillages and plunders the beloved 80’s commodity. This calamity attempts to mask its shortcomings by the use of technological advances in film making, throwing in a couple of exquisite action scenes to overcompensate for what is clearly a lackluster film. It reduces these cherished characters and their origin into nothing but fodder and fluff for the merchandising that will surely arise from this film. It's very much a movie for the children, but don’t expect the Pixar or Disney approach to kids’ movies that features witty dialogue and humor for adults, because this film ignores the grown ups who are likely bringing their kids to the theater.
The film is riddled with flaws that vastly outweigh its few redeeming qualities. Firstly, “TMNT” moves at such a frenetic pace, it almost feels like you’re sitting in the middle of rush hour traffic. It’s hard to enjoy any of the action or the punchlines because as soon as one is done it’s off to the next. The film is clearly created for the ADHD generation of today. Secondly, the movie is really short. It has a running time of 1 hour and 41 minutes but the actual movie is nowhere near that long. The pacing comes into play as well. The film never allows the time to get to know our heroes or for any “deep” family moments (other than a quick flashback) to discover what the turtles are really about.
Like any remake, you are forced to compare it to previous iterations. Whilst the 1990 movie feels campy at times, it really allows you to get to know each of the illustrious foursome. That film embedded a number of small subtle moments for the characters to display their very distinct personalities, whereas this new “Turtles” movie doesn’t. It’s extremely shallow and never really allows for the camaraderie of the turtles to be shown or developed, that is one of the key elements that were always essential to the Ninja Turtles in previous incarnations. In fact this new film barely allows for each of the turtles to have a single line in any scene. It’s just a quick one-liner or joke then off to the next. If you’d never heard of the characters before then you wouldn’t know much more about them after watching the film. Another fatal flaw is the depiction of The Shredder. The film turns him basically into the Terminator (although nowhere near as menacing). He’s flat and has no personality. The once calculating, conniving leader of the Foot is now nothing more than a thug in a costume. You never get a feeling that he should be feared for anything other than his fighting prowess.
Regardless of how bad this travesty is, it still offers a few positives. The special effects and the look of the Turtles were great, they really do look better than ever and the small nuances added to each character really befit them. Also the action sequences are the best that you have seen in any Turtles film. TMNT does bolster some good comedic moments and has some very witty humor, offering jokes about Batman, Superman, and other superhero movies. At one point, Raphael does the “Batman growl voice” and the other Turtles joke him about it. Finally, there is a great scene where the Turtles imitate a hip-hop rap group that is clearly one of the best moments of the film.
In spite of the limited character development, the film still attempts to entrench many of the personality traits of our treasured foursome from other iterations. Leonardo and Raphael still have issues, and Michelangelo is still the fun loving, more light hearted of the quartet. He serves as the comic relief and has a number of great lines that add humor.
I had high hopes for this film and it clearly disappoints. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is just the latest attempt to murder the childhood memories of those of us old enough to remember the originals. It's basically all flash and very little substance, and makes one beg for the days of the Vanilla Ice film and one more chance to hear “Go, Ninja, Go Ninja Go.” It’s clearly not the worst of the four films to feature the characters, however it has a long way to go to surpass the original. Personally, I’m all for remaking films. First and foremost because of the technology now and secondly because the writing is often so much better today, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a good example of that. It's the second really bad remake of the year, right after RoboCop.
If you're a parent looking for some entertainment for your children then this film is extremely kid friendly. If you’re not going for your kids then save your money and wait for the video.
Da’Mon Guy is a writer and artist. He’s a graduate of Coppin State University and an avid, life-long lover of film. Da'Mon has been actively writing movie reviews since 2011, for a number of publications. Check out more of his work at Examiner.com, where he has published over 400 reviews. Visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter.