When news reached me that the man who would adapt the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen was none other than the culprit responsible for Transformers, Michael Bay, and that the very same fool had plans of turning them into aliens rather than mutants, I was aghast by how phenomenally wrong it all sounded. It was later announced that the idea of them being aliens had been dropped but that the director was going to be, not Bay who’s now just the producer, but Jonathan Liebesman, the man behind Battle: Los Angeles. It’s like discovering that the cure for AIDS is cancer.
It also looked like Shredder, a badass Asian samurai in the source material, was going to be a white American business man played by William Fichtner in the film. Later promos, made after re-shoots, revealed that Fichtner and Shredder are now two different people, but that’s hardly much consolation by now, considering how much else this movie does wrong, not only in terms of what basic Turtles lore even a mere dummy like me knows.
For some stupid and/or non-existent reason, Megan Fox plays April O’Neill, the ambitious reporter who, in true fashion, stumbles upon the mysterious green giants in New York City one night. Larger, uglier, creepier and covered in more unnecessary fashion accessories/random crap than their cartoon counterparts, they roam the city by night and protect it from various forms of crime. Their master and trainer in martial arts is of course Splinter (voice by Tony Shalhoub; mo-cap by Danny Woodburn), a gigantic rat who, like his apprentices, is a result of genetic experimentations.
Raising the turtles, Splinter named them after the great artist of the Renaissance. There’s Leonardo the leader (Johnny Knoxville), Raphael the brute (Alan Richtson), Donatello the smart one (Jeremy Howard), and Michelangelo the jokester (Noel Fisher). Their primary foe is a former lab partner of April’s father: the corrupt corporate executive Erick Sacks (Fichtner). On his side, Sacks also has the Foot Clan, who are gun-weilding goons instead of ninjas, and Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), who’s basically a bulky Transformer covered with sharp objects instead of an Asian man with a cool helmet. It’s too dumb to describe, try though I might.
Did I say that Splinter named the turtles after Italian Renaissance artists? Sorry, it appears I was thinking about the source material again. What I meant is that the scientists who experimented on them named them after Italian Renaissance artists. Also, we find out that these experiments were part of a sinister scheme to infect everyone in New York with some fatal gas by launching it from the spire of a tall skyscraper, only to later make them all feel better again and make money off of the antidote or something. I don’t know, and I don’t care either, but something tells me the people who made this film are fond of Batman Begins and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Amidst it all we can catch glimpses of Whoopi Goldberg and Will Arnett but since the movie stubbornly refuses to take the occasional breather and allow room for character development, there’s no reason to go into any especial detail regarding these so-called characters. Instead we get more of the rapidly edited action nonsense that made Transformers 4 so execrable, although since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is almost an entire movie shorter, they apparently had to make the action even more fast-paced in order to contain it all (sans all the pointless slow motion of course).
Admittedly, this makes the movie feel mercifully short, but this is also a result of how it doesn’t seem to follow any discernible three act structure and abandons story arc and character development for the sake of more tiringly bloated, over-the-top action sequences. There is one particular scene where our heroes are driving a truck down what I swear to Christ is the longest mountainside in the world. It’s full of slipping, sliding, crashing and other physical impossibilities that kept the noisy 10-year-olds at my screening gleefully entertained whilst supplying headaches for the rest of us. It’s all in 3D as well, which they thought was totally cool and stuff.
Despite relying mostly on in-jokes that the target audience may be too young for, the only characters to get a few good lines are the turtles. However, even that feels wrong, seeing as their accurately cheerful personalities don’t match their inaccurately terrifying redesigns. Maybe if the film was a dark, scary, and gritty re-imagining similar in tone to the original comic books, but even then the most attractive choice of character design wouldn’t exactly be a deformed, unspeakable fusion between Dolph Lundgren and Shrek.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an incompetently put together movie with no characters you care for, almost no quiet moments, no appealing CGI (Splinter, with his empty black eyes and hairless skin is somehow even scarier than the turtles), no well-shot or well-edited action, no shortage on obvious product placement, and no clarity in whether this is made for the longtime fans or the newcomers. There are in-jokes, but there’s also tedious exposition and backstory so it’s difficult to tell. Looks like we got another Scooby-Doo on our hands, dear readers. Be alarmed. Or at least, be reminded that some things just do not translate well from 2D animation to CGI mixed with live action. At all.
There is a mildly funny scene where Megan Fox, whose hatred towards Michael Bay is anything but untouched by the media at this point, takes a jab at his original version of this film. When being asked by Will Arnett if the Ninja Turtles are actually aliens, she ever so snarkily replies “No, that’s stupid”! Alas, Megan, the crap that you guys ultimately came up with isn’t any less stupid. I give you 1/5 whatevers and zero pizzas.
Down below is a trailer. If you choose not to heed my warnings above, let the use of dubstep in this trailer help you decide whether or not you want to spend actual money on this thing (I only saw this because my brother owed me cash and decided to pay me back in the form of a ticket. Considerate.)