Heroes in a Half Shell
I felt like this review needed to be done for a few reasons; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are iconic, the movie was pretty big at the box office, and I think the IDW comics are extremely underrated and a great read. One of the original creators of the TMNT, Kevin Eastman, has a hand in the creation of the comic. Anytime an original creator of something has a hand in the reboot I feel like it lends credibility and extra creativity that may have been overlooked in the original. Basically it gave Eastman an opportunity to rethink and redo the TMNT as only an original creator can, and he delivers with the series.
I have never been one for negativity and downgrading, especially because that seems to be what the internet is full of these days, but I have to start this review with what I don’t like about the movie. This way I get the negative out of the way and don’t ruin my mood by being a Debbie Downer. Although I have some opinions that are on the down side I also have some good stuff to say so never fear.
The biggest problem I have with the movie is the way they did Splinter’s origin and his ties to martial arts. In the movie they had Splinter and the turtles as lab specimens that were being experimented on. I don’t take issue with those facts because it follows close to the IDW origin but they leave out the back story of how Hamato Yoshi/Splinter and Oroku Saki/Shredder became enemies and how it relates to Hamato Yoshi being reincarnated as the rat and his sons as the turtles. In the comics they have ties to their former lives and carry all the knowledge with them but in the movie they become family out of necessity after a lab fire where April saves them. Again, I wish they followed closer to the IDW version of the origin but even if they didn’t do that they could have done anything better than what they did. I would have even settled for the original comic version of the origin where Splinter is the pet rat that learns from Hamato and is later transformed by the mutagen. I just felt like it was lack luster and makes me wonder why they're so involved with fighting the Foot Clan if they have no real ties to them.
As if the lack of a good origin wasn't bad enough they play off the master martial arts skills as a fathering technique. Splinter explains that the boys were preoccupied with pop culture stuff and realized that they needed something to take up their time and conveniently stumbled upon a stupid little picture book about Ninjutsu. Of course with only ten pages of stick figures doing a complex martial art Splinter was able to teach himself everything about Ninjutsu and mastered all four weapons just in time to teach the turtles. Sorry but I would be more inclined to believe he was actually reincarnated over finding a picture book and teaching himself what takes years to master in something that probably equate to a year or so. I feel like this mocks martial arts and is just an excuse to get away from supernatural or spiritual stuff like reincarnation. I don’t understand the move and I wouldn't have done it.
Now that the negative has been put out there lets balance that with some of the stuff that I like, or at least didn't hate. Megan Fox as April is what it is, she is very beautiful but somewhat dry as an actress, therefore the casting of Will Arnett was brilliant because he provided the comedy and balance to her dry acting. Even though I wasn't super impressed with Megan Fox I did like how they made her a reporter and stuck to those origins, kudos for that, but I would have also been satisfied if she was younger like in the IDW series. They connect her to the big company responsible for the mutagen through her father, which again is a good move, but they switched up the company names and CEO’s that are involved. I’m not sure what this switch means for sequels and possible connections to Krang or any of the possible story lines that could have come from IDW’s comics. I just hope that they get more creative than a picture book to explain away a major plot line. In the comic Krang is heavily tied to the company Stockgen but in the movie they don't hint to anything that may or may not happen later.
One of the coolest things they did was introducing Karai. Karai is one of the most BA characters in the Turtle universe and I’m more than glad they finally gave her a fairly prominent role. I like how they leave open the possibility of seeing her in the future but if she is in the next movie, or movies, I hope they have her become more of a leader and kick more ass. She has the potential to become one of the best bad guys out because of the drive she shows for becoming the Foot leader, at least if they stick to the IDW version of her. In the comic she is cold, conniving, and ruthless, just like the Shredder. I feel like they could capture that well with her character. I also feel like her relationship as the Shredders granddaughter can lend some creative spice to the bad guy side and can humanize the Foot Clan a little bit.
Say what you will about Michael Bay but the man knows how to do action, his résumé is full of block buster hits, and he is now responsible for bringing to life two of my favorite childhood cartoons. The trailer teased a nice action scene or two and they didn't disappoint. The best action scene is about five minutes of the turtles sliding down a hill on their shells like they were toboggans. It wasn’t just the sledding scene, nearly all the fight scenes were epic, even the fight scenes with the awkwardly metalled up Shredder.
Overall I find what they did with the turtles personalities the best part. They nailed Mikey as the funny mouth-y one, Raphael as the hard edged one, Donny as the techy and geeky one, and Leo as the leader that is somewhat serious most of the time. By far the best part of the movies is enjoying the turtles and their progression as a family, despite the lack luster origin and the picture book Ninjutsu master Splinter. The family dynamic is pretty right on, they even manage to squeeze April in at the end with a nod to her being part of the family. What I ultimately would like to see from a sequel is of course closer ties to the IDW series, but also further progression with the Turtle family. Can we get a truly awesome Casey Jones! Please!
Even though it had its ups and downs if you happen to be a lifelong Turtle fan like me you have to at least check it out. I wouldn’t go past saying it was average at best but it was fairly entertaining and I will check out the sequel when it comes out. I feel like it left room for improvement and I always hold hope that that is what will happen in the second phase. If by some off chance any producer involved including Michael Bay, or the director Jonathan Liebesman hear me; follow the IDW story line closer and pull from some of their ideas. The comic has a thick story line that includes some seriously BA characters. Some well-known like Casey Jones, but some not so well known like Casey’s father Hun the leader of a street gang the Purple Dragons that falls in line with the Foot Clan. Casey's friend Angel that is a BA woman character and grew up hard like Casey. As if the human aspect of the comic isn't enough they also have plenty of other mutants to choose from like the alley cat Hobbs or the arctic fox Alopex, or the alien Neutrinos. Bottom line is that Kevin Eastman is the man and his creations are smart and fit well with the world he created, so use it. The comic provides so many characters and story lines that the producers would be foolish to not at least look into possible fits for the future movies. I know this much, an appearance by Bebop and Rock Steady would brighten any turtle fans day.