Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been unanimously slammed by the critics, but its been a box office hit. Here’s what I thought of it:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun reboot that mostly feels authentic. The Turtles look great and there are some excellent action scenes. Unfortunately Michael Bay’s blueprint is present and will likely upset as much as please fans of TMNT.
There’s a new crime syndicate in New York, the swat team samurai group, the Foot Clan, led by the evil Shredder. Eager to prove herself as a serious journalist, April O’Neil is determined to get the scoop on the elusive group. Her antics get her into trouble with the clan but she gets rescued by four giant Ninja turtles giving her news pitch a level of crazy and zero credibility as no one has ever seen the Turtles. But as the clan’s evil activities grow, the Turtles are forced to come out of hiding to take down the evil Shredder. We get to see the turtles grow up, learn how they came to be giant turtle men things, see them train under the tutelage of Splinter the Rat and watch them kick Foot Clan and Shredder butt. It’s directed by Jonathan Liebesman and Patricio Farrell and produced by Michael Bay. The turtles have got steroided up, looking gigantic and they all annoy as much as they entertain, but for the most part, when you remember how awful each live action TMNT movie was, this isn’t so bad except for a few things.
TMNT is updated to the 21st century with gadgetry and pop culture references such as ‘Oh look, he’s doing his Batman voice’. It also boasts some excellent CGI, but it remains locked in the decade it came from with an ugly level of Bay style outdated and offensive misogyny. Megan Fox must get pretty frustrated as she’s expressed that she was keen to avoid this kind of thing. Before the film’s release Megan Fox had an in interview with Entertainment Weekly about the O’Neil character. She said:
“She’s more of a leader when she explores her relationship with the turtles instead of just the human companion that gets dragged along on the adventure. It’s more representative of a modern woman […] I’m completely clothed for the entire movie, there’s no gratuitous skin or sexual anything. Jonathan was really insistent on not wanting her to be sexualised or to take that sort of typical role we’ve seen women take in movies thus far, and that I’ve taken in particular.”
Well sadly, it still happens here. There may not be ‘gratuitous skin or sexual anything”, but there’s plenty of other things that reinforce this crap instead. In the course of the film she gets called a ‘complicated chick’, labelled as ‘my girlfriend’ by the unfortunately very creepy and pervy Michelangelo who says when he first sees April, ‘She’s so hot, I can feel my shell tightening.’ She also constantly gets perved on by Will Arnett’s lame camera man and the movie’s cameras too, clothed or not. She gets called ‘a little girl’ by Shredder and told she has ‘daddy issues’. How many demeaning things does Megan Fox have to go through if she accepts a film that Michael Bay is involved in?
It’s a big shame, as the rest of the film is enjoyable, and could probably generate an increase in TMNT popularity. But its backward schoolboy attitude offensively and clumsily asserts this as an utterly stupid boy’s film for boys and manchilds only, who are awkward around women. That’s not to say girls can’t or shouldn’t enjoy the film, it’s just not made the most pleasant of viewings when there is a level of objectification in the film. It’s particularly frustrating as this should be and is a kid’s film. So why is there this unpleasant creepy humour intruding into the picture? It’s also annoying as Megan Fox isn’t bad as April O’Neil. In fact the actor shares the character’s plight in many ways, trying to maintain integrity while she constantly has to do demeaning things. She suffered equally in the first two Transformers films and did not return for the third. It’s clear then, that while Michael Bay may not have been in the director’s chair, his smutty OMG women have boobs attitude is smeared all over the film he’s produced.
If this doesn’t make you mouth vom, or you love TMNT enough to bypass the intruding shitstorm of Bayhem that does sadly permeate through the entire picture, then there is fun to be had here. There’s certainly a thrill factor in seeing the Turtles reinvented in this way. They feel alive and their design is top notch. Raph is in full grumpy loner mode, and Leonardo is the tough leader he should be. Donatello, also charms with a nerdy genius presence. But Michelangelo . . . Oh Michelangelo, my favourite of the Turtles when I was a kid . . . . is just tragic. He’s reduced to just being dumb and horny and the amount he hits on and pervs on April O’Neil gets uncomfortable. It’s as if Michael Bay was set loose on Michelangelo and just turned him into his teenage self. I’m sure Bay finds this ‘reinvention’ of the character hilarious. Everybody else will likely be cringing. It might be fair to say that a lot of teenage boys are like that, but it irks in the film and just feels awkward. Splinter’s characterisation and art design is great though and the relationship between him and his turtle ‘sons’ is fantastically pitched.
The core relationships and story arc works well and the action scenes really impress. I particularly enjoyed the backstory to the turtles and the scenes of them growing up. Seeing baby and kid turtles is pretty awesome. And don’t worry, there’s no naff stuff about them being aliens. So what about Shredder and the Foot Clan? Well, sadly this may well be another point of contention for fans. Personally I enjoyed the clan and Shredder. But they’re different from the traditional TMNT, particularly in style. The clan are very militarised and Shredder is bling’d out in knives and mechanics. I know he’s called Shredder but he seems to have been slightly Transformered.
If you can get past the Bay blueprint that farts its way through the film, then there is lot of fun to be had here. It’s nowhere near as bad as it looked like it was going to be. But it also could have been much better. You’ll likely enjoy the action and the kids will really enjoy it too, it’s just a shame there’s the creepy moments. Let’s hope that if sequels follow, Michael Bay is appropriately kept at bay from the production.
Original article on I’m With Geek at: http://www.imwithgeek.com/film/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-review