By Timothy Smith (Astoria, NY)
Note: Minor Spoilers
Growing up as a kid of the 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) were a mainstay throughout most of my birthdays, Halloween costumes and generally everything in my life. With that, I went in to this new envisioning of the anthropomorphic turtles with some slight reservations. How could it ever live up to the original 1990 film and sequels? It did!
Fans young and old will all find something to like about TMNT. The creators put in a lot of little nods to the original films like Raph sneaking out on his own, a slice of pizza falling on splinters head and the infamous TGRI Ooze canister. You could tell the creators put the effort into making the old new again, perhaps stemming from the initial backlash and script leak towards the beginning of production.
New York City played a huge role in the film, giving it much of its character and atmosphere. From the dark sewers to the tops of skyscrapers, the city felt alive and very real. Any other location would’ve felt out of place, so I was glad the city was shown off so predominantly.
The two human leads, Megan Fox and Will Arnett (April O’Neil and Vernon Fenwick) did a good enough job looking awestruck throughout the movie. April’s back story, previously never touched upon, deviates the most from the original material. This forever links her to the turtles which provided a more unified story. Vernon, the cameraman/van driver, was a nice inclusion from the cartoons, providing some comic relief. He did however come off as a one-note character, showing up only when needed as a means of transportation. William Fichtner (Eric Sacks) played the usual “I’m the bad guy disguised as the good guy” trope. In the end, his character’s story arc ended too abruptly with no real resolution or punishment. (No doubt room for a sequel)
From the start, the CGI turtles blended in seamlessly. The motion-capture techniques used in this film are start of the art. My only complaint would be the look of Splinter. When he begins bouncing around doing karate, it started to look a little too “cartoony” (Think Yoda’s lightsaber duels). The Shedder’s overhauled look found a mix of old and new traditions. He truly looked like he could do you some harm. The robotic armor gave his fighting scenes a real sense of weight and power. Plus, those magnetic throwing knives were pretty radical.
The turtles themselves had much more personality this time around, falling deeper into their respective stereotypes. Donatello’s nerd-isms were much more technologically based, complete with tape on his glasses. Raphael was as grumpy as ever, challenging his brothers every step of the way. Michelangelo’s suffer dude persona was in full force. His crush on O’Neil provided most of the laughs. Lastly, the stoic leader Leonardo was the glue that held the family together.
You did get a real sense that the turtles were teenagers and brothers, much more so than in other iterations. The banter between the brothers provided a lot of snappy dialogue, specifically from Mikey who I found the most enjoyable to watch.
The fighting was frantic and fun. Each of the turtle’s fighting styles showcased their power and expertise with their respective weapons. At their peak, the action scenes were as good as any summer blockbuster should be, with the mountain escape/chase scene being a real standout.
Overall, TMNT proved to be a great reboot of the franchise for a new generation. Slight variations to the original storyline may ward off some fans, but those who grew up with the turtles will undoubtedly have a blast watching this movie.
One word review: Cowabunga!
P.S. No need to stay till the end of the credits.