If you missed Jonathan Liebesman’s reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it was in theaters, the good news is that you can now check it out on Blu-ray. The bad news is that it’s not very good. Well, if you’re a fan of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s comics, the 80s animated TV series, or the 90s movies, then this new version will offend you. If you’re a kid who just wants to see anthropomorphic turtles eating pizza and beating up bad guys, you might just love this movie. Here’s why.
As you might have guessed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows the four titular characters as they emerge from their subterranean lair in the sewers of New York City (and from under the protective control of their adoptive murine father, Master Splinter – acted by Danny Woodburn and voiced by Tony Shalhoub). What brings them to the surface? Well, it seems a gun-toting gang of thugs known as the Foot has taken over the streets of New York, and no one besides the Turtles seems willing or able to stop them. Seems straight-forward, right?
What you might not have expected is that the film actually chooses to focus most of its time and attention on the career trajectory of Channel 6 reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), with her sad, puppy dog sidekick Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) in tow to help her out of sticky situations. What results is an uninteresting plot peppered with Michael Bay-esque computer-generated action sequences that make one wonder why TMNT wasn’t just an animated feature from the getgo.
That being said, the action sequences aren’t all terrible, at least not relative to the film’s poor plotting, exposition, and penchant for stomping all over the fandom and its beloved mythology. Little time is set aside for the turtles to even show why they’re a very unique band of brothers. Matt Goldberg covered this and more in his own review, and I happen to agree with most of his points. However, I have to give credit to Perri Nemiroff for taking the time to highlight the men behind the Turtles themselves. Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek get little recognition for being the motion-captured faces, performances and – with the exception of Ploszek whose voicework for Leonardo was unfairly bumped aside in favor of Johnny Knoxville – voices of the title turtles, and yet they’re easily the best parts of the film. Each of the actors brings a personality to their reptilian counterparts that complements their character redesigns (which I’m actually a fan of, especially the hulking Raph and the geared-up Donatello). But when the best moment of the film occurs in a short elevator sequence that has nothing to do with the plot, it’s readily apparent that there were no true fans behind the making of this picture.
New fans of the Turtles franchise may not care a lick about previous versions, so the pure candy that is on display for the film’s 101-minute runtime might be all that a new generation asks for. Banking nearly half-a-billion dollars worldwide and with a sequel is on its way, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clearly did just enough to clear the low bar, even if it’s not setting it any higher.
- Digital Reality (~20 minutes) – A behind-the-scenes look at the motion-capture actors, stunt actors, and digital effects team that brought the title turtles to life.
- In Your Face! The Turtles in 3D (~5 minutes) – A look at the use of 3D throughout the film.
- It Ain’t Easy Being Green (~5 minutes) – The actors talk about their fandom for TMNT, seeing the turtle designs for the first time, eating a lot of pizza during live filming in New York’s Time Square, designing the sewer lair, and behind-the-scenes bonding.
- Evolutionary Mash-Up (~15 minutes) – A surprisingly scientific addition of the natural history of turtles from prehistory to TMNT, along with a historical exploration of the history of ninjas.
- Turtle Rock (~5 minutes) – Composing and performing the orchestral score for the film.
- Extended Ending – April O’Neil gives a shout-out to the unusual heroes on the evening news.
- “Shell Shocked” Music Video
- Making of “Shell Shocked”