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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

TMNTThe heroes in a half shell are reintroduced for a new generation in this Michael Bay-produced reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. New York City is being terrorized by a criminal organization known as the Foot Clan, which are lead by the armoured warrior The Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).  Young reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is desperate to get the scoop on the Foot Clan’s activities, especially when she spots a group of mutant vigilante turtles stop their activities.  It turns out that these turtles – Leonardo (performed by Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) – along with their rat master Splinter (performed by Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), were the test subjects in mutagen experiments April’s father performed with scientist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner).  When they find out Sacks is in league with The Shredder, the Turtles, April, and her colleague Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), sets off to put a stop to their plans.

This year marks of the 30th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, which began in 1984 with the dark and violent comic book series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  However, it was the 1987 animated series, which truly kickstarted the Turtle’s popularity and formed the basis for all the adaptations in the years to come, including this new modern reboot.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were a major part of my childhood, with me watching the animated series, playing the video games (including the excellent 1989 arcade game), and of course watching the trilogy of live-action films in the early 1990s.

This new film is part of a revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property over the last few years, which includes a new animated series produced by Nickelodeon, which is also one of the producers of this film.  The effort here seems to introduce the Ninja Turtles to an all new generation.  I don’t want to start sounding like a grumpy old 30-something, but I can’t really say that I was entirely happy with what I saw. 

I know that teenage culture has changed a lot in 30 years, but I didn’t really respond well to how the party-loving surfer dude of Michelangelo was turned into the personification of black racial stereotypes, speaking in hip-hop lingo and saying some comments that are totally inappropriate for a kids film (it should be noted that this is the first TMNT film to receive a PG-13 rating in the United States).  This racist persona is amplified when you take into account the fact that the motion-capture and voice for Michelangelo was done by the very white actor Noel Fisher. Other than perhaps Donatello being an über-nerd with taped glasses, none of the other turtles are as stereotypical as Michelangelo, but it was still cringe-worthy watching a scene when they all began beat-boxing in an elevator.  I also have to say that Tony Shalhoub was a bit of weird choice to voice Splinter, who is also the worst animated of the bunch.  I don’t want to believe that Shalhoub was cast, solely for a scene Splinter puts on an Italian accent to bribe Michelangelo with a pizza.

I do have to say that I was a bit surprised by Megan Fox as April O'Neil, who is no longer (entirely) there as eye candy.  It was rumoured all throughout the production of the film that Eric Sacks was really The Shredder, so I was a bit of surprised that they turned out to be separate characters (though I’m thankful that The Shredder was still a Japanese character).  Of course, this new Shredder wears a robotic armour, which shoots projectiles, which can most definitely be attributed to the influence of Michael Bay.  Also, The Shredder never really felt like he was truly the main villain that he should have been and he was often overshadowed by Eric Sacks and his connection with April O'Neil.

Nitpicks aside, I still have to say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was OK enough as an action film.  While there probably could have been more actual ninja action (why are the Foot Soldiers using guns?), the film still ended up being decent enough popcorn fare.  While I’m sure modern youngsters will grapple onto the re-characterizations of the Turtles, I will probably bow out and remember the Ninja Turtles as they were when I was growing up.

7 | FAIR 

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).