When it was announced last year that the heroes in a half-shell at the center of the reboot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were going to be aliens, Internet fanboys threw a fit, calling it blasphemy. The vitriolic response to the change was confounding the longer one thought about it, though, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always been dumb, even at their best.
The comic book creations of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman have found continued life in action figures, video games, movies, and TV shows, but despite the longevity of the franchise, it’s ultimately about mutant reptiles, trained by a sage rat, who emerge from the New York sewers and use their advanced martial arts skills in a fight against a caped man wearing a Darth Vader helmet as manufactured by Cuisinart.
After three live-action movies in the ‘90s and a fourquel in 2007, Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goes back to the drawing board with the characters, reimaging their ooze-tainted origin and the beginnings of their friendship with intrepid Channel 6 reporter April O’Neill — played here by Megan Fox.
Leonardo (the leader), Raphael (the temperamental one), Michelangelo (the goofy one), and Donatello (the smart one) stealthily fight crime in the mean streets of NYC, but are discovered one night by O’Neil. When she takes a picture on her cell phone of the turtles, she becomes entangled in the generically malevolent plot of geneticist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and the helmeted warrior Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).
Beyond that, there’s not much plot to speak of here. Most of the narrative (as well as the climax) is stolen from The Amazing Spider-Man, while the visual style rips off movies from Rango to The Adventures of Tintin. About the only thing the muddled film doesn’t throw at you is a sense of humour about itself, which has always been what saved even the worst Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from being ridiculous trash.
Everyone in the movie feels miscast or wasted. Fox, trading in robots for mutants, struggles with the one-dimensional character of April O’Neil. Fichtner chews the scenery like an actor given no direction in particular. And comedic actors Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Abby Elliot, and Taran Killam are given absolutely nothing to do and no opportunity to show any of their funny chops.
While Michael Bay only produced this loud remake, his stamp of bland excess and noisy aimlessness is all over the movie. Beyond the occasional chuckle, there’s really nothing worthwhile about this cacophonous mess. It bears very little resemblance to anything fans may remember about the heroes and offers nothing except volume to entertain audiences. It may be better than the average Transformers movie, but for a movie that takes place in a sewer for much of it, it’s unfortunately apropos how much of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just plain stinks.