Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
I’m not afraid to admit that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles occupied a special place in my childhood. My brother was the Ninja Turtle aficionado, but I liked them more than I wanted to admit. I watched the cartoon every Saturday morning, and we rented the first two movies so much that the local video store finally took pity on us and let my parents buy them at a discounted rate.
So when I heard that a new live-action movie was coming to the big screen, I was actually pretty excited. But the more I heard about the new film (The turtles are aliens??? WTF?), the more I was convinced that I should just let sleeping dogs (turtles?) lie, leave the past in the past, and pretend the film didn’t exist. After all, whatever ended up on screen couldn’t exactly match the magic of seeing it as a seven-year-old.
And then I got asked to review it for April Fool’s Week, and I had to come out of my shell. (Yes, pun intended. I’m afraid this review is going to be terribly punny.)
The truth of the matter is…I was right. I shouldn’t have watched this movie. So if you’re a former Turtle lover, like I am, don’t watch it, I implore you! I did, and now my childhood is retroactively destroyed. THANKS A LOT, MICHAEL BAY!!!!!
But if you weren’t a Turtle fan growing up, if this film would be your first exposure to the franchise…still don’t watch it! It will suck over an hour and a half of your life away that you’ll never get back. It’s just a mediocre movie all around.
So let’s take a look at why this movie single-handedly wiped out all good memories of my childhood.
Adrian Monk is Splinter
So the movie actually started out all right. There were…credits. Okay, I can go with that. Then comes an ominous sounding voiceover: “Go forth, my sons, and protect the city…blah blah blah.” Something like that. It’s at this point that I became confused.
I was watching the movie with my boyfriend, and we had this conversation:
ME: Is that supposed to be Splinter?
BOYFRIEND: I don’t know. Probably.
ME: But Splinter is supposed to be Japanese. He doesn’t sound Japanese. Who’s voicing him? [Does a quick IMDB search.] Oh my God, Splinter is being voiced by Tony Shalhoub! Adrian Monk is Splinter???
Okay, whatever. Maybe they’re going with a…different vision? I mean, my vision of Splinter doesn’t exactly sound like a high-strung detective with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but whatever. Take a deep breath. Just go with it.
Of course, it would have been easier if Shahloub, as the voice of Splinter, didn’t lapse in and out of an unidentifiable foreign accent that he kept lapsing into from time to time. A foreign accent that didn’t make any sense, by the way, since according to the new origin story, Splinter had never left New York. If anything, he should have sounded more like Joe Pesci than Adrian Monk.
Speaking of origin stories…
Michael Bay Completely Mucked Up the Origin Story, Which Ruined the Rest of the Movie
So, without giving too much away: Bay did, ultimately, decide against turning the Turtles into aliens. It’s probably the only good decision he made throughout the making of this film. But he changed the origin story to create a connection between April and the Turtles where there wasn’t one originally. In doing so, he not only stretches the bounds of plausibility, but he also turns both his heroes and his villains into flatter, less motivated characters.
In the original comic books and the movies, Splinter was the pet rat of a ninja warrior named Hamato Yoshi; in the cartoon series, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi. There was some kind of conflict between Hamato Yoshi and the warrior who would later become known as Shredder. In the comics and movies, it involved an ill-fated romance; in the cartoons, a jealous Shredder framed Hamato/Splinter for murder. Splinter ends up in the New York City sewers, is exposed to a mutagenic ooze, and gets turned into a humanoid rat. Makes total sense, right?
Okay, maybe not at first. But it totally does, I swear. But from a storytelling perspective, Splinter and Shredder have a direct conflict with one another, and so Splinter has a direct stake in the fight with the Foot Clan. You could easily write some moral ambiguity in the story, if you wanted to: is Splinter’s pursuit of Shredder and the Foot Clan really for the greater good, or because of a personal vendetta? Good stuff. But in this movie, it’s not clear why the Turtles should fight the Foot, except they are the bad guys and stuff. I’m not really sure what they were trying to do. Take over the world or something. I don’t know. Bad Guy Stuff, I guess. Because they’re BAD. Every last one of them.
Which brings me to my next point…
This Film is Pretty Damn Racist
Every single Asian character in this movie is a villain. Specifically, every single Asian character in this movie belongs to a ninja gang that’s trying to take over the world. Stereotyping much?
Also, while I commend the filmmakers for casting Whoopi Goldberg as April’s boss, Bernadette Thompson—usually a character named “Bern Thompson” and portrayed as a middle-aged white male—thus ensuring that the movie passed the Bechdel test. On the other hand, I’m a little surprised that she is apparently the only African-American in New York City. Really! I lived there for four years, and I never knew. How obtuse of me!
But who needs actors of different races, when we have characters of different species, amiright? Amiright?
Interspecies Sexual Healing
The Turtles…disturbed me. Seriously. They all look like they’ve been on some hard-core steroids. (I could definitely see some ‘roid rage in Raphael.)
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Michelangelo kept flirting with April. Like, a lot. He even serenaded her to the tune of “Happy Together.” It was more than a little creepy. But who cares about age and, uh, species when you’re a horny teenager (and there are no Ninja Turtle females to choose from).
Plus, according to this video, they might have something to brag about. (Video is completely, utterly NSFW. You’ve been warned.) Maybe April would be interested. But who knows, because…
Megan Fox Cannot Act Her Way Out of a Paper Bag
I realized when I watched this movie that it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a film featuring Megan Fox all the way through. I’d like to keep it that way.
During the film, I had this conversation with my boyfriend.
ME: You know, this movie might be better if Megan Fox could act.
BOYFRIEND: You don’t think she can act?
ME: Not even a little bit! Do you see how flat her affect is?
BOYFRIEND: [Watching Megan Fox on screen, jumping up and down on a trampoline.] Huh. I hadn’t noticed.
…And that about sums it up right there.
The best thing I can say about this movie is that, less than a week after watching it, I’m already beginning to forget large chunks of it. So do yourself a favor: forget you read this article, and don’t watch this movie.