Most Anticipated 2014: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) - Runtime: 101 minutes
Starring: Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Will Arnett
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty

Let's just get this out of the way: I'm a huge, huge Ninja Turtles fan. Much like most people my age, I grew up with the cartoon every Saturday morning. And like most people my age, I have very strong opinions about pop culture from my childhood. We're reaching almost catastrophic levels of nostalgia for the 90s and it's not surprising that the Ninja Turtles have gotten the "reboot." Although I use that term loosely. Because what most people my age have to know is that the Ninja Turtles never really went away. They just evolved with each new generation - apparently the new cartoon that started last year is totally great and the series from the 2000s was pretty good too. So this movie is mainly for a newer generation of Turtles fans. Sure, there's plenty of fan service to us oldies, but mainly this movie is for the kids.

And for the most part, this kids movie is fun and frenetic like a Ninja Turtles movie should be, albeit with several flaws. It gets the Michael Bay treatment - big, loud set pieces and explosions with lots of lens flare; good god there's a lot of lens flare! - but it's far better than anything Michael Bay has directed with the Transformers sequels. The movie is an origin story and it starts out painfully slow - there's a voice over and animation sequence telling us how the turtles came to be who they are - but really, this could have been shown or told throughout the whole film. Instead we're treated to this awful narration and the turtles don't even show up until about 20 minutes into the movie. If there's one huge complaint it's that this movie didn't spend nearly enough time showcasing and indulging us with enough turtles!

The movie's big focus is April O'Neal - the intrepid and ambitious reporter who's looking to get that big break. And while it's nice that the movie wanted to focus on April, it would have been a lot better had the movie just focused on the turtle characters and had them coming together as a team. April has her cameraman sidekick - played by Will Arnett - to chum around with but their relationship is really not worthy of screen time. He has a creepy crush on her because he looks so old next to her and really he doesn't have much to do in the movie except provide transportation. But I digress - for what little we do get from seeing the turtles, it's pretty fantastic. There's the usual hijinks and immature ninja-wielding fun that they indulge in and it's great.

I thought William Fichtner was going to be great playing the villain - but his character is so dull and boring in this movie about Ninja Turtles that it's hard to muster any sort of emotion. And Shredder was a complete badass but has absolutely no depth - he's just an evil samurai dude in a metal suit. It's unfortunate that the movie is this shallow, but I guess I shouldn't have expected too much. This movie should have cut the beginning 20 minutes and spent a good 30 minutes developing the characters more. More of Leo and Raphael fighting and Donatello being a nerdy brainiac. More Michelangelo being silly. More Shredder background.

This could have been a better movie. With that being said, it's still better than I expected. I really thought I would hate, hate this movie from what I saw in the tonally-dark trailers. But it's light hearted and it really is more like an extended episode of the show. It's just too bad they couldn't find a better focus for the movie besides April and her sidekick.

Rating: Radically mediocre!

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