I’ve mentioned before that I don’t generally remember the names of the directors unless they’re either incredibly good or incredibly bad. Guess which category Michael Bay fits into? I think the first one of his I saw — at least the first one where I knew it was one of his movies — was when I rented Pearl Harbor, somewhat against my better judgment given that Ben Affleck was in it, so it’s no surprise that his name gives me some pretty bad flashbacks sometimes. Technically he’s the producer here, but that doesn’t help much.
I can’t even use the joke anymore about not having seen the original, because now it’s just starting to seem really sad, how pop-culturally challenged I am. But I did have a vague idea about TMNT going in — I at least knew their names, knew they were trained by a rat, and there was someone named April who helped them out. And that’s all the same in this movie, so off to a good start, right? Except no, we’re not, because the stuff that’s different is almost invariably silly.
Anyway, Megan Fox is April, and while she seems to act marginally better here than she did in Jonah Hex, that isn’t saying much. Not that the part really requires a lot of acting, so it could have been worse, at least. She’s a reporter (currently stuck doing fluff pieces) obsessed with tracking down the Foot Clan, which I originally thought must have been a Michael Bay-ism but apparently is from the original. Meanwhile, the ninja turtles are also fighting the Foot Clan, though secretly, as it seems they keep sneaking out of the sewers when their sensei / father, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shaloub of 1408) isn’t looking. He isn’t really a sensei since he learned all his martial arts moves from a book. Seriously, just one book that somebody threw away. I thought he would have at least watched some YouTube videos.
But he learned all this stuff somehow and trained the turtles, etc. I’m told they were accidentally mutated originally, but here some people experimented on the turtles and the rat, though I’m pretty sure that turtles are not standard lab animals. The some people in this case include April’s father and Eric Sacks (William Fichtner, Elysium), who’s incredibly rich and is helping the NYPD fight the Foot Clan, though I’m also pretty sure that police departments don’t generally hire outside contractors.
Anyway, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) is still a big bad guy, except here he wants to drain the turtles of their blood. No, he isn’t a vampire; he wants the chemicals in their blood, rare compounds that everyone thought were lost forever since the lab where they were experimented on was burned down. He and his cronies have an Evil Plan that requires these chemicals, you see.
Here’s where the biggest plot hole comes in. Splinter and the turtles were all part of the same experiment, yet for some reason it doesn’t even occur to Shredder that he could use Splinter’s blood. I would think Splinter’s blood would be better, given that he’s at least a mammal and not cold-blooded like a turtle. So it makes little sense for the bad guys to be so hot to capture the turtles and just leave the rat to die. Also, given that the turtles have supposedly been fighting the heavily-armed and trigger-happy Foot Clan for months (Splinter is apparently pretty lousy at noticing when they’ve snuck out) it makes equally little sense for them not to have figured out long ago that their shells are bulletproof, but for some reason they only make that discovery towards the end of the movie.
All the turtles are also vaguely embarrassing, either now and then (Leonardo, voiced by Johnny Knoxville of The Last Stand) or pretty much constantly (Michelangelo). I think he was supposed to be sort of a surfer-dude type, but he kept hitting on April and trying to do hip-hop and it just wasn’t working. Yes, I realize they’re basically supposed to be teenage boys, who often are vaguely embarrassing, but it was still a bit much.
Let’s see. There was also Vern (Will Arnett, Men in Black 3, and also Jonah Hex) the news cameraman who was really obviously trying to get April to go out with him except she never noticed because she was too busy focusing on the Big Story. I liked him. He managed to be both overconfident and awkward at the same time. So for his sake, I’m willing to go up to two and a quarter. I’m feeling generous. They did at least have the sense to keep the movie short, even if the filmmakers seem to think that upstate New York looks more like the Rocky Mountains. And not having seen any earlier incarnations, at least I didn’t have my childhood ruined.