Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Originally posted on Letterboxd

So at what point do you let things go?

When they announced that Michael Bay was to be the producer of a new live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film my heart sank. Bay was the force behind the Transformers films, a franchise that went from decent to insultingly bad faster than the time it would take Blur to make a comment that would make Kup facepalm.

Transformers was a big part of my childhood so it was incredibly frustrating to see the franchise dragged down by people who seemingly didn’t understand it. Here was a film that thought it would be a good idea to have Optimus Prime let a city be destroyed and probably thousands of people killed just to prove a point. Add in the stupid frat boy style humour and rampant misogyny and you have a terrible mixture.

Then the rumours about TMNT started leaking. They would be aliens from another dimension. The Foot Clan would be a black ops military unit. Raphael would be the comic relief.

Again, it was looking like it was being made by people who didn’t get it. The Turtles had been around for thirty years, both comics and TV. It was a franchise that worked, that kept bringing in new people so why change things that clearly worked?

People came out and said the right things (thats an old script, we wouldn’t, it’ll be fine!) then the first trailer hit. They had NOSES. They had taken an iconic design and made it worse, the same with the design of the Transformers.

My son saw the trailer and exploded with excitement. He couldn’t wait. I knew I would end up watching this film.

Which we we did. And it was no where near as bad I thought it was going to be. Sure the plot makes no sense, the design of the Turtles still just looks wrong and the less said about the crowbarred in fan references the better. But at least the director of this film knows how to put together an action sequence that actually makes sense unlike Bay.

It feels like the Ang Lee Hulk film; there was a film that looked at the basic concept and thought people wouldn’t buy it so added in extra stuff that just made it more complicated and stupid. This is applied here (just wait till you learn how Splinter learned to be a ninja) but it doesn’t make sense; people have been enjoying that basic concept for years so why change it?

But then watching the film I kept looking over at my son. He had a huge grin on this face. He laughed. He gasped.

This isn’t my Turtles film, it’s his.

At what point do you accept that these toys aren’t yours anymore? The Turtles landed in my consciousness when the TV show started in the UK in 1990. Thats when I was ten and I’ve always been of the opinion that if you can hook someone when they’re between 7 to 10 years old then you have them for life. My Dad came back from a work to trip to America with the toys, I read the original comics, I watched the cartoon.

Then it went away and it came back as a different show, then another take. It wasn’t my turtles anymore, it was for a new generation. That’s what happens when something lasts for thirty years, it can’t stay the same otherwise it starts turning in on itself and festers and fades away. Here’s me saying that the origin of the Turtles in this film is stupid when I’ll defend the original cartoon origin, one thats just as stupid. But it’s the one that I grew up with so thats how it should always be.

Is this just me shouting into the dark, trying to keep things how there were? To cling to that nostalgia, to want to keep it like that because it reminds me of those days when my world was a bedroom with Transformers wallpaper? That’s wrong, things need to be passed down and kept fresh. I’ll fight against things like the Transformers films because they are fundamentally badly constructed in so many ways, but this new Turtles film isn’t anywhere near as offensive in comparison. It’s a decent film.

I’ve already had my live action Turtles film, and I’ve had the best send off to my version of the franchise with Turtles Forever.

This film isn’t for me. It’s for my son and he loved it.

He’s ten years old.

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