Having never seen the television series or the 90's feature films in 20 years, it's easy to see the cracks emerge early in this production, hoping that either nostalgia or laziness will prove to be forgiving. Although he didn't direct it, Bay's dirty fingers are all over this cookie jar: there's jokes that fall flat, action that's too close and hard to follow, and character development that's as thin a katana blade. But unlike the dense katana, the script by Andre Nemec and others wouldn't survive an onslaught of baby drool, which is what I started to feel during a particularly long outdoor sequence featuring a truck, some snow, and the Turtles learning to ski. Under normal circumstances such a mix should hold some interest, but Director Jonathan Liebesman gets too close to the action (Bay-style), throwing humans into unbelievable situations that should have ended their lives 12 times over, while the Turtles remark about how cool it is to snow as their lives are in danger. That's not what typical teenagers do, and the Turtles' exchanges here just muddy the waters even more.
In addition, there are serious deviations from canon that I suppose long-time fans might not accept. Gone is the 'walking through goo' line, replaced with 'Hey, I rescued you after you were shot up with goo' plot, in which O'Neil is seen as a sort of sister to the Turtles. This messes with Shedder's backstory which in turn affects his discovery of Kung-fu, and so on. But this version of Turtles is clearly not aimed at long-time followers with a collection of toys on their shelves, a fact made more apparent with each iteration of these retcon productions.
In the end, it's the lack of a soul and poor character development that ultimately kills Turtles. I failed to care any more for these motion-capture kids by the end, their love for Splinter no more deep than when it began. I realize we're talking about a Summer film here, but when I'm unable to tell the difference between Leonardo and Michelangelo 60 minutes into the movie, one must realize the folly of even trying. Content to shoot its wad now and deal with the mess later, this could have been a gateway to a much larger tale where the stakes could clearly be felt, rather those classic moments realized too soon.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi action violence and has a runtime of 101 minutes.
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