Thursday, August 14, 2014

A fantastic love letter to fans- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is exactly the kind of movie it should be at this day and age. The movie respects Turtle tradition and furthers the legend along by making it accurately current. The result is an amazing hodgepodge of classic tidbits and modern elements that is truly worthy of being a blockbuster hit.

There are so many things about this film that hearkens to past Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles versions. So many visual cues like the pizza-laden sewer, that jump-shot giving us a great view of the moon (ala the original TV series), and the tunnel surfing as seen in the second Turtles series and the TMNT CGI film. Here are some other things that made it awesome for me:
Megan Fox as April O'Neil: Like Man of Steel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has somewhat of a prologue that mainly centers on the reporter covering the protagonists. And just like the original cartoon, the curvaceous and very eye-candy April O' Neil is tough to take seriously. Megan Fox plays this to a T and dares to break through whatever stereotypes she's been given to come into the character of who she wants to be - a serious reporter who goes after the story, There's a lot of Lois Lane in her as she dives straight into whatever people are literally running away from. 

Another interesting thing about this version of April O'Neil is it borrows from the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (CGI) by linking April directly to the Turtles by way of her father and his involvement with their origins. Some people have complained that this is an unnecessary addition but what it really is is the live version of the very latest version of April O'Neil personified. As a bonus we even get a younger April O'Neil, only a few years shy of being as old as the one from that series.

Unique Characterizations showing through:
Whoever said the Turtles' characterizations were interchangeable must've been drunk. Just like ANY TMNT incarnation, Leo is the responsible leader-type, Raph is the hot-head, Mikey is the surfer dude with the carefree attitude and Donnie is the shy, introverted nerd. Those personality traits are still there. What's even better is that their personas shine through THROUGH their character designs. Raphael is a total bodybuilder with tattered wraps and a bandana, with basically an "I don't give a..." look. Donnie's got solar panels for a warrior skirt and a plethora of gadgets, which in hindsight should probably have always been a thing. Leonardo's get up is the most Japanese warrioresque with the wooden chest weave and all the appropriate trimmings which recall his TMNT Adventures 'wrestler' duds, and Mikey's got his beads and a chill, zen wannabe vibe going. And all their garments are sewer-acquired. No clean wraps here. This isn't Super Sentai after all.

The Shredder is an ACTUAL shredder. The moment I saw Shredder in the big screen I thought two things. One, we all thought Shredder's multiple cutters back then were overkill, but they're pretty tame now. THIS - this new Shredder IS what Shredder would look like in the new century. A perfect mix of ancient Japanese armor and modern hand-held weapon warfare. Two, Super Shredder, anyone? He is a genuine threat to the big hulking Turtles that intimidated the puny Foot Soldiers, who as always, are basically cannon fodder. Progression from gang-war to super-villainy: I've read complaints about how the film's villain, Sacks (William Fitchner), is more of a super villain than who the Turtles usually fight which are gangs. I'm left to wonder if these reviewers went through their share of TMNT material before saying that. The Turtles have always been both about street-level battles AND city-wide threats initiated by super villains. We all remember Krang yes? And even that tower scene recalls one of the better action scenes of the latest version of the show.

Both light AND dark: If you thought Ninja Turtles have to be fun and light hearted all the time, then I'd humbly ask you refer back to Eastman and Laird's original comics. Or at least take an hour and a half to watch Turtles Forever, which introduces the Ninja Turtles of the first and second TV series to their darker original versions. There's enough dark and grit here to show respect to the original work AND appeal to fans who want a little darker version because they feel it's a natural progression as they grow up with a franchise. However, the film doesn't shy away from light moments, and not just ones that highlight Michaelangelo as how most of the newer versions have been like, but with all four Turtles joining in for a little levity. So was there anything I didn't like? There was the fact that Splinter basically learned martial arts from a book and taught it to his students. Good thing they didn't make him Asian this time. But thinking about it a little more, it does make Shredder's point when he says "Your master didn't teach you well." and adds weight to the fact that Mutagen had made these guys stronger, so it's more brute force and some skill, as opposed to being entirely Japanese Martial Arts, which in the sewers of New York makes more sense.

All in all, I REALLY enjoyed this movie and would love to see it again. It isn't often that you see a movie that takes everything that came before it and molds it into this one great version that both reminds you of the old and makes you look forward to what comes next.

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