When it was first announced that “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was getting a Michael Bay-produced reboot, fans of the original film/television/comic series got their nerd-rage ready. The news that it would be directed by sub-Bay hack Jonathan Liebesman didn’t help any, nor did the first trailers, which featured a) a terrible dubstep soundtrack, b) ugly/terrifying character designs, and c) Liebesman’s trademark hideous images, which somehow want to be dark, monochromatic and brightly colorful at the same time. Say what you want about Bay, but at least his compositions look good when they’re not moving.
All of this clouded that the original film was, at best, mildly amusing (this is coming from someone who loved it as a kid), and that no one had actually seen the new one in full yet. Now the early reviews are out, and… well, they’re not too awful, anyway. Most of them knock the film’s visual-effects overload, crass humor and way-too-chaotic action, but “not as bad as ‘Transformers'” seems to be a common sentiment. Someone get that pull-quote ready!
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” hits theaters August 8.
Justin Chang, Variety/Yahoo! Movies
Through it all, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Bay, Liebesman and company are hitting all the iconic beats of the franchise, but not investing them with the sort of cleverness, gravitas or feeling that would allow this movie (and presumably, the two sequels in store) to coast along on something other than fan loyalty. Part of that is due to the appearance of the Turtles themselves: For all the undeniable sophistication of Industrial Light & Magic’s motion-capture system — which required the actors to wear skin-hugging body suits and helmets equipped with tiny high-def cameras — the push toward a more photorealist design has led to strangely off-putting and unapproachable results. Read more.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a movie that takes its characters and its premise seriously, until it doesn’t, and that operates at two speeds: tortoise (ponderous) and hare (head-spinning). Kids who love the characters and are jacked up on Orange Crush and Pizza Hut, both of which receive prominent placement in the film, may enjoy themselves, but some parents might find themselves rooting for Shredder and the endless array of Swiss Army Ginsu knives that pop out from his wrists every few minutes. Read more.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Regrettably, that inherently self-deprecating spirit has been mostly airbrushed away for this darker, more muscle-bound treatment. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” still pays lip service to themes of family and belonging, and endless smart-ass quips fly from the characters’ mouths. (Will Arnett, playing April’s smug cameraman Vern, joins in on the glumly sarcastic one-liners.) But the playful attitude of previous Turtles movies is largely absent, replaced by a familiar brand of adrenalised action in which everything — emotions, drama, laughs, suspense — is delivered with a thudding lack of subtlety or gracefulness, as if anything that isn’t pitched at breakneck speed isn’t worth doing. Read more.
Germain Lussier, Slash Film
It’s not a total disaster. The Turtles themselves, now fully realized with performance-capture CG, look impressive. Their demeanors often harken back to the happy-go-lucky characters from various hit TV incarnations. Unfortunately, those personalities rarely get to shine because the film is hell-bent on setting up an overly complicated, way-too coincidental plot that never gives the Turtles a chance to breathe. The rare times we’re with them, they’re always preoccupied with saving one person or beating up a bunch of others. And because the Turtles never get to be true characters, there’s no emotional core and the movie fades away. Read more.
As a movie, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is about as predictable as movies get these days. Once again, a film ends with a bad guy’s scheme involving a glowing doodad on a rooftop and people hanging off of things one-handed, and I couldn’t care any less about any of that. The film plays fast and loose with established mythology, making April O’Neil far more important to the lives of the Turtles than ever before, and the main result is it makes the world feel much smaller. Everything is related. There is nothing coincidental about April and the Turtles ending up together, and if that drives you crazy, then this may not be the “Turtles” movie for you. Read more.