Back in the Saddle
I was born in 1980.
That statement in and of itself is of no particular relevance to the rest of this story, but it does mean that I so happened to be at just the right age to be into the TMNT craze of the late ’80s/early ’90s. REALLY into it. Not that it was the only franchise my young heart latched onto, but the Turtles were somehow more enthralling, more accessible to me, and easily deserved a cherished place in my young adolescence. I didn’t come along as a fan until the cartoon series was up and rolling, so I was unaware of the grittier comic book roots of my four favorite heroes for a long time, but between the cartoon, action figures, and movie series (even, surprisingly, TMNT III) I was hooked for life.
I can vividly recall the experience of going to see Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, as it was called in Germany and the UK, in theaters – the sights, the sounds, the feeling of awe sinking into that pitch-black theater and staring up at what seemed like an immeasurably large world on the screen in front of my 10-year old self. I still consider the opening shots of a bustling New York City, a network of faceless youths pickpocketing the crowd and passing the loot off amongst each other an iconic moment. I can see it as clearly in my mind’s eye now as if I’d just watched it last week instead of two-some-odd decades ago. Everything about that first movie worked, and I’m more excited than ever now that a reboot has been made to be able to share my passion for the original film with my teenage son.
All that, and I wasnt even planning on seeing the new movie at all. Being the part-time online creature that I am (and having made the mistake of reading other people’s partly unqualified and wholly baseless opinions on social media), I of course couldn’t escape the negativity towards this movie coming from a lot of different sources. For one reason or another, everybody had a reason why the reboot would suck ass, and was chomping at the bit to share it. Try as I might to keep an open mind, I’ll admit that these complaints gave me some nagging doubts about the movie. It’s no surprise then that, not yet having seen Guardians of the Galaxy either, I overruled my family, decided on the latter, and off to the movies we went. But standing in the queue at the ticket window, it turns out the movie times listed for the two movies were the exact reverse of what I had been told. And so, rather than standing around for an hour, listlessly waiting, we jumped the fence and I handed over my debit card for four tickets to TMNT instead.
Turns out I’m glad I did.
If you’re at all interested in seeing this movie and haven’t yet, I won’t spoil it for you. If you’ve already made up your mind not to, then you probably got your information from the same sources I mentioned above, and nothing I say is likely to change your mind anyway (though, in that case, you’ve likely stopped reading long ago). In any case, I’ll stay away from plot spoilers. In any case, the plot was never really something I was too concerned about. My main worries were about the humor, the look of the turtles, and the overall success of making me feel like a kid watching a TMNT adventure movie. And on all three of these fronts, the movie pleasantly surprised me. I’ll let each person make up their own mind about the humor and overall experience, but as for the look of these new, digitized turtles: I thought they looked grotesque and unlikable when watching trailer footage, and I disliked them during the first few scenes of the film. But I was surprised to find that I not only grew used to their looks, but even came to appreciate the individual looks each character exhibits that make them unique. The feeling did not extend to Splinter though; he was just plain uncomfortable to look at – and I don’t even mind rats!
In a movie about 7 to 8-foot tall mutated amphibians and the ninja robot they do battle with, the most unbelievable thing for me was this: There’s no way that the Foot Clan, an organization supporting likely hundreds of members, could have stayed undetected in the middle of a big city for – what? – hundreds of years. Not with real estate space at such a premium. Not in New York City.
One of the few, if not the only complaint about the movie that I have to agree with is the casting of Will Arnett. It’s not that I found his behavior toward Megan Fox’s April O’Neil overly creepy; rather, it was kind of sad to see such a comic talent wasted on an unlikable character like Vernon Fenwick. I would have much rather seen a different actor bring my favorite TMNT character Casey Jones to the big screen.
I came home late that night, actually kind of excited for what I soon found out would be two more planned sequels, especially when finding out the planned inclusion of Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and at last Casey Jones! And, though I missed him in the movie, according to the internet Baxter Stockman was hidden somewhere in there, so I’m assuming he’ll likely pop up in mutated form in a sequel. Sounds pretty awesome to me. Cowabunga, indeed!