So I finally saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yesterday, and... I'll be honest, I'm conflicted.
coming out of the theater, I wanted to say that it was good, and yet I felt entirely comfortable saying that it was, well, kind of dull. Now don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy it, and there is a lot I like about it. But at the same time, something kept feeling really off, and I couldn't figure out what it was.
Originally I just pegged the major problem with terrible pacing -especially at the beginning, but after I slept on the matter (kind of literally) it finally hit me:
The editing is HORRIBLE.
Confused? Well, let me explain; see', Daredevil and Thomas and the Magic Railroad are actually pretty great films, for all their issues. But their final edits hold them back immensely and get them in the Bad Movie Hall of Shame because whole characters were cut, sound bytes switched, scenes re-shot at the last minute, scenes rearranged, and other little things screwed around with here and there. Thankfully Daredevil got a director's cut DVD release, but Thomas and the Magic Railroad still only has the theatrical cut released.
My point is that whatever happened to those two movies also happened here, and I'll explain as I go along.
Now, being a huge Ninja Turtles buff, I basically know the franchise inside and out in most every incarnation, especially the characters. And here, I think they actually did really well, most the characters are spot-on, and others that are changed actually work out really well. Alas, they don't do the full job they should, but here's where my editing theory comes into play.
In TATMR, there was originally a second villain besides Diesel-10 -a human named PT Boomer, but his character and ALL of his scenes got cut from the movie at the last minute, also shaving off a lot of good character moments for other characters. That's what I feel happened here.
Its hit or miss with me, but then again that could just be the editing talking. Their personalities are spot-on and they seem to get just right what their roles are, but there's not really a lot of down-time, and the closest we get to that is them acting silly. I was kind of looking forward to just seeing maybe Leo meditating, Raph lifting dumbbells or socking a punching bag, Donny writing computer programs, and Mikey perfecting tricks on his skateboard. None of that, and that was disappointing. We do gets some nice emotional moments, but they come and go. I like how they seem to kind of be all gangsta' type, but then they don't do anything with that.
Also, there's a really funny joke at the end where Donny says "I'm the one who licks the icing off of Pop-Tarts and then puts them back in the box!" and Mikey says "I never understood the ending to LOST!". Now that's really funny, but I realize Mikey probably should have said he licks pop-tarts and Donny saying he didn't understand LOST. Oh well.
Splinter is alright, he's cool and all, there's not really any emotional investment that I feel. I know its supposed to be there, and the scene where Shredder beats the living daylights out of him is intense... I just wasn't feeling it otherwise. His origin with Hamato Yoshi was completely removed, and that still kind of works, but at the same time I get the idea that there originally WAS going to be a Hamato Yoshi somewhere in there, and otherwise Splinter's Japanese appearances don't quite make as much sense as they could or should.
Vernon was actually pretty good, he makes a pretty good straight man for the most part. But alas I also feel he had some stuff shaved off in the final edit.
Bernadette Thompson was pretty good, but I think there was originally she had more scenes, especially somewhere at the end where she rehires April as a more mainstream reporter. Pity, because Whoopi Goldberg really works in the role.
I saved her for last because I actually really like what they've done with her. Here, like in the recent IDW comics, April is the kid who owned the turtles originally, and they became test subjects for her dad. In this movie she's not as tough as in previous incarnations, she's a little more childish. But that actually works because it makes her emotional investment more sound; she lost her father at a young age due to what she believed was an attack by the Foot Clan (I'm kind of guessing on that one) and she's become a reporter to try and find the Foot and take them down; but alas, no one takes her seriously and she's doing stuff you only find on the Today show. There's actually a really touching scene in which she goes over her old home movies of her dad's lab after she meets the Turtles for the first time and she's breaking up over it. That scene feels like a good moment of closure as she's now one step closer to achieving her goal, and it even makes up for her sounding nutty when she tries explaining all this to her boss.
Don't get me wrong, Shredder is really cool in this movie, the armor is WICKED awesome, but the editing cut out some of the more down scenes. That's sadly all I really have to say. They don't give us any of his backstory, who he is apart from being evil, but we don't get that.
I can't figure out if he was originally meant to be Baxter Stockman or the Shredder. In all honesty, I wouldn't mind if he was the Shredder, that would have worked. Eh, editing. Bad.
Again, editing. Its nice to see her in the movies again, and I actually think she's better than she was in the 2007 movie, but unfortunately she doesn't do squat. She probably did originally, but any of that got cut. Shame.
Baxter Stockman was actually supposed to have a cameo in this film, as was Kevin Eastman, but I saw NONE of that, and I'm kinda' pissed.
On paper, its really good; The Foot Clan are trying to take over New York City, the Turtles decide to retaliate. Meanwhile, April is a wannabe journalist trying to find answers due to a tragic past; then she and the turtles cross paths and realize their pasts are connected, and through that the villains (who are also connected) decide to use this to their advantage.
But because of bad editing, it seems a bit convoluted. There is some really good stuff, like where we see the the turtles as kids, and that's pretty great, but they don't really do anything with that, and again, there isn't that much down-time or emotional investment.
Connecting the origins of these characters together isn't by any means a bad thing, but believe me when I say it can be done better, and that I feel it actually WAS done better.
My Theory on What Happened:
Now most people might be quick to jump on the gun and blame Michael Bay for all of this, but I'll be just as quick to say that he's not to blame. First of all, he's only a producer, not the director, and second, what have we heard from him concerning the movie after he said the Ooze was of alien origin?
My theory is that Jonathan Liebsman didn't want a repeat of 'Battle Los Angelis', and so he began REALLY listening to the fan's complaints, so he had his crew repeatedly going back and forth and changing stuff. Meanwhile, Bay saw what he was doing and backed out, because if there's one thing I know about Bay, its that he does NOT take well to fan-pandering, its just not his style.
So that's what happened, Bay went more towards transformers because Liebsman was being a sissy, and in the process wound up dicing a decent movie to death.
I actually do really like the film for all that it is, just not as much I wanted to. Its wide open for a good sequel, but first I think there needs to be an uncut release. And I really want to see Baxter Stockman. The action is BOSS, you can definetely see Bay's influence in those scenes, but otherwise I think the movie as a whole could have been MUCH better.
This just goes to show how fan-pandering can kill a movie.