Sunday 10 August 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Geek Girl Review

By Marie Victoria Robertson

You know, a lot of my favourite fandoms are really ridiculous when you stop to think about them. Transformers is really just an extended toy commercial with giant robots smacking the crap out of each other, and I love it. And when you break down Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s even more ludicrous. And that shit is my jam.

The thing about TMNT is that the franchise wasn’t supposed to be as awesomely cheesy as it is. Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and published by Mirage Studios, the original TMNT comics were both meant to be a parody, and to be kind of crazy dark. It was only when the 1987 animated series came out that kids of the 80’s like me discovered TMNT and went nuts. I can’t explain why I love TMNT, with the franchise’s bizarre mix of silliness and dark maturity, but I sure do love it.

Now, on to the movie. Spoilers ahead.

The plot is pretty typically thin— the Foot Clan, a criminal gang led by the Shredder (of course) is terrorizing New York City. Intrepid reporter April O’Neil is following Foot Clam activity in an effort to snag a serious story, in the process meeting four “vigilantes” that turn out to be the Turtles. Meanwhile, rich industrialist Eric Sachs is planning to release a toxin over NYC so his company can then release the antidote for big money. The twist? The antidote is the mutagen that created the Turtles in the first place. In this version, they and Master Splinter were lab animals intentionally injected with an experimental mutagen by none other than April O’Neil’s father, who later died in a lab fire.

My take on this movie: it’s not bad at all, and for the most part, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Go on, tell me that watching Donatello launch Raphael into a truck isn’t fun! I can see why a lot of critics are turned off by it, though. It’s definitely a movie for fans of TMNT and fans only. 

The big points:

Oh man. They’re turtles all right (the “aliens” rumour has been thoroughly debunked, no worries). Once you get past the uncanny valley nature of their new CGI designs, the boys are actually cool as hell. Every Turtle has a unique body shape, facial features, and little touches that go way beyond the coloured masks and trademark weapons. Raphael, always my personal favourite, was a muscled badass. Donatello was the most adorkable he’s ever been. Michelangelo was pure cowabunga. I was only a bit disappointed in Leonardo, but maybe that’s because he was his usual bland self. He tends to fade a bit when contrasted with the strong personalities of the other Turtles. Overall, I loved these guys, and it was great to have so much attention paid to their brotherly interactions. That was always the best part of TMNT for me. 

Megan Fox did a passable job. Not as bad as I expected, but not amazing by any means. I didn’t see April in her. I was happy enough to see that, while she wasn’t taking on Foot Clan members solo or anything, she did a decent job of not being a damsel in distress. There was some added backstory of her knowing the Turtles and Splinter when they were still lab animals and rescuing them from the fire, which added a sweet connection. 

Be warned that changes were made, especially concerning Splinter and the Shredder. I found this the most disappointing part and it contributed to the thinness of the plot.

Okay, his armour was pretty reminiscent of Michael Bay’s Transformers design, but it didn’t do anything mechanical beyond the arm-claw extensions. Not crazy about the facial design though. The Shredder’s eyes should be visible, damn it! Also not crazy about his backstory changes. Removing his connection to Splinter and the Turtles just makes him look like a random psychotic Japanese man who is fond of fancy armour for his crime sprees. He was a pretty physically menacing villain, I’ll give him that. 

Keep an eye out for the sweet flashbacks of Splinter raising his boys. From an action perspective, this is why I love CGI: we get to see how incredibly badass Master Splinter can be. He’s the only one who manages to take on the Shredder in a one-on-one fight.  

Oh yeah, katanas and sais go flying and there’s gratuitous martial arts and long scenes of non-stop action, and it is all awesome. I mean, isn’t that kind of the point of a TMNT movie? 

So, should you see it? If you’re not a TMNT fan, I’d say skip it. You probably won’t find anything you like about it. But, if you are a TMNT fan? Worth seeing. It’s got everything a TMNT movie should have—the four Turtles in prime form, Splinter, Shredder, April O’Neil, humour, sarcasm, pizza, callbacks to previous movies/comics/series, and all the martial arts action you could want. Radical. 

Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative ( When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.


  1. Actually I'd say that if you ARE a TMNT fan paticularly of the 2003 cartoon, first live action, or 2007 movie then SKIP IT - if your favorite incarnations are the original cartoon, movie 2 &3, and to a certain extent the new Nick cartoon then you'll probably find the cheese acceptable.

    And I heartily defend Leo against any accusations of "blandness" - he and Raph have the two most complex personalities.

  2. Marie Victoria Robertson10 August 2014 at 17:27

    Hi Kate! You're right-- Leonardo IS one of the more complex personalities. I just find he tends to get overshadowed by the showier Turtles, especially in this movie. Which is a shame because yes, the Raph/Leo dynamic is the best and was pretty much glossed over.

  3. I think the biggest flaw of the original movie is how much it focuses on Raph to the exclusion of the other three. Leo gets a tiny bit but only in how his personality clashes with Raph. The 2007 movie at least was more fairly split between Raph and Leo's points of view (although I do few bad for the Mike and Don fans for getting shafted). Admittedly in an hour and a half to 2 hrs it's hard to give all 4 boys their equal due.


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