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New Ninja Turtles movie plunges deep into the Uncanny Valley

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Before I start trashing this movie, and I will, I know that the new Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a film geared toward children. I get it.

While yes, I grew up loving the original heroes in a half-shell and had my own favorite turtle, Michelangelo, I’m fully aware that I’m not who this movie is targeting.  Even though, surprise, surprise, most of the people who attended the movie’s opening weekend fell into that 25-35 age range.

If you look at it from a big Hollywood, it’s a simple mechanic at play here — You reboot an old franchise that was popular in the 1990s and market the film toward the kids of the kids who grew up on Turtles. Do that well and the studio can sell both the new version along with the old.

Except, the biggest problem with that equation is that this new movie is a train wreck.

One of the biggest problems among the many is the design of the way the new turtles look  and the abandonment of any real character development  whatsoever.

New Turtles 2If you’re not familiar with the Uncanny Valley, it’s a term used that states if an artificially intelligent being looks too close to being human, they reach the Uncanny Valley and our natural reaction is to find it hideous. If you look at the new Turtles, as seen here to the left or above.

You can use it as Exhibit A when describing to film students on how not to design your inhuman characters.

The noses and lips are just TOO human to be anything but creepy. Hence, we’re forced to endure this look through the entire movie. What I cannot understand is how anybody who worked on this film failed to understand this. Especially in an age where everything from big-budget Hollywood studios are screened to death before anything is made.

If you showed this to a group of people and asked their opinions on the look of the new Turtles, at least a simple majority of those asked would say they find them unappealing.

That said, if the turtles looked like they do and the rest of the movie was solid, we’d all forgive the production team here. That’s sadly not the case, however.

If, with this movie, you’re expecting to get a connection to who the Ninja Turtle characters are, you’re going to have a bad time.

If you’re expecting to see a film that pays homage to the old Ninja Turtles, you’re going to have a bad time.

If you’re a fan of Will Arnett and expect him to provide anything funny to the movie, you’re going to have a bad time.

And, even if you’re going into this movie expecting to see a standard, high-action story with little plot and lots of explosions, until almost halfway through the movie you’re going to have a bad time.

After watching this movie, you’d be forgiven if you thought the name should have been”The April O’Neil Story featuring the Ninja Turtles.”

Really, that might seem like an interesting angle to take a Turtles movie, and one that really has never been tried.

It’s too bad, then, that this movie fails so hard at bringing a fresh take to the Turtles lore. The reason being is that Megan Fox is not that kind of actress. She’s not as bad as some portray her to be, but Anne Hathoway she is not.  She’s incredibly flat, emotionless and, I hate to say it, boring.

Is she beautiful, at least in terms of what traditional Hollywood defines as beautiful? Yes. But, beauty alone a movie does not make.

The problem is that they’ve devoted soooo much screen time to Megan Fox to the point where the Turtles are not the real stars of this movie, and Shredder is not the real villain.

We get one scene where the turtles are dancing together in an elevator, to help flesh out their characters. That’s it.

Even at the very end of the film when Rafael says “I’m sorry I was so hard on you guys,” I was left thinking? Oh really? When was he hard on anyone? He didn’t have the chance to be hard-nosed because he’s not given the time to actually be anything but a caricature.

What’s especially weird is that for a Turtles movie instead of  letting Shredder being the real bad guy, he does not even has any real dialogue, the true antagonist role goes to Eric Sacks.

Sacks, played by  William Fichtner, was reportedly going to be Shredder but got changed at the last minute because the traditional man behind the Shredder character is of Asian heritage and named Oroku Saki. (Sacks also is an Americanized version of the name Saki, if you need any more proof.)

But, OK, say you’re still willing to get past the fact that the character design is crap and the character development is crap. What about the plot?

Let me name just name a few meteor-sized plot holes that pop out.

One is that April, as a child, saved the baby Turtles and Splinter from a fire that her dad started to prevent his research from being used by Sacks and Shredder. Cut to the present day when April first finds the Turtles. She somehow doesn’t remember that she spent a considerable amount of time with these turtles and watched them start forming human-like qualities. Instead, she passes out in shock.

Later on, for some reason when Shredder has the chance to kill Splinter but doesn’t, he literally has him in his big knife-like hands, Rafael is nowhere to be seen.

It’s not explained why, except that he has to be the one to save the other three when they’re captured by the Foot Clan. I wished I could stop the movie and re-watch the scene to make sure that I didn’t miss anything regarding why Rafael decided to step out without telling anyone. As such, it’s just sloppy storytelling.

But, perhaps the biggest plot hole is that Sacks admits to killing April’s dad even though we see him die in the fire. How could anyone miss that?

Again, this is a movie for kids and of course it might have some plot holes, but we should be giving kids a little credit that they can understand that when you see a character die, you might wonder why it’s revealed later that he died a different way from the way you saw him die with your own eyes.

Whenever I watch a bad movie, and make no mistake, this reboot is most definitely awful, I start to see how difficult it is to make a great movie because every aspect of the film is so interconnected. You can have great actors but an awful script. You can have a great script but a horrid director. You can have a great script, good actors and an all right director but have terrible cinematography or art direction or CGI. This movie just doesn’t have much good of anything, other than a few entertaining action scenes, although it seems to take an awfully long time for the action to begin.

And, despite any of this, we’re getting a sequel from this same production team, headed by Bay once again. It’s a shame that this is what the Ninja Turtles will be to a new generation of kids. Because, even though yes the Turtles were always campy and cheesy, they at least had their own lore that we’ve all come to understand. This new lore, though, takes all of that and dumps it on its face. It’s a sad day indeed for any old fan of the Ninja Turtles.

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