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Why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Matters

TMNT is getting a grilling from critics, but should we listen to them, or should we trust our nostalgia and curiosity?

Having an opinion on a movie is one thing, but slamming a beloved 80s comic franchise as having “awful” characters is just a lame attempt to pre-justify a review. I am speaking of course about the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action film from director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Michael Bay. The film itself is getting some harsh words thrown at it from critics, yet the box office numbers are higher than Snoop Dogg, which once again raises this dichotomy of the movie industry, why do critics continue to slate things that are so popular? Are we, as an audience, interested in the wrong stuff, or should movie reviewers re-evaluate their jobs and rating criteria? Probably the latter.

It’s also rather bizarre how many of the reviews of the TMNT movie I’ve come across are written by reviewers who self-proclaim to dislike the characters and franchise ahead of their review. Now I’m sure most of them working for big publications have earned their spot there and have a somewhat decent understanding of film, but why would a publication, such as the Telegraph, send someone who hates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to go watch, yip, you guessed it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It’s like sending my gran to a hard rock concert… it’s always going to be the same result…

And even if there is enjoyment to be found in these films, it seems like everyone is afraid to say anything positive about anything related to Michael Bay these days, because it may shake their credibility, undermine their own intelligence and most importantly: they don’t want their peers to look down on them. What happened to enjoying movies because they were fun?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie

By being a little late to South African cinemas, I went in to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtes with all the negative preconceptions about the movie being thrust upon me over the last month or so since its US release, and even with all that in tow, I came out the cinema smiling.

I don’t think the movie doesn’t deserve some crticism in certain place – it’s by no means a perfect film – but let’s be honest here, like the Transformers or GI Joe series, we’re working with source material that is catered for the over-the-top 80s-inspired “kidult”, which is something we should own and hold onto, as opposed to being told it’s “shallow” and “mindless”.

I think TMNT captured the vibe and feel of the TV show excellently, and that to me, that is a success. Yes, while Megan Fox is once again demoted to eye-candy and cringe-worthy one-liners, she really is a side-show to the real action on screen. The turtles are witty and lovable, cracking jokes and each having their own unique personalities that shine through, Splinter is mind-numbingly awesome, the visual effects are some of the best, and (probably my favourite thing) Shredder fills you with dread each time he enters the scene, just like he did when I was a kid, cross-legged on the floor watching the old TV series, and that’s a feeling not many movies have the legacy and nostalgia to play on.

If you didn’t enjoy it, you probably didn’t “get” what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was all about, and if that’s the case, I feel sorry for that person.

What do you think? Anyone seen the movie and agree or disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below:

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