Making the Grades
Some suspension of disbelief is required before an audience can accept the parameters of most works of fiction and this is most certainly true of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I mean really—who could otherwise take seriously the idea of talking, six-foot tall, biped reptiles that are martial artists with a taste for pizza—no matter how much mutation was supposed to have gone on? Despite the preposterousness of the plot, these “heroes in a half shell” have enjoyed a great deal of celebrity and a cult following. Originally comic book characters, the sewer-dwellers have morphed into several animated TV series, games, toys and even films (most starring men in costumes). In this 2014 movie the famous four have been reincarnated, by the power of computer graphics and motion capture animation, so they look more “realistic” in their live-action setting.
With voices provided by Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville and Jeremy Howard, the brothers Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello have reached an age where they no longer want to languish beneath the city. Assuming the Ninja training they have received from their sensei Splinter the Rat (Danny Woodburn/ Tony Shalhoub) is sufficient, the foursome ventures into the wicked world above with the hope of fighting a mob called the Foot Clan.
Meanwhile April O’Neil (Megan Fox), an eager young reporter, decides to do some investigative journalism in order to uncover the masterminds behind the same group of gangsters. Instead, she stumbles upon the vigilante turtles. With her curiosity piqued, April tries to track down this new angle to the story. Unfortunately her probing only places the crime fighters and herself in danger’s way because she brings their existence to the attention of an old enemy named Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).
Fans of this franchise will likely be delighted to see the adolescent antics of their favorite characters gracing the big screen once again. Along with the familiar humor, the script provides a more detailed, and scientific back-story to the turtles’ power and April’s connection to their past. However, parents of youngsters anxious to embrace the renaissance of these reptiles should be aware that they come with a steady stream of violence. While the depictions are bloodless, they do include weapons use, martial arts battles, death threats and perilous moments. Created with state of the art technology, careening vehicles, explosions and near-death falls offer the wow factor craved by action/adventure addicts, but may be too frightening for children.
Still, what the TMNT do have to offer as an entertainment choice for tweens and teens is their sense of teamwork and brotherly love. Pulling together they set out to use their super-strength to do good, tackle organized crime and protect the innocent (like April, whom they describe as “hot”). At the same time they wish to remain anonymous, unlike some of the vain villains they are attempting to unseat. These selfless values may be worthy of emulation—as long as your kids (who should always remember they aren’t covered by a bullet proof shell) can distinguish between them and the not-so-smart-to-copy behaviors like frequent fighting, reckless stunts and exploring the sewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).
April is frustrated by her job because she is being assigned to light and frothy stories instead of investigating hard news. Have you noticed these two types of media coverage? Is there a place for both? How do you feel about the way news is presented in the various media you may use, such as TV, radio, print and the Internet? Do these various delivery methods also have different ways of approaching the same events?
Why do the Turtles always refer to April’s cameraman (Will Arnett) as “the old guy”? How does their age affect the way they see him? What other opinions might our personal perspective influence? Can we, or should we, try to compensate for these kinds of biases?