Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is set in New York. A gang of villains, the Foot Clan, led by the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), has overrun the city. The Foot Clan terrorises all who oppose it. Reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) wants to make a name for herself as an action news reporter and is tracking leads on the Foot Clan’s latest crimes.
April discovers a lone vigilante confronting the Foot Clan, which is in the process of stealing chemical mutagens. When April follows the vigilante she discovers there are four of them. They are talking mutant turtles, who live in the sewers below New York. These teenage mutant ninja turtles are Raphael (Alan Richtner), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek with voice of Johnny Knoxville) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard).
We learn that, as a young girl, April was responsible for the turtles’ start in life. April’s dead father, a genetic scientist, was experimenting on four baby turtles and a rat, injecting them with mutagens, when his lab was attacked and burned to the ground. Before the lab was completely destroyed, April rescued the little turtles and the rat, releasing them into the sewers where the turtles mutated into their present form. The rat became a talking rat, whose name is now Splinter (Danny Woodburn with voice of Tony Shalhoub). Splinter has become the Turtles’ mentor and adoptive father.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has comic book-style action violence. The violence is sometimes slapstick and sometimes more intense. There is also some gun-related violence. Minimal blood and gore are shown. For example:
- A black-robed man kneels on the ground with his hands bound behind his back. Other men approach the man and one punches him in the face. The bound man breaks his bonds and fights his attackers with brutal punches, kicks and head-butts until the attackers are left lying on the ground.
- Black-clad ninja-style villains with assault rifles hold many civilians hostage in a subway station. The villains place explosives on the wall of the subway and threaten to shoot the hostages if their demands are not met. They grab a woman and throw her roughly to the ground. They point a gun at another woman’s head. The turtles appear out of nowhere and attack the villains, throwing them against the walls and ceilings. The scene cuts and we see all of the villains bound and lying on the ground.
- A flashback shows a man setting fire to a laboratory. Flames rise up and engulf the room.
- Many villains with assault rifles attack the turtles in the sewers. The villains fire tranquiliser darts at the turtles. The turtles are thrown through the air by explosions and then repeatedly tasered. The Shredder brutally throws Splinter against the walls and the floor until he is lying unconscious on the ground.
- In another scene, the Shredder repeatedly kicks the turtles, punches them in the head and grabs them by the throat. He steps on the back of one of the turtle’s shells until it sounds like the shell breaks.
- A breathing mask is held over a man’s face while poisonous gas is fed into the mask. The man writhes on the floor in agony. His face and arms get covered in angry red blistery sores. The man dies quickly.
- The turtles are suspended in large glass prison cells with plastic tubes attached to various parts of their bodies, draining their blood.
- The movie has some reckless and perilous car pursuits. A car runs down a man. Trucks and cars chase the turtles’ car and fire harpoons at it. The villains crash their cars into each other and then topple over a mountainside out of control. The turtles and two humans end up dangling from a cable before being pulled to safety.
- The movie’s final epic battle between Shredder and the turtles on top of a skyscraper involves an extended brutal fight. April nearly falls to her death. Several swords impale Shredder’s throat, neck and shoulder (no blood is depicted). He falls from the building to the pavement below where the impact of his fall creates a large crater. The turtles also fall from the top of the building while clinging to a tower, but survive the fall unhurt.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has scenes that are likely to scare or disturb children under eight years. For example:
- Very young children might find the turtles themselves scary.
- Splinter has a rather creepy appearance. He might scare younger children although he is a positive father figure to the turtles.
- The Shredder is a large brutish man with a menacing presence and a badly scarred face. For most of the movie, Shredder wears spiky metal armour with many sword-like blades that extend from metal gauntlets that cover his hands. The swords can be fired as projectiles.
- A scientist uses a syringe to inject baby turtles.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes described above.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has some sexual innuendo. For example:
- In one scene April is described as a ‘visual sexy seagull’.
- Describing April, one of the turtles says, ‘She’s hot. I can feel my shell tightening’.
- Someone says that consenting adults shouldn’t have to make excuses to be together.
- Two of the turtles hang from a billboard that shows a woman wearing a bra. A turtle hangs from each of her breasts, making the picture look like it’s in 3D.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters drink socially at a dinner table.
- Characters fire tranquiliser darts from guns in one scene.
- In one scene the turtles are injected with adrenalin.
Nudity and sexual activity
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shows some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- A man ogles April O’Neil’s clothed bottom. She is wearing tight-fitting jeans.
- Women wear low-cut tops that reveal cleavage.
The following products are displayed or used in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
- Pizza Hut
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Ford vehicles
- Soft drinks.
There is also plenty of merchandise associated with the movie being marketed to children who are too young to see the movie.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has occasional low-level coarse language and some name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a science fiction action adventure targeting teenage and adult fans of former TMNT movies and cartoons.
There is plenty of comedy in the movie, but it deserves its M rating. It has some intense violence and disturbing scenes that make it unsuitable for children under 12 years, who might want to see it because they own TMNT toys and other merchandise.
You should be aware that this is not an animated movie. It’s therefore likely to be more disturbing for children, especially in the 3D version.
The main messages from this movie are about family and teamwork. The turtles care for, support and protect each other. Their ability to work as a team enables them to overcome and defeat their enemies. Splinter is a positive father figure to the turtles, teaching them positive values such as honesty, discipline, teamwork and selflessness.
You could talk with your children about the way the movie objectifies the lead female character, April O’Neil. The movie focuses more on the turtles’ sexual attraction to April and on April’s sex appeal, rather than her heroic qualities.