I know you have all been on pins and needles waiting for me to review the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Well, I avoided it for a long time but there’s nothing on TV this week and it was a huge hit in 2014 (I try to see the big hits and I always go to every movie with an open mind, even Michael Bay movies) so I decided to watch it.
Let me start out by saying thank goodness for Marvel and Christopher Nolan because at least boys have something to hold onto and root for. Without their strong movies all their beloved franchises have been destroyed one by one. First Star Wars, then they had to suffer Batman and Robin, Daredevil, Spiderman 3, XMen 3, and Transformers. Believe it or not all these franchises were actually good in the 80’s but many modern adaptations have been dreadful.
The Ninja Turtles is a particularly nostalgic brand for many men (and some girls) my age as we grew up on the cartoon, which was fun, silly and engaging. Then we had the Jim Henson’s movies which the first two are also a lot of fun. People love this series. It’s important to them.
Now producer Michael Bay and Jonathan Liebesman directing have their hands on it and boy does it suffer.
I will say that this is more tolerable than the Transformers movies as it is only 1 hour and 41 minutes where Transformers is nearly 3 (KMN) but it has so many problems. Turtle fans deserve better.
There will be some spoilers in this review so if you want to see it first go for it!
Megan Fox as April O’Neil
Malina Weissman as young April O’Neil
Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick
William Fichtner as Eric Sacks
Alan Ritchson as Raphael (motion-capture performer and voice)
Noel Fisher as Michelangelo (motion-capture performer and voice)
Pete Ploszek as Leonardo (motion-capture performer)
Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo (voice)
Jeremy Howard as Donatello (motion-capture performer and voice)
Danny Woodburn as Splinter (motion-capture performer)
Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (voice)
Tohoru Masamune as Shredder
Whoopi Goldberg as Bernadette Thompson
TMNT starts out with a graphic that feels like a strobe light leading you down to the sewer. It is a good introduction for a movie that feels extremely schizophrenic. It is edited very poorly and often I was caught in an action scene and left wondering how did we get here and who the heck are they fighting? There are scenes where characters will just stop fighting and the room will literally freeze so a pun or one liner can be uttered by usually Michelangelo (although sometimes it’s a nerdy comment by Donatello or a grumpy comment by Rafael- these really are the 7 Dwarves of comic books).
For example, there is a long fight scene on a mountain with a semi-truck and 3 hummer-like cars. I had no idea who they were fighting or how they got out of New York to a place with snow. It’s especially strange because the main villainous plot has just been laid out by William Fichtner’s character who oddly enough is not Shredder but some sub-villain, and Master Splinter has been taken hostage. Splinter is then forgotten about for about an hour of the movie as we battle someone in the snow?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk first about the look of the movie. The turtles are motion capture animation and they look like a roids fest at a WWF fight. They in no way look like teenagers or talk like teenagers. And I thought they looked more like ducks than Turtles (and who knew that turtle shells front and back are bulletproof?). I guess going with a tougher, grittier version of turtles is creative but did they have to make them look so unpleasant?
April O’Neil is played as probably the most unrealistic reporter in movies by the great thespian Megan Fox. In this case it turns out she has a very close connection with the turtles which she figures out in an insanely short period of time. I mean if I had lost turtles and was saved from the ‘foot clan’ (as the generic bad guy soldiers are known) the first thing I’d think of is my turtles had been mutated into ninja warriors. Of course!
All the lighting in this movie feels extremely yellow, like a fluorescent light bulb. Her lipstick looked ultra pink in many shots and I almost wondered if my TV settings had been changed. There were scenes when it seemed like she had rosacia or was wearing too much blush. All the human characters looked strange. I guess at least most of the movie she is properly clothed unlike the women of Transformers.
Shredder who is such a bad, menacing villain in the show, comes and goes. And then William Fichtner also comes and goes. They are never together but one brief shot in a tunnel that looks cropped together, and yet they are planning this massive scheme for money. What it screams of is when they first announced Fichtner as Shredder people were upset because he is supposed to be Japanese. There was a big fan backlash. My guess is they shot new scenes with a new Shredder and changed things around so Fichtner was this bland scientist William Sachs. I could be wrong but that’s what it feels like. It does not seem like these characters are working together.
So here’s the scheme. Tell me if you don’t think of a million other movies and shows that have had a similar mad scientist story-
So Fichtner and Shredder have developed a ‘toxin’ that they want to release out of a building in NYC. This will render everyone catatonic and then they plan on blackmailing the American government to purchase at high cost ‘the antidote’. Ah yes, there always seems to be an antidote to all these toxins… I bet you will never guess where they need to get the antidote from- well if you guessed the ‘mutagen’ in the blood of the turtles you would be right.
Doesn’t that scream of 1960’s batman scheme? It’s right up there with Mr Freeze planning on Freezing all of Gotham if he doesn’t get the diamonds. They couldn’t rob a bank or extort a millionaire? This was really the best way to get money for these evil-doers? It reminded me of in Toy Story when Woodie’s voice box says ‘somebody’s poisoned the water hole’ all the toxin talk would be hokey in a bad Western in 1950’s.
But even an ultra silly plot can be entertaining if it is handled with the right spirit but it isn’t. What happens with this movie is we get long stretches of fighting (again with and against people we don’t know and often in environments and for purposes we don’t understand). For about the first 1/3rd of the movie the Turtles are just fighting footmen and we don’t know why? How do they know about the footmen? Are they fighting them because they are ‘bad guys’ or is there some other moral reason they dislike them (for example, we know clearly why the Joker hates Batman. No such illumination here).
When we do see Shredder he is such a CGI bore. He looks like Predator with blades and of course he is a bore because he’s had no dialogue. All of the evil dialogue has been from Fichtner and yet the Turtles never really fight Fichtner but fight Shredder (again another sign they made the switch late).
The movie also will have a fight, and then a comedic moment, and then more fighting which just screams Michael Bay’ s influence.
Take a look at this scene in the elevator. They have just been released from having their blood drawn and almost dying. They are about to go up to the roof to face their biggest foe but we get a beat boxing routine followed by a big fight. Give me a break!
As I said we don’t get to know the Turtles beyond their basic characteristics and the voicework is uniformly awful. I particularly hated Johnny Knoville as Leonardo. Tony Shalhoub is Ok as Splinter but he’s in the movie for very little and he looks awful.
Whoopi Goldberg’s part must have been cut because she’s in about 2 scenes as April’s overbearing cliche of a boss. I mean she’s an Oscar winning actress so to be in about 3 minutes of the movie is strange.
Will Arnett is also wasted as Vern Fenwick who is April’s pal at work. He is literally the driver for most the movie and doesn’t even get any good sarcastic lines. He is about a billion times funnier in the Lego Movie doing similar schtick (just shows what a difference good writing does).
Minae Noji plays an assassin character but even reading the Wikipidia I have no idea who she is or why she was in the movie so much. She just kept popping up in battles. No dialogue or character development at all.
It is also really not a movie for kids. It earns it’s PG-13, is pretty violent, showing turtles and others getting tortured and nearly dying. And some of the dialogue is too adult like the Turtles seem to only like April because she is ‘smokin hot’. Upon first meeting, Michelangelo says ‘she’s so hot I can feel my shell tightening’. I don’ t think such innuendo is appropriate for children.
And the movie is too stupid to appeal to adults and the turtles look so awful that it won’t appeal to nostalgic males. So who this appeals to and why it made so much money is beyond me?
Especially when you had Edge of Tomorrow in the theaters with the same video game feel but a good script and action that felt palatable and real, characters you cared about. Why anyone saw this over that quality movie I will never know. Someone out there explain it to me please?
Worst of all it isn’t even fun. It’s so hacked together and the plot makes no sense. And then we end with a damsel in distress hanging from a skyscraper cliche that goes back to King Kong. Groan.
We also get the digital read-out clock on the ‘release of the toxin’s’ that has been in every action movie since 198o’s (although they do make a joke about it being 15 year old technology but still doesn’t get a pass from me!).
And then we get an ending with the Turtles goofing off and destroying Will Arnett’s car for laughs. It shows what Michael Bay’s idea of fun is. Let’s just destroy things and all have a good laugh. When they are on the rooftop there are shots where crowds of people are outside with debris flying down from the tower. Why would people be outside? It reminded me of Amazing Spiderman 2 where there seem to be crowds cheering on everything Spiderman did.
With those crowds the ending seems especially ridiculous where April agrees to keep the Turtles existence a secret despite her top notch reporting ethics. Groan. There’s no security cameras in the miles of havoc they have wrecked in fight after fight from mysterious New York mountains to downtown Manhattan? Nobody has a cell phone or a news camera to catch 4 mutant turtles fighting a giant man in a steel suit? That’s the kind of idiocy this movie expects people to accept.
And again I wouldn’t care if the movie was fun. I don’t care that Goonies is ridiculous because it is fun and I like the kids. Here I didn’t like anyone. I found them repulsive to look at, their humor juvenile and the fight scenes unending.
Don’t waste your time. Watch the TV series or the old movie from the 90s. That will make you smile and you’ll enjoy yourself. This is just junk. Again, it is better than Transformers because at least it is under 2 hours but why America? Why?
Overall Score- D