Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Starring: Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Will Arnett. IMDB says: “Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Surprise! This movie is just awful. I can throw so many multisyllabic words out and combine them with swears to get that point across, but that’s not constructive. It won’t tell you how or why this movie is so awful. To say this movie is garbage is offensive to garbage. Oscar the Grouch would throw a copy of this movie out of his trashcan. So many people worked on this movie, from its initial script, through filming, and even into editing and said “This looks great” or “Wow, this is exciting!” or something to that effect. Either way, there was too much positive reinforcement and not enough people going, “What the fuck are we doing?” You get the point.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is set in modern day New York City, a city swept up in a crime wave. Who are the perpetrators? The evil Foot Clan. All of this is told through an orange color heavy animatic. (We get it Nickelodeon!) From there we meet April O’Neil (Megan Fox, who has obviously phoned this one in) a hapless Channel 6 News reporter who is looking to uncover the Foot Clan and put a stop to them. One night, she happens across a burglary in progress. The burglary is thwarted by a mysterious vigilante who can’t be seen because… it’s nighttime. And shadows. And stuff. You get it. She ends up speaking to Eric Sacks (William Fichtner playing the most generic multi-millionaire scientist turned villain) the man who is investing a lot of time and money into the NYPD to stop crime, specifically the Foot Clan. Smash cut to the New York Subway, where the Foot Clan is using hostages to draw out the mysterious vigilante(s) and capture them. Their plan is thwarted by the vigilantes and April O’Neil tracks them down to a random rooftop and discovers, they’re not just vigilantes, they’re 6 foot mutant turtles who can talk, they’re ninjas, and by the way, they’re teenagers. Mind. Blown.
Along the way we discover that Scarecrow has been dumping hallucinogens into the water supply and plans to vaproize the water, making everyone go crazy. He’s got the antidote and plans on selling it to the highest bid– wait, what? Oh that’s Batman Begins isn’t it. My bad. Along the way, we discover that Lizard plans on releasing a chemical cloud from the top of Oscrop Tower. It’s a chemical agent that will turn everyone into lizard-hybrids like himself and– what? Oh I did it again didn’t I… yeah that’s the plot to The Amazing Spider-Man. My bad. What I meant to say is along the way, we discover Eric Sacks and April O’Neil’s father helped create the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles using a secret mutagen. When Sacks learns the Turtles are alive, he plans to capture them, drain all of their blood to recreate the mutagen and develop it into an antidote to the chemical toxin he plans on dispersing from the top of the Sacks tower. He’ll wipe out NYC then sell the antidote to the highest bidder.
So glad they decided to rework the entire origin story of the Turtles so they could use it for the same tired and uninspiring plot we’ve seen again and again and again. Even some of the equipment they use in the film looks like it was borrowed from the Amazing Spider-Man set. BUT, only one thing stands in the way between the Turtles and saving New York City: Shredder Scissorhands The Evil Decepticon Schredder The Shredder. But he’s not the same Shredder from the films you grew up with. Oh no. He’s an emotionless almost robotic villain who wears a suit with several blades for arms. And these blades just don’t dice it and slice it, they shoot out from his hands, pierce a target, and then return to him. WOW! I wonder what Transformer missed out on having that special power so Shredder could get it. If he walks like a transformer, talks like a transformer, and has the same sound effect noises as a transformer… he’s the new and improved Shredder!
If the acting and plot wasn’t enough to pull me out of the film, the CGI is sub-par at best. Splinter (voiced by Tony Shaloub, yeah, Monk is their sensei) looks like something from a commercial to prevent rodents and the Turtles look like something out of a video game. Mix the CGI with their attempt at 3D and you have a blurry mess on your hands. I could barely make sense of what was happening in the beginning of the film. But then director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) starts turning the camera at a forty five degree angle for no reason and starts to amp up the action with slow-mo shots. The only thing missing from this film was a slow motion shot of a helicopter at sunset. Most of the action scenes are action for the sake of action. Example, in New York City, it’s spring, maybe summer, April O’Neil is hanging around with her signature yellow jacket, and then when she drives maybe 40 minutes north to Eric Sacks’ compound/mansion magically it’s winter. Snow is on the ground, but she’s still wearing the jacket with a low-cut shirt. (No gloves, no hat, not even breath to show she’s cold) Eventually, there is an entire action sequence going down a snow-covered mountain. Cars chasing, Guns blazing, taser-slingshot-cable-things, and for what? Why? There are so many other things they could have done.
The score is boring and Taran Killam, Whoopi Goldberg, and Will Arnett aren’t in the film enough. They had a bunch of relative unknowns doing the stand-in and voice-overwork for the Turtles, except for Leonardo, he was voiced by Johnny Knoxville. Why? Nickelodeon recently rebooted the animated series, and it baffles me that they wouldn’t just use the current voice actors in the show for the film. The line up they have (Rob Paulsen, Jason Biggs, Sean Astin, and Greg Cipes) for the Turtles is wonderful! Mae Whitman (Scott Pilgrim, Perks of Being A Wallflower) voices April O’Neil, why couldn’t she portray O’Neil on the big screen? There is just so much they could have done with this film, but I guess they settled for something that looked and felt like every other “Hollywood Summer Blockbuster” out there. I don’t understand it.
If you couldn’t tell, clearly I’m a Turtles fan. Loved the films, religiously watched the cartoon show as a kid. Played all the games for Nintendo. Big fan. Even in the first film, the Foot Clan felt like a real threat. New York looked and felt startled. They barely bat an eye in this film. When Splinter is dealt a damaging blow in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they retreat to a home in the countryside, you feel their pain. You watch them struggle to cope with the potential loss of their master, their father. You felt connected to them when you learned of the ooze that created them, and Splinter’s battles with Oroku Saki (who isn’t even mentioned in this movie). You felt something. This iteration fails to do that. Period. It doesn’t feel exciting or different. It just falls flat and trudges through Big Budget trope after big budget trope. My expectations were low coming in but, damn. They don’t even throw in easter eggs or nods about Casey Jones or Bebop or The Kraang.
I’m never this kind of guy, but if you truly feel the need to see this movie, do it without paying for it. Download it, steal it, pay for Guardians of the Galaxy, but sneak in to see this one instead. Don’t RedBox it, On-Demand it or even Netflix it. Wait until it comes to Cable and watch it then. Don’t even waste your time with this film. Just go see Guardians if you haven’t already. Or go see it again. In fact, I don’t care what you see this weekend (or this month) so long as it isn’t this movie.
Let me just start by saying, I am a complete novice to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe. I’ve never seen a single film or read a single comic, but I know the basic premise that 4 turtles encounter some goo and gain super mutant ninja abilities and they can talk. Going in with that baseline knowledge, I actually rather enjoyed the new TMNT film.
I know a lot of folks were upset with the origin story this film provides which is basically that April O’Neil’s father was developing a chemical mutagen with this Sacks man and he used four turtles for testing. For me, it made sense because it’s how a lot of superhero films work, a rich benefactor is secretly the one behind the evil criminal element. This wasn’t true to the original TMNT universe but it made sense, even if it was a bit clichéd.
A lot of the action sequences really worked for me, the CGI looked great and the scenes were well choreographed. The scene shown in the trailer where they are going down a snowy mountain is particularly well done. A note of warning, seeing this film in 3D makes it rather hard to watch, often getting in the way of the action and causing the action to appear muddled, especially in the beginning.
The voice acting was decent, after watching some of the original cartoons on youtube after the film, I wish they would have stuck to something more authentic. As was pointed out to me, the voices didn’t seem to fit the turtles’ personality, but it made sense to me in the moment. Megan Fox delivered a decent performance as the female lead.
The most upsetting part for me was how run-of-the-mill the story was. I felt like they had just adapted a screenplay from Batman or Spider-Man, because so much of it I had already seen. Along the same lines, this film has all the telltale signs of being a Michael Bay production, especially the direction they chose to take Shredder in. I did really like a lot of the sound effects and mixing, but you could tell they at least some of them were borrowed from Transformers and similar movies in that realm.
Overall, I enjoyed the film and I could see it having broad appeal. I would imagine, those least familiar with the original universe would enjoy it the most. It’s a very cookie cutter superhero film that loses some of the magic that made the Turtles special to begin with. If you have children, I’m sure they will enjoy it and if you aren’t a TMNT purist, there’s probably something there for you as well.