Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


The credits roll on as I sit in my sit, just finishing the latest film adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A growing headache burdens my mind, either from the film or the overly bombastic speakers. Possibly both; theater speakers are too loud now right? Seriously, hearing loss is a growing concern at the movies.

Not as serious was my desire to see this film. Seeing the Turtles for the first (the 6th time in actuality) and fight the Shredder for the first time (again, the 6th time) didn’t have much appeal to me. I was convinced that this film would basically retell the plot of the 1991 film and bore me. Bore me it did, but it is not like the 1991 film.

The film feels rushed, with April meeting the Turtles and Splinter inside of the first 30 minutes. Everything seems to be moving towards a finish line that wasn’t thought out.

April meets the Turtles, the Foot attacks, a rescue is mounted and the Shredder is defeated. That’s the film in a half-shell, and I do mean half. Everything about this movie seems half-thought out except the special effects; the film LOOKS great but even that only goes so far these days.

The film focuses foremost on the fact that the titular characters are Mutant first, and Ninjas second. Both end up not being too important or even fully realized. A lot of backlash centered on the Turtles being so large and having nostrils but that’s not even the major problem. The problem is the movie not knowing what it wants, pulling from a handful of more successful films and ultimately lagging behind all of them.

Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo are the three Turtles who get the most screentime with Michelangelo inevitably stealing the scenes.  It helps that he seems the most familiar in this new adaptation, he has changed the least because more and more movies rely on comedic relief. Leonardo is a mixed bag; his voice provided by Johnny Knoxville who most of the time sounds like the character instead of Johnny Knoxville. Raphael is pretty much the Thug of the group, for no reason and just pummeling his way through the film.

Megan Fox,  Will Arnet, and William Fichtner make up the human cast. I leave out Shredder because you can almost forget he’s even the main villain much less in the film. I cannot decide if Megan Fox was cast to make April O’Neil hot or because Megan Fox was cast to justify April O’Neil being objectified. Will Arnet feels underused in the film; if it was going for a more comedic tone I would’ve liked to have seen him get more screentime. As it is he adds some jokes without much else to the movie. William Fichtner as Eric Sachs (not a race-changed Baxter Stockman as feared) is a serviceable villain with some cringe-worthy dialogue. Megan Fox’s April is questionable at times as to how competent she is supposed to be portrayed, but also ends up as a serviceable character.

The plot veers away so much much from the first film’s, coming up short but the climax appearing tame compared to every other Blockbuster from this summer. The Villain’s scheme is basic without having much justification as sound, and the Foot seem as so little of a threat they resemble their counterparts from the 80s cartoon. I would almost have rather seen the Turtles as aliens as originally rumored; a major step away from the source material but I imagine would have led to something more interesting than this semi-faithful retrend . Either the film went through some rewrites following fan outrage or the effort  from the Studio was lacking from the start.

I think the screen-writers didn’t trust the audience suspension of disbelief for the source material, but in trying to “fix” it just made the details more ridiculous. I had to remind myself this was produced by Nickelodeon and thus might have been made with children in mind, however the serious tone that pervades the film kind of squashes that. You can make TMNT for kids, adults, or everyone. This film tries to please everyone but without knowing how. There are huge leaps of logic from the characters to fulfill the required beats but every other scene is filmed with a fake dramatic weight. The jokes that undercut that were among the funniest, the elevator scene being my highlight.

There are some parts I enjoyed, the fight scenes my second favorite. The animated intro and credits my main favorite for the art. Each of the Turtles carries accessories to show their individuality; Mikey a seashell necklace, Ralph a pair of Oakley shades, Leo a makeshift chest-plate, and Donnie various gizmos. They use their weapons in new ways too, and new fight tactics; but as I said nothing is fully developed.

This movie has more in common with The Amazing Spider-Man than Transformers but it lacks ASM’s solid acting or Transformers awareness of what it is. It’s hard to gauge if this movie will grab the new generation’s interest in the Franchise as has happened perennially before. It seemed like the children in my theater grew bored when the Turtles weren’t on screen. I’m aware that the baton has to be passed between generation’s on this stuff, but I don’t think this incarnation will catch on. The film talks of friendship and family, but doesn’t seem to understand what they mean.