Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – A Movie Review

TMNT-2014-Desktop-Wallpaper-HD1For better or worse there’s a new Ninja Turtles movie in theaters. Its the first release since 2007 and the first live action release since 1993. The Turtles have a VERY mixed history when it comes to films. The first movie gets universal praise, but everything after it is hit or miss. I really dug 2007’s “TMNT”, but that’s not the movie we are talking about here. Sigh, let’s just get this review out of the way, so we can move onto bigger better things.

No movie this year went through as much scrutiny as the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even I, the self-proclaimed biggest TMNT fan in the known universe, was hyper-critical of the entire film making process. Not only did I dedicate an entire post on my personal blog to the production of the movie, but an entire episode of the Reality Breached podcast was dedicated to destroying the film…pre-release.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much. I went in cautiously optimistic, but in the end there’s alot of stuff wrong with that movie…too much. Let’s start with the good, why not? One thing the turtles have always been good at is humor, and this film hits that nail hard. Hands down some of the funniest stuff ever seen in the series comes directly out of Michelangelo mouth here. Pair that with well placed “Raph is angry jokes”, Will Arnett being Will Arnett, and an absolutely hilarious elevator sequence, if you don’t laugh you might actually have a broken soul. Also, for the most part the cast was good, Arnett was a highlight and Fichtner played bad-guy really well despite having a half-assed script from which to work. The biggest casting surprise was Megan Fox. Sure she played April a bit too ditsy, and her constantly pouty lips were out of place most of the time, but Fox didn’t under or over play her part. In fact, she almost fit the role. She was enough eye candy to make you not hate that she was on screen, and she wasn’t too damsel in distressy. Amazingly, of all the things that broke this movie, Megan Fox was not one of them.

The action was also pretty decent, there’s an exciting Splinter/Shredder fight, and the turtles get really physical with the foot clan. The much shown downhill snow fight is the highlight of all of the visuals, though. Its as ludicrous as it is flashy, but in a movie starring 4 talking mutant turtles it works well. This is gonna get a bit spoilery, but the fears of many fans were quickly put to rest as the characters got introduced. Despite being marketed as “the Shredder” Fichtner is quickly revealed to be a new character (Eric Sachs) and the Shredder is seen very early being Asian and very classicly Shreddery. I’ll need to watch the movie again, but that could be something was added or changed at the last minute during the infamous reshoots. Nevertheless, the changes made to the origin are much more similar to the changes seen in the current IDW comic series than any other version of the story. While not ideal, the origin didn’t offend me until giant inconsistencies popped up mid-story, but again, of all the things that broke this movie, the origin was not one of them.

Fun is to be had while watching the movie, and if you can COMPLETELY detach yourself from both your brain, your concept of proper story structure, and wear huge plothole blinders, you may really in enjoy it. And by enjoy it, I mean the way you enjoy terrible B movies starring retired wrestlers that come on the USA network. With all these good not terrible things in the movie, all the writers had to do was glue everything together with a consistent and coherent story. That’s the part that Liebesman and company get tragically wrong, the part where the movie has to actually be a movie.

I’ve spoken at length about how much I dislike the designs of the turtles in this film. That has not changed. Obviously the production design team decided that since zero script time would be spent developing the turtles as characters that they needed to communicate their individual characteristics through the gaudy nonsensical clothing each turtle was wearing. You tell me where on earth would you find a pair of sunglasses that would perfectly fit a head the size of a watermelon, like, a BIG watermelon. To communicate Donny is the smart one they loaded him down with the biggest stereotypically techy back-pack they could animate and even went as far as giving him coke bottle eye glasses. Donatello’s portrayal of smart or nerdy people in this film is almost as bad a The Big Bang Theory. The only two turtles with significant screen time and lines of dialog are Raphael and Michelangelo. Leo and Donny are just window dressing on the movie’s concept of Mutant Turtles. Dumb!

The Foot Clan’s motivations for their actions simply don’t make sense. Again, spoilers, but the idea is for Eric Sachs, to release a flesh eating disease on the city of New York and blame it on the Foot Clan. He would then sell the antidote to this disease to the city and make billions of dollars. Let’s not deconstruct the fact that Sachs is already an extremely wealthy man that owns multiple companies and has enough money to do whatever he wants. Instead let’s look at the deal the Foot have in place with Sachs. While Sachs gets money from the con, the Foot supposedly get power. Releasing the disease, and selling the cure doesn’t give the foot clan power it just kills people. Once the antidote is spread, things return to normal, and the foot clan have an even bigger target on their head. That’s not a deal, that’s being a scapegoat. Dumb!

15 years ago, Splinter and the turtles were created in a lab by Sachs with mutagen containing a cell regenerating agent that could make him tons of money. This means that Splinter, a normal rat, was never exposed to the art of Ninjutsu, something so crucial to the framework of the origin story, that Ninja is in the name of the characters. Splinter being trained in or even being exposed to Ninjutsu was not-so cleverly replaced with Splinter conveniently finding a book in the sewer that explains exactly what Ninjutsu is, with detailed pictures. Splinter is now a self-taught Ninja master, that within 15 years, learned the art, and trained his sons to use it. That screams of a writers room stuck trying to figure out a way to write themselves out of a hole. “Screw it, let’s just say he found a book, ninjas can teach themselves right?” Dumb!

Every scene in the movie is seemingly held together with thinly veiled plot devices duct tape. How does Sachs find the turtles? The business card he gave April just so happens to be a tracking device. How do the turtles get from Sachs home to the tower the need to protect? The snow hill scene, just so happens to be a short cut directly to it. Oh no 3, of the Turtles are captured, and their blood is being drained. How are Raph, April and Vernon going to save them? The tanks they are in just so happen to also have a massive amount of adrenaline on tap to inject directly into the captive turtles. It sure was convenient there was so much adrenaline available because they sure did need it in the fight scene immediately following the injection. Let’s just discard the idea that 3 of the turtles just had what seemed like gallons of blood drained from them. I’m sure they were good to fight a giant robot ninja master. Dumb!

Unexplained explosions, physics defying iron girders, slow-moving gravity, bullet-proof soft underbellies, virtually unguarded captured mutant turtles, a paper-thin plot, Tony Shalhoub as Splinter, this movie has so…many…problems. Its unfocused, poorly executed, badly written, and painfully predictable. Everything bad about this movie can be summed up in one quote from the movie itself. “Drain them of all their blood, even if it kills them!” Yes folks, that’s what we are dealing with here, a primary villain, who aslo happens to be a scientist, that is unsure of what will happen if you drain a reptile of “all their blood”. Dumb!

With all of that said, I’m not going to say don’t go see it. Its fun, it clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and like the Transformers movies, it will have you smiling really big at several parts. The classic turtles references are few and far between, but they hit pretty hard and one thing they got right was the four turtles sense of family. That sense is only present for like 20-30 seconds of the movie but its there and kinda touching. TMNT’s flashy visuals and non-stop action will keep your attention, but beneath the shiny veneer is a cobbled together shell of a movie (pun intended). The worst part is that if it ends up making bunches of movie, which it will, these god-awful turtles designs will start to appear in the other forms of the characters. The Nick show might get all brooding and the TMNT will start to wear dumb-ass clothes, or the comics will abandon actual art and just let the 12 year olds that designed these giant hunks of disgusting start drawing the panels. On second thought, don’t go see this movie, only bad things could come of it.

Verdict: Don’t just don’t, I can’t even being to…no, just stop…wait…yeah, just go watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

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