Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

One of these days, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane and talk about all of the things of my childhood. It’ll be a swell time, I’m sure of it. For now, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review will have to do.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was like cocaine for my brother and I as children. We were addicted, constantly involving ourselves with the TV show, the video games, the merchandise. You name it, we’ve probably seen it, played it, or bought it.

There have been no adequate movies made of these four vigilantes yet and that’s saying something considering that among the easiest movies to pitch to big-money production companies, a plot involving trash-talking, teenage ninja turtles should be near the top of the list. Kids love this stuff. They eat it like candy. Surely if you can make movies about smurfs and food with feelings, you can make a movie about ninja turtles. Is it really that difficult? Is it that hard to have some decent CGI turtles perform some stunt choreography and develop some characters? Time has told us it’s a near impossible task. My brother and I would beg to differ. So with Michael Bay’s name attached to it, we had hope.

If this film had anything, it had Michael Bay and no matter how much you may claim to hate Michael Bay and wish him to an early grave, we all know you like Michael Bay deep, deep down because if you didn’t, he wouldn’t have the go-ahead to make movies. Michael Bay is currently the sixth highest grossing director of all time and by the time Transformers: Age of Extinction closes, could well pass Chris Columbus and Robert Zemeckis for fourth. Bad directors don’t make three films in the top 50 highest-grossing films of all time. Bad directors don’t hold title to two of the 19 films that have surpassed the $1 billion mark. That doesn’t happen. Michael Bay is one of the best out there at what he does: make things go boom, make it look cool, and attach a simple but inviting plot to it. It’s exactly what a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film needed.

However, Michael Bay was not given the director’s chair. He was only a producer. The task of directing this film was given to Jonathan Liebesman, a man whose filmography consists of more horror creations than amicable action box office successes. Battle: Los Angeles was decent, nothing more and while I haven’t seen Wrath of the Titans, Clash of the Titans was an atrocity to mankind and while it was not Liebesman that gave birth to it, Wrath of the Titans is the same material, so I doubt it could have been much better.

The point is, this guy is still a novice. He completed directing his third full-length film in 2008. He’s made two films since then. A franchise featuring one of the most popular kids’ toys in the history of children was given to a man who has made five movies. Is that a head-scratcher or what? Do you know who else was on the list to direct this? Brett Ratner! Only the Rush Hour films stand out as a success! What was the Nickelodeon corporation thinking when they purchased the rights to this franchise? How to torpedo it into the nearest mudpie?!

Given the director, the outcome doesn’t look too good, but it gets worse because someone thought giving Megan Fox the lead role of April O’Neil was a good idea. There are two things wrong with that: 1) Fox is not meant for lead roles. 2) Why does April O’Neil have the main role? I’m sorry but who cares about April O’ Neil? Is this movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Legend of April O’Neil?

Chris: Every trailer that they showed centered on the turtles. That was not the case. There were more scenes of her blabbering than action sequences. At points, it was slow-paced, making you wait forever for anything to happen. The ending gave you a hint that there may be another one. There shouldn’t be because this was very disappointing in its action and character development.

Tim: This film didn’t introduce a plot so much as a parade of unnecessary secondary characters and mundane plot points that try to foster the suspenseful reveal of our heroes except there is no suspense. Some movies benefit from the delayed intro, but this is not one of them. We’ve been waiting for this film for a long time and we want to get it going now. It’s almost as if the studio was worried about keeping the turtles on screen. They should have contacted the team from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. They knew what they were doing. This crew wanted to avoid bringing the turtles in front of the camera for as long as possible and the final curtain withdraw doesn’t even have the “wow” factor. No party horns sounded off or streamers fell. Just crickets. Lots and lots of crickets.

Chris: Some of the classic villains from the TV show weren’t included in this, which was a disappointment. Where’s the Hun? On the hero side, what about Casey Jones? Some of the dialogue during the fights scenes felt like it was taken from cheesy 70’s movies.

Tim: Witty banter threw more punches during engagements than the turtles themselves. What’s more is that it feels forced and unnatural. The distinct personalities of the turtles are never presented to us. Yes, Michelangelo is the funny one, Raphael is the rebel and Leonardo is the leader. Donatello is obviously the techy since he has all those gadgets on his head. Aside from that, there’s no true character evolution, compelling audiences to rely on their prior knowledge of the beloved TV show rather than the present material. It’s an unjust approach because while we all love the TV show, we didn’t come to the theaters to watch the TV show or be reminded of it, at least until we left the theater talking about how great it was and how bad this venture was. We came to watch the turtles grow into their own thing and finally get the big screen production they deserve because it’s been a long time coming. Not only did we not get that, but there wasn’t a pursuit to make this original aside from focusing the camera on Megan Fox’s O’Neil and while she looks good, every second she has in front of the camera, especially considering the sickly script, is nauseating. I didn’t come to be reminded of Megan Fox’s existence. I came to see teenage mutant ninja turtles. Again, doesn’t that sound exciting? Teenage mutant ninja turtles! That’s cool stuff. What’s not exciting, chiefly among the younger audiences that came to see this movie, is Megan Fox. They still think cooties exist and their hormones haven’t kicked in yet anyway. No matter what age you are, teenage mutant ninja turtles are cool. Why Liebesman couldn’t see that himself, I don’t know. Seems like that’s just something humans should like.

Chris: Some critics claim that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles delivers. The franchise children love is dismantled by horrible script writing, bad characters/costume design and disappointing action, including unrealistic scenes that will be mentioned in the spoiler’s edition.

Tim: The CGI is pretty bland, with Splinter’s being especially crude. I think I would have preferred a guy in an outfit for him, gosh. Some of the action sequences threw logic out the door, off the curb and into the sewer, which to be fair, is probably where this movie belongs.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Guardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(MaleficentRise of the Planet of the ApesTransporter 2Battle: Los AngelesSkyfall)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe TransporterSpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible Hulk)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Vantage PointThe Starving GamesYou’re NextThorFull Metal Jacket)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Billy MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and AliensSerendipity)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Planet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Clash of the TitansA Haunted House 2Open GraveAlien 3Dark Fury)

My score for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 43.

Perhaps doomed from the start, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is too predictable, ineffective and inefficient to be entertaining let alone bearable. Turtle fans will have to lay in endless restlessness for a while longer before they are content, or preferably, satisfied. Despite all this, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will probably make a decent chunk of change from box office revenue because of the young folk that don’t know a good movie from a bad one, which could sprout a sequel, and make all of true Turtle fandom curse the Hollywood gods.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

Chris: The majority of the problems with this movie involve the turtles, starting off with Donatello’s bowstaff. In the childhood version we love, it’s made of wood. Whether or not it is, that does not excuse the fact that this stick was pivoted in the ground and flipped a 2014 Hummer without breaking or cracking.

Raphael. My favorite turtle felt like he was doing everything as he put all his brothers on his shell.

Tim: There’s a line where he says, “my shell’s cracked, tape me up.” There was no tape shown nor any cracks,, not that it mattered because he then shell slammed a car over a cliff.

Chris: Of all the characters that could have defeated Shredder, April O’Neil delivers the finishing blow.

Tim: That’s pretty dumb. Don’t save a slice for me.

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