‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is big and dumb, not so fun

by Trevan McGee on August 8, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

The heroes in a half shell return after a long live-action hiatus with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new live-action, franchise building block from Nickelodeon, director Jonathan Liebesman and a group of producers that include Michael Bay. A lot has been made of Bay’s involvement in the film, from early rumors that the turtles’ origin story would be changed to make them aliens, to their character design that now includes nostrils and a significant height increase. But not enough has been made of Libesman’s pedigree that includes the punctuation-challenged Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans – a film that has the distinction of being the worse of the two Titans films.

Plucky reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) has higher journalistic ambitions than the current fluff that she and her cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) are tasked with making. One night she stumbles upon a vigilante that dismantles members of The Foot Clan, a faceless group of heavily armed terrorists that hold New York hostage, despite never being seen or heard. Those vigilantes end up be being the turtles of note. They end up bringing her to their lair and explaining their origin, right before being abducted and the villains’ plot is revealed  as a high-tech, chemical weapons-based ransom of the entire city.

There are plenty of moments that don’t make sense, even if the story is about a group of turtles named after renaissance painters, trained in the art of ninjutsu. How does Splinter know who Shredder is? How did April O’Neil happen to be the same little girl responsible for the turtles’ survival and yet totally forget about it? Why does a billionaire want to extort more money from the U.S. government, when his plan involves orchestrating an outbreak from his downtown headquarters? Wouldn’t that look suspicious?

Even if you ignore the plot holes big enough to drive the Turtle Van through, and you shouldn’t because lazy writing is lazy writing, the resultant movie is just bland. Like a lot reboots, it mistakes nostalgia for character. There are plenty of nods to the original cartoon, 1990 live-action film and even the arcade game, but that doesn’t give the film any added personality. The turtles’ personalities don’t have a lot of personality, just ‘tude. It’s as if someone wrote them from a checklist – Leonardo’s the leader, Raphael has an attitude, Donatello is a tech genius and Michelangelo? He’s a party dude.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does manage to save itself from being a total disaster thanks in large part to a couple of solid action sequences, including a showdown in the sewer and the snowy chase sequence seen in the trailer. Both scenes, particularly the second one, are incredibly paced and action-packed. There is also some great fight choreography on-hand throughout the movie, especially during the escape and final showdown, granted much of it looks like a video game, but the character animation is all motion-captured, and Liebesman stages these sequence well.

Some movies this summer and every summer manage to rise above some silly source material to be something that is genuinely compelling or at the very least interesting. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not one of them.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Ayush Chandra August 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Now after seeing a couple of posts like this on TMNT, i am sure that it is not a worth of watch film.

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