Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

Film Title

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Synopsis

I am old.

Director

Jonathan Liebesman

Cast

Megan Fox
Will Arnett
William Fichtner
The TMNT
Splinter
Shredder
Karai
Teal
Orange

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Michael Bay needs to be eaten by Mousers.

I’m aware that he didn’t direct this film; he is listed as a “Producer”, which I believe is Hollywood-speak for taking at least one turn during the obligatory “throwing darts at a target filled with plot cliches” brainstorming session. Michael probably threw the dart underhanded with his erect penis. That’s pure speculation, of course, and while it mitigates his responsibility somewhat due to its awesomeness, he is still the most prominent name associated with this film. In other words, it’s all his fault, even though it isn’t his fault. This is how modern America works!

Movies like this really bring things into perspective, though. I don’t own a TV, but once a week or so I see cable news at my parent’s house and get caught up on the current Two Minutes Hate. There are all sorts of things we’re supposed to be upset about: Barack Obama, Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson, Ukraine, and Barack Obama. The manufactured crises of the cable news sphere are always amusing, with the hyperbolic presentation and flashing colors trying (and failing) to distract one from the real issues that face this great nation. The middle class continues to erode, wages remain stagnant as Wall Street sits within a new bubble, part-time employment has become the new normal, and none of this is important, apparently. The real issues are ignored, submerged under the waves of a sea of bullshit. So it goes.

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If you need any more evidence of the ineffectiveness of contemporary media at informing the public, look no further than the reaction to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014). I know what you’re thinking: what reaction? Exactly. I haven’t seen Wolf Blitzer talking about this film. They haven’t devoted weeks on end to this movie like they did with that missing plane months ago. They haven’t done that because they don’t care about the real issues. If we had a media that actually cared more about the populace than about their ratings and the maintenance of the status quo, I wouldn’t have to write this review. You would already know the truth: this movie is shit!

Anyway, in case you were unaware: it finally happened. They remade Transformers and G.I. Joe, but those cartoons were a little bit before my time. I yawned and was uninterested, but I didn’t get too upset about them. The remakes upset me as movies, not as adaptations; like I said, I didn’t watch those cartoons as a kid. I did watch TMNT, though. I loved the Ninja Turtles. Now, they’ve remade them. Now, they’ve come for my cartoons. This is it, folks. Today, I understand the “Flames on Optimus” rants. Today, I am officially old.

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In ages past, a boy became a man, a girl became a woman, and a hermaphrodite became an adult via a rite of passage recognized by the community. Our contemporary society fails the youth of this country, for we have lost this. We have no great expectations bestowed upon us, and are left to wander the land as listless serfs. The only evidence of our advancement across the expanse of time is the cycle of remakes and rereleases. The pop culture of our youth is recycled and repurposed in the service of a new corporate vision. Everything is transformed until it adheres to the formula that has worked before and must work again. Our culture and our people cannot advance. In the throes of a dying empire, we close in on ourselves, trapped in nostalgic admiration of a past that never existed. In their attempts at placating the masses with memories of better times, our corporate masters only exacerbate the problems. They do nothing but remind us of the hellish current state of our country. They do nothing but destroy all that was built up by previous generations. They contribute nothing to the conversation, do nothing to improve our society, and take everything that we once held dear.

What I’m trying to say is that Megan Fox kicks Shredder in the face in this movie and no one on TV has objected. What the hell, guys? What is the matter with this country?

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So here we are. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part: Whatever. They had an animated movie a few years ago that I enjoyed quite a bit; I think the animation studio that made it went under or something, which is too bad. They had a pretty interesting animation style from what I recall. Anyway, I always wished that they would have followed up that animated one (which was just titled TMNT, I believe) with a sequel, but I guess it didn’t do well enough financially. The previous live action films started out well, then immediately devolved into Vanilla Ice with the second one and into God knows what with the third one. I’ve never watched the third one; perhaps I should finally do that someday. I mean, if people knew that there was a Ninja Turtles movie I haven’t watched, they might not take me seriously! I’ll be standing at the altar, ready to say “I do”, and then someone will object by shouting that I’ve never seen TMNT III. It’ll all be over, and I’ll forever be alone.

Anyway, it’s a quarter of a century or so after the first one, and we need to try again because Reasons. Cowabunga, etc. Oh God, what has happened to me? Why did I watch this? It’s just… it’s just so much.

Right from the start, the tone is all off. Now, there was always a difference between the cartoon and the comics. The cartoon (which was my introduction to the Ninja Turtles) was aimed directly at kids. The Foot Clan ninjas were actually robots there, which made murdering them by the hundreds in a children’s show acceptable. There was more emphasis on jokes and pizza-eating than in the comics. The comics always had a somewhat darker tone; I only read a few of the collected stories as a kid, but I did find them equally cool. The first movie and the first NES game blended these two tones together quite nicely. The newer cartoon from a decade ago did its own thing, and while I never got around to watching more than a few episodes, it still felt like the Ninja Turtles. The animated TMNT movie followed in a similar vein, but again, it still felt like an interesting adaptation of the concept.

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This new one is Hollywood. That might have been cool if they went full tilt with it and had gaudy CGI Mousers rampaging through the streets after the Technodrome burst out of the asphalt, but they didn’t. No, we’ve got a human Foot Clan headed up by Shredder and Karai, with Shredder donning a dumb robot suit that can remotely fly his thrown daggers back to him. The robot suit looks ridiculous, and really doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. It’s the only piece of super-tech in the film, and it’s completely out of place without the rest of the craziness from the old cartoon. Also, it looks like garbage.

We don’t even see the Turtles until 20 minutes into the movie. The film attempts to build suspense by showing them darting about through the shadows like it’s Batman Begins or something. This is completely undermined by the introduction, which depicts the Turtles and Splinter through still drawings. We already know there are Ninja Turtles in the movie. You already showed them one minute in. Did anybody involved actually watch the movie they released?

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I’m about to really go off the deep end. Brace yourselves.

Why is April O’Neil hot? For those of you unaware, April is a girl demented enough to hang out with a group of mutants in a sewer. She has had different incarnations over the years, but she has never been conventionally attractive. There is a reason for that. There is a method to the madness. She’s supposed to be weird. She’s not supposed to be well-adjusted. She’s definitely not supposed to be a girl that wears a ton of makeup. Here, though, she’s Hollywood hot. Here, she’s played by Megan Fox. At one point, her ass is made the subject of a joke. This moment confused me, and it took me several seconds to realize why: I’d never thought about April’s ass before. At the very least, I’d never thought about April’s ass being hot before. It was all very confusing. This movie takes a character from a cartoon I loved as a kid and makes her hot. Why must we do this? Why can’t we have nice things?

I’m not saying this because I’m looking down on people who found April O’Neil hot. I cannot judge. I mean, I’m not above admitting that I masturbated to Gadget from Rescue Rangers once. Maybe more than once. Let’s just say, “At least once.” But Gadget was never meant to be hot; she was a cartoon rodent who was a brilliant engineer first and a female second. April O’Neil wasn’t supposed to be hot either. It’s not part of her character. Imagine if they made a shitty CGI Rescue Rangers movie with Gadget wearing lipstick and fuck-me-pumps. It wouldn’t make any sense!

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Also, in this movie, April O’Neil saved the Turtles and Splinter from certain death when she was a kid. As the lab they were in burned down, she rescued them and released them into the sewers. Her dad was a scientist working with a guy named Sacks; when he realized that Sacks was working with Shredder, he torched the lab and was killed by Sacks in the process. Later on, April O’Neil backstabs Shredder’s robot suit, and in the finale lands the final kick to Shredder’s face that sends him falling to his not-quite-doom. Yes, as I said previously, April O’Neil kicks Shredder in the face. No, nobody involved with the writing of this movie knew what they were doing. Yes, this movie is shit.

As for the rest of the film, it’s your typical contemporary Hollywood product. We’ve got 300-style speed ramping, Teal & Orange everywhere, CGI galore, and a script that leaves various characters on the floor by the film’s end. More than that, the movie feels very small. It’s apparently meant as a leadup to future sequels, but unlike the animated TMNT, it’s not all that interesting in its own right. At least that movie had a different interpretation of April and friends. This one tries to do the old cartoon without the Technodrome, the theme song, or any of the hilariously ridiculous mutant and robot villains. It’s every bit as entertaining as it sounds.

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The movie does have a few funny lines and bits from the Turtles. April and her colleague make fun of the early rumors that the Turtles were going to be made into aliens at one point. Keyboard Cat makes a cameo appearance as well. And… that’s about it.

Anyway, join me a few years from now when they release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Foot. We’ll sit back and laugh at how the Teal & Orange color correction makes Rocksteady look like he’s out of some old 4 color CGA DOS game. We’ll remember how things once were. We’ll remember how things used to be. We’ll remember how they’re supposed to be.

And then Wolf Blitzer will arrive for his cameo and take April O’Neil from behind. So it goes.

About Vandel

I am an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake.