I seriously believe that Michael Bay gets a hard on just from ruining the childhood of countless millennials. He has already tried to make a good Transformers movie four times and has failed every single time. Well, folks, he’s at it again. This is the fourth, count it, fourth Michael Bay production we’ve received this year. Don’t believe me? There was Transformers 4, which he directed, and if you don’t know my thoughts on that one, read my review by clicking the link. Bay also served as a producer on The Purge 2 as well as the new television series The Last Ship. I have to admit that this Ninja Turtles adaptation is not a total train wreck. It isn’t that good either.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was plagued from the beginning. Starting with a story involving the turtles being aliens from a turtle inhabited planet (which enraged fans of these classic characters, of course), the movie finally diverted back to a simply similar story. Working as a reimagining of the Ninja Turtles, the Jonathon Liebesman directed reboot tells the story of April O’Neil, a news reporter searching for a good story when she comes across the story of her career. A group of four turtles, each standing over six feet tall as well as talking and wielding knives and swords. Oh, and they are also ninjas. And they’re teenagers. And they must stop the Foot Clan. And Shredder is there too. Do I really need to explain all this?
This is basically the same movie and the same story we’ve seen before. The movie starts out with a pretty impressive opening sequence that plays as an animated intro to the characters set to some pretty good music. Then the real plot kicks in and we finally meet the turtles and they meet their ultimate foe. Dun dun dun. Much like in the Superman movies (except for Man of Steel) where Superman seems to always be fighting Lex Luthor, our reptilian protagonists here must face off against the evil Shredder, the age old villain and arch nemesis of the turtles. Unlike the Superman/Lex Luthor rivalry though, this one doesn’t feel quite as tired. We don’t get that many Ninja Turtles movies, so when they face off against Shredder here, it doesn’t feel as rehashed as some may think. However, it does feel totally stupid.
The stupidity is derived from the script. It’s an awful one. I will say that I kind of liked what they did with April’s relationship with the turtles and how she knows who they are, but apart from that little plot device there isn’t one single thing in this script or story that stands out as great or classic. Many critics have compared the story to that of The Amazing Spider-Man and rightly so. There are similarities; in fact, the entire final act is almost exactly the same. There is even a scene so similar that I swear they stole the scene from Sony in hopes they wouldn’t find out. The dialogue is terrible. At one point Shredder actually says, “Tonight I will have Turtle Soup.” I laughed out loud. It was so bad.
And who better to deliver crappy dialogue straight from the Generic Dialogue Press than Miss No Personality herself, Megan Fox. I swear she’s worse than Kristen Stewart. She stands around like a cardboard cutout in all of her movies. Here, she actually has things to do, and she does them. She does not do them well. She is not April O’Neill. The only reason she is in this movie and gets the financial benefit from it is because she blew Michael Bay. There. Said it. But it isn’t just her! William Fichtner plays the standard movie baddie who is just so stupid and dark and unfitting for this movie. Even Will Arnett, who I loved in the series Arrested Development and as the voice of Batman in The Lego Movie, is just bland. I will admit that as O’Neil’s sort-of-right-hand-man, Arnett is a pretty solid choice as he looks the part and fits the personality. And I could tell that he was having fun in the role. But it wasn’t fun for me.
Here is the saving grace if the movie has one at all: the turtles. Surprisingly, the turtles didn’t come off as utterly despicable presences that have been Michael Bay-ified. The movie, for the most part, actually gets them right. Scenes involving the turtles interacting were pretty fun to watch, especially a scene in the third act where they are all huddled together for a lengthy elevator ride. What happens in it is actually pretty funny and it was the first time that the movie actually got the essence of the turtles completely right. Another cool scene was one where the turtles are descending down snowy terrain. It was fun to watch and it worked fairly well. Besides those scenes, there’s some fun to be had, but nothing hilarious. The voice cast is pretty solid actually. Alan Ritchson is harsh as Raphael, the red masked wanna-be leader. Jeremy Howard’s Donatello, the purple masked sophisticated turtle, was fine. I still think that Johnny Knoxville was severely miscast as Leonardo, the blue masked leader of the group, and that he would have been better as Michelangelo, the orange masked goofball of the group. That being said, Noel Fisher did good comedic work as Michelangelo and he provided some much needed chuckles in this fairly serious movie.
Which is another problem. This movie is so serious. Apart from the turtles, everyone is concerned with taking over the world and being in charge and being successful and it all comes off as being a bit too dark and serious for its own good. There is too much shaky cam in the movie, even though some of the fight scenes were cool to watch. Shredder lookes like the love child of Megatron and Edward Scissorhands, which is far from a compliment. The CGI for Master Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub, yes Monk himself) looks atrocious. Also, there’s a single mid credits scene involving an embarrassingly stupid Victoria’s Secret product placement that felt so out of place and it was clearly put there by Michael Bay’s demanding.
It blows my mind that so many kids are loving this movie. Much like typical Michael Bay, there is too much talking, and the talking is always boring. I think the turtles actually look pretty cool, but I can see kids being horrified by them. They actually look mutated. Maybe the movie was going for the dark and gritty realism thing. I don’t know. What I do know is, for a movie entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it doesn’t feature the turtles enough and it has far too much dark, serious content than it knows what to do with.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Tony Shalhoub
Writers: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daughtery
Director: Jonathon Liebesman