Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

| August 17, 2014

I try to avoid Michael Bay’s attempts to profit through the rape and pillage of my childhood, but a morbid curiosity left me on the fence about seeing the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie until my brother convinced me that it wasn’t that bad and that he actually really enjoyed it.  I now assume this was some sort of prank to lure me into one of the worst movie experiences of my life, and since I’m not one to whine like a baby, I tip my hat to my prankster.  You got me good, Keith.

Now, fair warning, since TMNT has been in theaters for a few weeks already, I’m not going to avoid spoilers.  I assume anyone who wanted to see it has done so by now, but if you haven’t gotten the chance, stop reading now.  However, before you go see it, don’t go see it.  Please.  If you do go see it, then do what I did and buy a ticket for a different movie.  Every little bit that doesn’t go into Michael Bay’s pocket helps.  No need to thank me, just pay it forward.

As much as I enjoyed the Transformers animated series when I was a kid, along with things like Animorphs and Power Rangers, nothing will ever be as sacred to me as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The 80s animated series was phenomenal, and is still enjoyable to me as an adult, though I enjoy it for different reasons now.  The major problem with this version is that it doesn’t do anything to appeal to those of us who grew up watching the cartoon and the previous live action films.  The CGI turtles look ridiculous with their immense, clumsy girth and their luscious human lips.  The voice actors all adopt weird, cartoony voices; the worst of which is Donatello (Jeremy Howard), who sounds like a middle aged woman.  The four familiar turtle archetypes are present in the film.  Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but rude, and Michelangelo is a party dude.  However at any given moment in the film the turtles’ personalities overlap in nonsensical ways.  For example, when Leo, Donny, and Mike are in danger of being bled to death, they’re given a shot of adrenaline which brings them raging back to life.  At this point, Leonardo keeps going on and on about wanting to clean the dojo, which should have been a Michelangelo line as Leo should be able to keep his head clear no matter what.  With all of the turtles bleeding into each other, none of them had their own individuality.

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who I assume is just Michael Bay in a mask, the story sees the infamous ninja turtles face off against Shredder while he tries to unleash a deadly toxin on New York City.  Shredder’s plan is to have his lacky (William Fichtner) then sell an anti-toxin to make a bunch of money.  The cash grab seems to be a eerie parallel between the film’s story and its production.  It’s wholly disappointing to see a movie in 2014 intended for any audience that reduces its villains to such boring thinness.  Fichtner’s character is already insanely wealthy.  The foot clan are already feared by the citizens of New York.  So, Shredder’s really just unleashing toxin because that’s what villains do.

So much of this film makes no sense.  One of the oddest things is the geography and timeframe for when and where it takes place.  One scene will see April O’Neil (Megan Fox) reporting in New York City on a nice spring day, and then she’ll drive to Fichtner’s estate in the next scene and there will be a foot of snow on the ground.  At one point, the turtles are kidnapped and taken to a secret facility outside of the city (20 minutes away according to the dialogue), but the facility is in a mountain range.  There are mountains in upstate New York, but the U.S.S. Enterprise couldn’t make it in 20 minutes.  These bizarre inconsistencies seem to set up the filmmakers’ cherished snow sledding scene, which sees the turtles careening down a mountain on their backs in a haze of gunfire, trying to save April and her cameraman (Will Arnett) from flying off a cliff.  Aside from being completely implausible, this sequence is just as boring as the rest of the film.

Megan Fox has gotten a lot of criticism for her acting in this film.  While she is terrible, I am convinced it is the fault of the writers and director.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has one of the laziest scripts I’ve ever seen, and on countless occasions the audience will be shown something, and then have to sit through one of the characters in that scene explaining exactly what happened to a character who was not there.  The sheer volume of exposition about things that the audience has already seen or could easily be shown is staggering and infuriating.  Getting back to the April character for a second, she is written as a pathetic, weak, stupid, and dim-witted little girl.  The character is insulting to women, and all of the men lusting for her uncontrollably are insulting to men, so they really have their bases covered there.  By the way, one of the men lusting for April is Michelangelo, who gives off a very creepy vibe around her and is extremely disturbing to watch.

I know it’s sad to see the summer blockbuster season go, but just go see Guardians of the Galaxy for a third or fourth time and let this one slip into obscurity.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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