Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


From Rotten Tomatoes:

Movie Info

The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder's diabolical plan. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Characters Created by PETER LAIRD and KEVIN EASTMAN with a Screenplay by JOSH APPELBAUM & ANDRÉ NEMEC and EVAN DAUGHERTY, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is produced by MICHAEL BAY (director and executive producer of the blockbuster Transformers franchise), Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Galen Walker, Scott Mednick and Ian Bryce, and directed by JONATHAN LIEBESMAN (Wrath of the Titans).

These are not the Turtles you're thinking of. Not even close...

What this human with no half shell thinks. (Possible SPOILERS. DUH!... Skip to the end if you haven't seen it yet)

Okay, let's get this started with the fact that I loved TMNT growing up and I'm talking about the original animation series. The comic books on the other hand I had little to no exposure at all to the comic books which from my reading up on it online was much darker than the original animation series. Now this is my guess but the Turtles that we all know and love and basically grew up with are the ones from the animation series that ran from the late 80's to the late 90's, as well as the horrible but lovable live action movies that was made during that period. So I'm going to compare this new offering from Micheal Bay and friends with those and maybe even the 3D animation reboot that was released in 2007.

These are still not the ones you're thinking of. It was fun waaaaaay back when you were a kid.

So let's begin. This one's mainly about April O'Neil who is a struggling TV reporter trying to make a name for herself at her station. She's tired of doing the fluff and feel good pieces and wants to be taken seriously. And to this she's latched on to the story of the Foot Clan, a mysterious group of thugs that's been harassing her city of late. Her leads keep taking her back to the docks where their last activity was reported and on one evening while trying to satisfy her curiosity she spots them trying to rob the contents of a few containers. But something different starts to happen, the Foot Clan are being taken down one by one by something that moves unseen in the dark. This thing is fast and quiet and superhuman strong. So strong a container flies through the air. This is not something I remember the Turtles being able to do. So now they've got superhuman strength?

Not too sure if these are close to the ones you're looking for...

Anyway, this piques her interest and without anything remotely close to facts to back it up she brings it up to her boss. This of course makes her look unprofessional and foolish. It doesn't deter her though but makes her more determined. The Foot Clan on the other hand are themselves determined to stop whomever is interrupting their plans and is instructed by their leader Shredder to do whatever it takes to capture them. This, for whatever reason, means taking an entire subway station hostage while challenging the Turtles to save the hostages. Of course the Turtles show up and of course April is conveniently nearby to sneak into the station and is herself taken hostage. The Turtles do their ninja thing and leaves as silently as they came with the entire Foot Clan team tied up by the wall. Unfortunately not as stealthily as they hoped since a few of the hostages including April spot them going up a refuse chute to make their escape. So of course no one else but April is curious about these unseen heroes and she follows their trail all the way up to a rooftop where she finds them celebrating. Really? Celebrating on a rooftop just above the actual crime scene? I guess teenagers will be teenagers even if they're well trained mutant ninjas.

YAY! A mutagen to turn things into humanoid mutants! What every good superhero movie needs. Maybe. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

So this is where April gets to meet Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello and the first time you as the audience gets to see what the Turtles look like. They do not look like the turtles from anything in the past. These Turtles are sort of well grittier, bulkier, hulk-like and sort of disgusting to look at, not at all like the lovable characters that most of us grew up with. But that's okay in a way, it's in keeping with the general feel of the movie which has a darker more adult look and feel, I guess. So let's just take it as it is. Sort of like the way it happened with Batman when Nolan took it on with his reboot.

Basically April O'Neil junior reporter followed them up a fire escape to find them. Not very ninja of them... ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

Anyway, the Turtles freak out and make threats about keeping this secret and if she doesn't they'll track her down and stuff. Donatello, takes her smartphone and wipes it clean of pictures and whatever else she has on them and they make their escape. Except that they return her smartphone back to her and of course she takes pictures of their escape. Now how did they not guess that she'd do that? Teenagers...

First time they're face to face and look at those nostrils! ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

This of course gives her more ammo to pursue her story of the Foot Clan and now the Turtles and she begins to remember something from her past. Apparently her father was a scientist and was working with turtles and rat as test subjects. These test subjects just happened to have the names Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo and the rat, Splinter. She even has homemade videos of the time she hung out in the lab with her dad and even taking care of them. Now, isn't that nice, a laboratory filled with chemicals working with live animals that allows a little girl to run around freely taking videos. That's completely normal.

And this is what Donatello looks like without that piece of cloth. Sort of ugly isn't he? ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

Back to the Turtles. They get back to the sewers and are in high spirits. Mikey is higher than the rest because he has it in his head that April is hot for him. But things don't stay that way for long because what they did didn't get the blessings from their father, Splnter. So they try to sneak in but to no avail. They are discovered and when they won't admit what they did are put through an endurance test until they break and spill the beans. Break they do and Splinter is quite mad and tells them that they need to bring April to him.

Cool shot of the Turtles in their very, very cramped sewer hideout. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

So April is brought to the sewers and we all find out that April saved them all when the laboratory they were in caught fire and she released them into the sewers. And it is in the sewers conveniently that the things they were testing on the turtles and Splinter took effect. Before this all you got a glimpse of was one of the turtles head butting their aquarium till it cracks. So in the sewers the mutagen takes effect and for whatever reason Splinter ages and grows faster than the others and takes it upon himself to be their father. Being a father he worries about them and the way they look so he decides to prepare them for their future full of insults about the way they look by teaching them the art of Ninjutsu that he teaches himself from a book he discovers in the sewers. And in less than a dozen years he does master it and in the following years trains the turtles. Oh yeah, you get to see the Turtles grow up and well cute isn't the word I'd use to describe them.

When April meets Splinter for the first time and was told that she saved their lives. Now she's a reporter that's not taken seriously and they're huge mutant turtles with fat noses. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

Anyway, prior to all this happening and before April visits the sewers for the first time she visits her father's employer a Mr, Eric Sachs whom she asks about the experiment involving the turtles. Sachs tells her all about it and includes a little story about a Japanese village long ago that thwarted and evil Lord. This story ties in to Shredder. If you haven't figured it out yet or guessed, this man is either the Shredder or working with him. The mutagen by the way is supposed to be an amazing cure-all. Not a chemical that will make something mutant. So whatever happened to the Turtles and Splinter was something special and completely unexpected. Amazing, isn't it?

This is Shredder. He looks like a Predator in Samurai armor covered very liberally with pointy things. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

So during that meeting with Sachs, April is given his card which turns out to be a tracker. The foot clan raid their home and take Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello hostage. They leave Raphael whom they think is dead. Splinter gets into a fight with Shredder who looks like a Predator dipped in chrome and someone stuck as many knives, blades and swords on him as will possibly fit on his arms. Also the blades, knives and daggers can fly out and return to him when he wants them too. Wasn't too sure whether this was cool or not when I saw it.

These guys are huge but apparently fit just fine in a standard elevator. Also the elevator apparently has a ledge or maybe footstools in the back. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

Now why did they take the Turtles hostage? Well, remember the laboratory they were in? Well that was torched by April's dad when he found out what Sachs was really doing. And being the professional laboratory that it was there were no other records of the experiment kept anywhere else. Not even by an evil industrialist who by right should be more careful of things like this and kept a hidden back-up somewhere without April's dads knowledge. So what was Sachs's and his master Shredder's plans? To unleash a deadly disease on the city of New York, let thousands die and then miraculously announce that his company has the cure for it. Thus making a tonne of money and making not only New York but other cities and eventually countries their client. But the cure for this deadly disease was lost in the laboratory until now, with the discovery of the Turtles. The Turtles carry the cure in their blood. So Sachs and Shredder need all the blood they can get from them.

So drain their blood they do and it's up to April and Raphael to save them with the help of Vernon her ex-cameraman and the only one who supported her and believed her in order for her to date him. Also the mutagen in their blood can apparently heal Splinter's wounds from the beating he got from Shredder.

Here the turtles do a cliched scene that was made famous by Harrison Ford playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Sort of. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

Anyway, from this point on it's non-stop action. Lots of things happen. The Turtles that were taken hostage and blood drained escape their enclosure by overdosing on adrenalin. The escape the facility to chase after Sachs and Shredder to stop them from releasing the disease. In between they discover, while being shot at, that they are also bullet proof. Another superpower that they didn't have in previous movies or series. The final fight happens on top of Sachs tower, sort of like in the first Amazing Spiderman. And in the end through some miracle as they plummet to the ground when the Turtles are trapped in a falling communications tower they manage to escape unseen by anyone. Shredder of course is dead after he's kicked by April while he was hanging on the collapsing tower. They go back to the sewers with the mutagen, which as I remembered it fell with Shredder and was destroyed, and heal Splinter. Maybe they had a spare one lying around. I can't remember. And that's it. The main points.

So what do I think of this reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? 

This is the epic final battle which wasn't really epic and much too short. ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

As I probably mentioned somewhere up there, I grew up watching the original animation series, the one with KRANG, Rocksteady and Bebop. It was fun, silly and entertaining and chock full of pop-culture references of that era. This new one is nothing like that. It is to me, a completely different beast altogether. The movie is much darker, grittier, more adult and not as humorous or silly. It's basically for a completely different audience than the one that grew up with it. Now even saying that, I'm not saying it's a bad movie.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of my childhood was good because it was enjoyed during my childhood. It was for a different time. This movie is for a different crowd. For those that are not holding on to tightly to that memory. In short it's different. They do try to recapture some moments, like for example when Donnie is allowed to say 'Cowabunga'. No one these days says 'Cowabunga', it's only heard probably by a handful of nerds, surfers, Bart Simpson and the Ninja Turtles, and I'm not even sure the most recent run of the Ninja Turtles animation even says it.

Yeah, the Turtles can now fly too? And without an entire city down there noticing them falling towards them. Now that's a ninja!! ©Paramount ©Nickelodeon

This movie is trying it's very hardest to appeal to a new generation of movie goers while trying to please the hardcore fans of the franchise. Does it impress the new generation? Maybe. I can't be certain because I can't really erase my memories to enjoy it with fresh eyes and an open mind. Did I enjoy it? It has it's moments. To me it's more of a full on action movie that just so happens to have somewhat similar characters to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that I love. The humour and silliness that was ever present in the original animation series pops up every now and again but it seems forced and unnatural. It seems to not fit perfectly. It's entertaining but only a little bit of fun is what I'm saying I guess.

So the advice her, if you haven't already seen it but still curious about it, is to try to watch it without trying to compare it to whatever came before it. This is a completely new mutant. And frankly speaking it isn't a complete disappointment. It's just different. And if you think it's going to be bad then you should know that it could have been worse. When I was looking around the "WWW" looking up about the movie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I read about how the screenwriters wanted to originally have the Turtles as an Alien species and not mutants. In other words the Ninja Turtles are Space Turtles, no mutagen to turn them from cute little turtles to teenage heroes, just space turtles that were left on earth for whatever reason with their alien rat mentor. Now that would have been really bad.

So I personally give this reboot of my childhood memories a decent 3 out of 5.


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