Friday, August 8, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

My family got a surprise invitation from our movie theater - for a free screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A lot of people came, and we where all given Turtle 3D Glasses, with different colors. Those glasses simply DID NOT fit. I had to get regular glasses for my entire family. Still, they made it a fun event -- giving away a free poster to us.

The movie was good. Not great, not spectacular - but it also wasn't the trainwreck I was expecting. I came into this movie with a lot of mixed feelings. The new look of the turtles jarred me, and my antipathy towards Megan Fox, playing the usual "down to earth" April O'Neil, was by Fox's mere presence, altered the character in a negative way. I kept saying that no amount of special effects where going to make me believe she was a news reporter.

While I came with a lot of negativity, I actually went into the theater excited and hopeful that they might manage to do the Turtles justice. I knew it wasn't going to be like the Jim Henson forged puppets of 1990 - but maybe this new version would do well enough. I was quite looking forward to the film at this point, and was rooting for it to succeed.

They actually did manage to get the look of the Turtles right. Once you see them in motion, they appear much more believable. Their appearance seems to come strait from Michael Ziulli's TMNT story "Soul's Winter" (shown above)- with over-sized shells, and bulging musculature - this style attempted to go more realistic (as realistic as walking, talking Turtles CAN be), and it should be considered a success; a stylized success - but a success nonetheless. Each Turtle comes adorned with detail all over their body and costume.

My favorite turned out to be Raphael - as he practically had masking tape on his shell, which at one point in the film fractures. His attitude, speech, and method of fighting all seemed to come right from the comics.

Leonardo sports a slight samurai-style, leading the team, and fighting with his twin katanas. While his character is straight-laced, his personality is not dull. I wish there was more indication of him fighting with Raph - but by the end of the movie they make a solid connection together as brothers.

Michelangelo had the most relaxed attitude of the Turtles, but came across as rather creepy (to me, at least), as he kept making inappropriate sexual jokes towards April. The audience seemed to enjoy it, but it seems out of place in a film seen by young children.

Donatello's style, though, is the one that disappoints me the most. Not only do they layer him in gadgets, gear, and computers - but they also include glasses. Add to that a squeaky voice, it seemed like they where trying to tell us, at every available opportunity, that Donnie is a nerd. A real big nerd! My sister found it charming -- but I rather resented it.

Splinter turned out quite well, being voiced by Tony Shalhoub. The voice was good -- but it sounded so much like actor Jeffrey Combs, that I was convinced it was him until I saw the actual credits. The character came across as charming and caring towards the Turtles - and his interaction with April was nicely done.

As for April.... I already told you I didn't appreciate Megan Fox being cast in this part - and while she did a passable job in the film, it didn't change my opinion of her as an actor. She was more or less scatter-brained during the film -- even when she was actually onto something, she went about it in such a bad manner that she ended up making a mess of her life. I actually liked the backstory, connecting her with the Turtles -- but beyond that, I still felt like it was a passable, if not mediocre performance. Not that Michael Bay and crew where giving her golden material to begin with...

Ads for this film completely mislead people into thinking that industrialist Eric Sax, in the film, was the Shedder. Thankfully that was not the case -- as the Shedder was more or less a faceless (but, thankfully, Japanese) figurehead and dark mastermind of the film. What bothered me, though, was the motivation the Shredder had, for wanting to expose New York to a mutagen bomb. It was a paper-thin plot, which could have been developed further with some added history, or dialogue - but it ultimately was a "because we're evil" kind of plot, which does a great disservice to such a fantastic character. His armor was well realized - and his fighting style thankfully involved martial arts, instead of him just being some kind of transformer.

Karai, Shredder's second in command, managed to give the Foot Clan some Ninja Credibility, even though they where ultimately gun-toting thugs. Seeing the Turtles face against actual Ninjas would have been a lot more fun, though.

Being done by Michael Bay and team, I have to say this film sort of falls in the same category his Transformer films are in -- they are fun, but ultimately forgettable. I would recommend this movie for any young kids (any inappropriate jokes would go over their heads), and adults will probably enjoy it as well. Even TMNT fans should try it - they should at least know what the buzz was about. Its a fun movie - but nothing beyond that.

I mean, come on - it could have been worse. They could have been aliens.

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