Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
★ / ★★★★
There is a rising crime organization named the Foot Clan, led by the enigmatic Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). April O’Neil (Megan Fox) wishes to be taken as a serious journalist so she recognizes that covering the group’s crime is her ticket to achieving her career goal. She gets more than what she bargains for, however, when four six-foot genetically mutated turtles that know martial arts (voices of Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Johnny Knoxville) enter the picture—vigilantes that have been living in the sewers, along with their father, Master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), a mutant rat, for years.
Just about everything in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” directed by Jonathan Liebesman, is a severe miscalculation. First and foremost, it must work from a visual standpoint because the target audience covers children, pre-teens, and young teenagers. This picture overdoses on CGI—the kind that looks cheap and fake, especially when debris are falling from buildings on the edge of falling over and characters are in danger of falling off a precipice. It leaves nothing to the imagination so we are subjected to a very passive, brain-drain experience.
The turtles look like toads on steroids. There is nothing attractive about them. Although their surface personalities are shown, these do not match their look. As I observed their teratoid appearance, I wondered if they would appeal to children. I thought half of them would likely to get scared because these turtles are too muscular, grimy-looking, their eyes very reptilian, glassy as opposed to friendly, relatable or personable. If I were a kid and this picture happened to be my first exposure to these characters, I would not remember them fondly in my twenties.
Fox gets a lot of negative criticism for being bland, relying on her beauty to carry a film. While she does nothing ground-breaking here, she does what she can in portraying a journalist who aims to do more than just look pretty on television. What I saw in her here is potential—potential to create an April that is tough, resourceful, but still warm in the coming sequels. Now that Fox has played this character once, I hope she uses the movie as an opportunity to do something more, to surprise us.
The villains are a bore. Shredder, like our heroes, is overly designed. The metallic suit and weapons are just too much. This is the kind of super-Shredder I expect to see in a video game that not many people really buy, not in a feature film that reboots the story. As a result, the battle scenes look over-the-top and nonsensical, seemingly energetic but without a real emotional core—at least one that works. Shredder hopes to rule New York City, but then what? It is far too short-sighted; superhero movies nowadays tend to have more substance and gravity than what this one offers.
Based on the screenplay by Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a third-rate action picture and a fourth-rate superhero movie—and it should not have been given that three brains are behind this. These turtles may not be serious but what I remember most about them—from the cartoons and the ‘90s films—when I was a kid was a sense of fun, like I was the fifth turtle in the group. (I used to copy their martial arts moves.) There is no fun to be had here.