Friday, August 29, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

As a product of the 1980's I was very much in love with the Ninja Turtles as a kid. There have been three live action Ninja Turtles movies and one CGI animated movie over the years, but none of them have captured the fun of the cartoon that ran from 1987-1996. Nickelodeon Movies decided to try a reboot after the rise in popularity of their current animated TV show. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) was far from good, but I think it depicted the Turtles better than previous big screen appearances.
The city is in need of heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future looks grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) 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.
When the trailer for Ninja Turtles came out the internet exploded with irate protests that Michael Bay was directing, and thus would allegedly ruin, another well loved 80's cartoon show. Let's set the records straight; Michael Bay only produced Ninja Turtles. There wasn't nearly enough gratuitous action or explosions in this movie to be a Michael Bay movie. If you want to rage against a director for this movie, you must aim your fury at Jonathan Liebesman, who is known for other such atrocities as Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans.
Ninja Turtles has a long history of being Ninja Turtles. It's a pretty simple, if ridiculous, premise. You've got four mutant turtles who were taught Ninjutsu by a rat, and now they fight the evil Shredder and the Foot Clan. If you deviate too much from that, it won't be Ninja Turtles. There were some creative liberties taken in their original story which started to rub me the wrong way, but I could see why it was done; it gave the Turtles and April O'Neil a reason to work together early in the movie. Everything else remains pretty true to the source material; the Turtles looks really good and they were depicted well. They skateboard, cracks jokes, invent wacky gadgets, love pizza, use martial arts to fight bad guys, and say things like "cowabunga, dude."
The human characters were probably the worst part of the movie. Megan Fox is not a good actress; she's good at looking hot, but she doesn't really do that here. Will Arnett is good at being funny, and he wasn't. Shredder is technically a human character, but he's flat and has no personality. He's just a bad guy in a crazy bladed robot armor suit who is bad for the sake of being bad. Of course they had to make him huge and have a mechanical suit because Turtles are, like, eight feet tall or something and can knock anyone out easily. If the Turtles were more human size, Shredder's superfluous armor wouldn't have been necessary. It was pretty cool, but it made the character less interesting.
The end of story rips off end of The Amazing Spider-Man. They are so ridiculously similar you can't help but wonder if someone got sued. Overall the story is pretty weak, but it felt like the kind of story and plot you'd see in the cartoon show. It's simple, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it shows us the characters fighting one another. Really, what else do you want? Much-loved as the Turtles are, they aren't exactly complex characters. This movie felt like I was watching a long cartoon show. It felt more like the classic cartoon than the previous movies did. Was it good? No way! But I thought it was fun, and it made me want to eat a frozen pizza while sitting on the floor in front of the TV in my pajamas and watch Ninja Turtles like I did when I was six. That's got to say something about how this Ninja Turtles movie manages to tap into the nostalgia of the 1980's cartoon show, and for that I must give this movie props.
This rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is better than I expected it to be, but still not as good as I had hoped. The story is weak and seems to plagiarize other blockbusters toward the end, the human characters are terrible and uninteresting, the Turtles themselves were great and couldn't have been better, the special effects weren't bad, and the action scenes were pretty good. Overall it felt more like the classic 1980's cartoon than any of the previous big screen appearances, but still wasn't a great movie. It lies in the awkward realm of not being good enough to recommend but still not so bad as to avoid completely. Kids are going to enjoy it a lot, and if your kids do, this is worth getting a copy of. Otherwise it's a renter, and then only if you're already a fan of Ninja Turtles.

What 1980's cartoon would you like to see a good big screen adaptation of? Comment below and tell me about it!

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