Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Review

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Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Image

Jonathan Liebesman’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is not a good movie. That said, it may not necessarily be for the reasons that you think. So much has been made of the drastic changes to the appearance of the Turtles, as well as the significant alterations to their origin story. In the grand scheme of the movie, however, these are relatively minor complaints. I really do dislike the way the Turtles look (don’t even get me started on how awful Splinter looks, it’s like they didn’t even bother to finish him), but in terms of character, the film actually does a decent job of capturing them.

As individuals, these are the Heroes in a Half Shell that I remember from my youth. They’re silly, irreverent, reckless, you know, teenagers. Michelangelo is the good-time guy, Raphael is brooding and angst filled, Donatello is the tech wiz, and Leonardo is the leader. One of the biggest problems is that there’s not nearly enough of them; you’re never given the chance to develop a legitimate emotional bond and the film relies too heavily on a preexisting familiarity. The script and story focuse so much on other elements that you barely spend any time with the Turtles, and every other element aside from them is terrible.

Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Image

The only time the changes to the story are an issue is when the script tries to smash the original details together with the new stuff. It’s like the script goes out of its way to say, here are the things you remember about the Turtles, but here is what we’re doing now, over explaining at every juncture. If they had just gone ahead with the narrative, everything would have been better. At a basic level, the plot is the same—Shredder and the Foot Clan are terrorizing New York City, and only these mutant reptiles can stop them—but the way they get there is drastically different, like linking driven, dogged reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) to their beginnings. More than anyone, April is the main character.

And the script is so incredibly lazy. The first half of “TMNT” is little more than the most obvious exposition you can possibly imagine. It’s like an illustration of everything you’re taught not to do in regards to writing. Of course, the new antagonist, business mogul Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), is going to have a press conference where he delivers key pieces of the backstory for no reason to a room full of reporters he has no business telling any of this to. And in true Bond villain form, at a pivotal moment he pauses to explain his plan in minute detail.

Splinter and Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Image

Everything that happens in “TMNT” is a total coincidence. All of the characters are, of course, connected, and this is the type of half-assed writing where if a character needs an item it’s right there next to them. Oh, you’re looking for car keys, they’re in the visor. You need to find something in a huge medical lab all you have to do is turn your head and exactly what you’re looking for is right there in arm’s reach. You need a button? It’s right there, labeled for your convenience.

I went into this movie with the mindset that they didn’t really make this for me. I’ve been a big Turtles fan since I was a kid, but produced by Nickelodeon, the intended audience is obvious, and it ain’t me. But during my screening, any time I had the thought, maybe it’s just me, all I had to do was turn to my right where a guy sat with his 10-year-old son. Especially during the first part, the kid was bored out of his mind, squirming, fidgeting, and at one point he even asked his dad when something was going to happen. And he wasn’t the only one. So it wasn’t just me. For large portions of the film, it fails to capture even its target audience. You can’t even justify this with the standard, “But it’s a kid’s movie,” because even kids know this is bad. And just because it’s aimed at kids, doesn’t mean it has to suck. “E.T.” was aimed at children, and that’s a pretty good movie.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Image

And once you finally get into a more action heavy part of the movie, the action sucks. Liebesman is most known for directing the mythological “Wrath of the Titans” and the alien invasion “Battle: Los Angeles,” and these sequences are an absolute a mess. They’re a jumble of lightning fast edits, unnecessarily swooping camera moves, and hand held shaky cam. For example, during a key fight on a rooftop, the camera soars around the building, occasionally zooming for a quick kick-punch-kick before jerking back until the characters are so small you can hardly tell who is who. It’s super frustrating, you want to watch this fight, you want to see the Turtles in action, but the way Liebesman films the action makes it damn near impossible.

“TMNT” wants to be gritty and real—hence the pseudo verite camera work—but it also wants to be cartoonish and fun, and it never figures out how to strike a balance between those two sides. There’s a single scene where they finally pull this off, and Paramount gave it away by releasing it as a preview clip—it happens in an elevator is all I’ll say. It’s like they ignored everything anyone wants to see, like they said, “Instead of Turtles, let’s give them a convoluted story and introduce a new villain that we won’t develop and completely ignore the bad guy everyone loves.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Image

While it can be fun to hang out with the title characters and listen to them banter, and even though I’m not a fan of the action, when it starts, at least it picks up the pace and moves you along. But there’s simply nothing to this movie. There’s no connection to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” it’s completely empty on all fronts. It’s unfortunate, because the potential is there and you see it shine through from time to time, but this is a totally forgettable movie.

Jonathan Liebesman (director)/Josh Appelbaum (writer)/Andre Nemec (writer)/Evan Daugherty (writer)
CAST: Megan Fox…April O’Neil
Will Arnett…Vernon Fenwick
William Fichtner…Eric Sacks
Alan Ritchson…Raphael
Noel Fisher…Michelangelo
Pete Ploszek…Leonardo
Johnny Knoxville…Leonardo (Voice)
Jeremy Howard…Donatello
Danny Woodburn…Splinter
Tony Shalhoub…Splinter (Voice)
Tohoru Masamune…Shredder


Buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on DVD

Author: Brent McKnight

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight
  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    Breaking my heart man! I will be seeing this tomorrow with my daughter who watched the original with me a few weeks ago, and while she enjoyed it she definitely had issues with the animatronic turtles (She’s not a cgi biased child who doesn’t know what came before though, as she truly enjoys “The Dark Crystal” on a regular basis, with or without me) so we’ll see what she thinks. She’s a fan of the last two shows though and liked the last movie a bit. she absolutely LOVED GoTG so that has set a high bar for this. Will elt you know my thought or maybe do my own review this weekend.

    • LSB

      Yea, I’ll be seeing it with my son tomorrow as well. He is a turtles fan so hopefully he won’t ask to leave or go to sleep, Hahaha.

  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    Saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I may write my own review, as to not sound like an ass or like I’m discounting Brent’s opinion. I definitely see where his issues are with the movie, but I took most of them as just clichéd movie moments. Aren’t the keys always in the dash in movies, or for that matter doesn’t everyone know how to hotwire a car? See what I mean? even if they didn’t do the keys in the dash, then you’d have Vern hotwiring the car, out of nowhere. Oh and I just found out that them being all connected is from the latest iteration of the comics actually, as well as a lil from the cartoon, so it’s not the script writers you want to blame. Hell both the cartoon and the new comic are going strong so that plot point didn’t seem to hurt readers.
    But It’s TMNT for goodness sakes a grain of salt, and a little suspension of belief are kind of needed going into something as ridiculous as this. Plus it seemed as if the movie was making fun of itself a few times as well, which made me enjoy it all the more. Anyway still a good review, as you weren’t trashing it for the sake of it not being like the original or like the cartoons.

    • http://www.thestrongestthereis.com/ Wil TsTi Johnson

      No thats okay Ded. Sound like an ass. this guy is crazy.

  • DeltaMatrix

    I saw this with my family, wife and two girls. This movie made me feel like a 14 year old boy again. I really enjoyed it. To my surprised my wife enjoyed it as well. We walked away the movie theater with three new TMNT fans. I really don’t know what the fussed was about. I don’t see a lot of the issue everyone is ranting about. This movie was a blast. I had fun. I know of many other family who had a good time as well. Give this movie a try and judge for yourself.

  • sin isfree

    Love the Movie. much better than the last Transformer

  • http://www.thestrongestthereis.com/ Wil TsTi Johnson

    After seeing the new film, I honestly don’t know why people have been complaining. The very first turtles movie is still the best “Movie” of the franchise but this movie was not bad. Also, this reviewer is insane. If seeing the turtles in the first 5 minutes is the film taking too long to introduce them, you are hooked on too much caffeine and easily bored.

    I think most “fans” need to actually go back and watch the old films to refresh themselves on what it really looked like. I love them, but they were awful after the 1st one. Extremely Corny, never used their weapons, shredder only really stood in the background through fight scenes, ninjas were basically dancing in the backgrounds.

    The new film was pretty intense. Had better Action than all the others. The turtles looking different and having different personalities was refreshing and reminiscent of the earlier black and white comics. To my dismay, that is where the similarity ends, but i know they will never give me a rated R turtles that embraces the early comic series, so i don’t get mad about it anymore.

    This was also the first movie where I saw Megan Fox and she didnt appear as a slimy sex monster for all the young kids to oggle for her body. She is attractive but its not excessive and Michaelangelo’s crush was well done.

    If they bring in DImension X as rumored in the second one, I will be happy. But before they do that, they need to finalize the graphics on splinter. He was by far the worst looking part of this film, which was sad because he also had the most kick ass fight scene. I would love to see some neutrinos or the triceratops men, if we start flipping dimensions.