Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) review
By Rob Jefchak
The Ninja Turtles are a staple of comic book and cartoon fandom that have been around since the 1980’s. Their first live movie premiered in 1990 and there hasn't been a live action Turtles film since 1993 (and if you've seen Turtles 3 then you’ll understand why). Now the Turtles are back again in a reboot, helmed by “Wrath of the Titans” director and produced by “Transformers” director; Michael Bay (who for some bizarre reason more people blame than the ACTUAL director of the film). With a fresh new start, new computer looking Turtles designs and a slew of online controversy and concerns that have boiling since the movie was first announced, can the heroes in a half shell reclaim their fame from fans and film goers alike? Let’s find out.
April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a daring reporter and with her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), she is desperate to learn more about the ruthless Foot clan terrorizing New York; run by the mysterious Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). During her sleuthing, April comes across 4 vigilantes fighting against the Foot; only they happen to be super-sized, mutant ninja turtles. Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher); along with their rat master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub) are tied to April’s investigation. Now April and the 4 turtles must work together to uncover and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan with Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and save the city from this evil.
For a reboot on an old classic fandom, this new movie surprisingly does very little to “reinvent the wheel so to speak.” The basic plot for this film feels like it was ripped right out of the 80’s Turtles cartoon show and the Turtles themselves have the exact same personalities one would expect from past incarnations. In some ways, the Turtles are simplified and have the most basic of clichéd personality traits, on the other hand; the film presents the Turtles as if the audience already knows about what makes the Turtles tick. Showing the Turtles in this manner keeps them fresh yet old and familiar but also different. This new film plays it safe and acts like it’s trying to make a good enough reinvention to validate people are in fact interested in this new take.
Some of the biggest pros include the Turtles hilarious interactions with each other, the stellar action sequences (there’s a snowy mountain chase sequence that truly is a show stopper) and then we have April/Fox. Many fans kicked and screamed at their keyboards over her casting but after seeing the film, I feel Fox was not only justified in her performance but also intrigued with her character’s direction in the film. Fox plays April truthfully to her story sniffing roots but also makes her more involved, bolder in her decision to fight and help the Turtles rather than sit on the sidelines waiting for another rescue. The use of the Shredder was very interesting; there’s a lot of mystery about him though you see plenty of his CGI armor kicking the crap out of the Turtles.
Unfortunately, Shredder’s action scenes are the only things worth remembering; the film’s main villain he hardly gets any development or recognition considering his previous appearances in films. The Turtles personalities also seem a tad rushed, relying too much on fans familiarity with their personalities rather than developing them more intimately like the original live film did. Admittedly, the Turtles new designs take some getting used to and are far from kid friendly. Overall, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a decent reboot that proves all the horrible hype surrounding it didn't prove accurate. The humor is fun and plentiful, the action is stunning and impressive and Fox turned out to be a rather commendable choice for April O’Neil. The villains and story may feel flat and way too familiar to be fresh, but there’s definitely enough pizza power and Turtle action to entertain people and breathe new life into an old franchise.
I give “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” 2 ½ stars out of 4 stars.