Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens this weekend but unless you are a masochist, it’s probably better to stay at home, watch the 1990 film and forget what may be the worst Michael Bay film of all time (and that’s really saying something)…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
For the past couple of years, lifelong fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been cringing at the prospects of what Michael Bay would do with the decades old franchise that once ruled morning cartoons with pixieish hi-jinks and a whiff of pepperoni in the air at all times. Like the other classic cartoons of years earlier like G.I. Joe and the Transformers, the Turtles would battle a new villain each week and by the end of the 30 minutes or your cup of chocolate milk, the bad guys would be defeated. Even the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action film from 1990 was a fun romp and daring attempt to bring the comic book turned cartoon characters to life on the big screen. The movie was treated like a serious action comedy and you know what? It worked.
Fast forward to 2014 and with Paramount recently purchasing the rights to the Turtle franchise, they promptly handed it over to Bay, who already had his mitts dirty from handling four separate incarnations of the Transformers films. While commercially those movies were a rousing success, critically every time Shia LaBeouf appeared on screen a little part of males 25-40, who grew up watching Transformers cartoons, hearts died ever so slightly. So you can only imagine what Bay and his team at Platinum Dunes along with director Jonathan Liebesman managed to do with the Turtles, which were already a tough sell considering the gritty roots the characters had in the comic books and the over the top adolescence displayed in the cartoons and subsequent movies.
The new movie starts Megan Fox in the title role playing ace reporter April O’Neil, who begins the film as an on camera lifestyle personality doing jumping jacks on TV in the middle of Times Square, but deep down inside she wants to break the big new stories like digging into the gang of evil doers haunting New York right now known as the Foot Clan. The Foot Clan report to their evil master Shredder (who only goes by Shredder in this movie, no actual name), who is in cahoots with a vile businessman named Eric Sacks (played by William Fichter) and they have a plan to take over the city (of course they do) but the problem is the plot is so convoluted and stupid, by the time the origin story is revealed, I stopped caring 20 minutes earlier.
April O’Neil has been a centerpiece of the Turtles’ universe since the beginning, but somehow Bay and his team of writers felt compelled to deepen her relationship with the fearsome foursome even more than being their confidant and best friend. You see back when she as a kid, her father worked alongside Sacks developing a mutagen and they experimented with this serum on animals of all kinds — wanna guess which animals?!? So not only were they using the turtles and one rat as their test lab guinea pigs, but April treated them all as pets and fed them pizza as a snack each day. When a fire breaks out in the lab, which eventually claims her father’s life, April somehow manages to sneak back in (amidst a towering inferno mind you) and rescue the turtles and the rat — before she promptly dumps them down a sewer drain. If you’re already shaking your head at this plot, don’t worry I did the same thing.
The long story short (and I promise I’m not ruining anything), Sacks and his master Shredder need the mutagen so they can release a deadly toxin across New York City (from the top of Sacks tower cause no one will notice that) and the mutagen is the key to the antidote. The plan is to dose the city and then swoop in as saviors with the medicine to save everyone, but then demand money and power in return. Shredder will run the city and Eric Sacks will have all the money in the world (except it seems in the film he already has all the money in the world).
The story is so ludicrous that it boggles the imagination that anyone approved this script before taking it to film.
As far as the actual Turtles go, the film goes a good 20 minutes without really showing them, but once they appear all four stay for the rest of the movie. The wisecracks and quips are front and center as always with the Turtle movies, but unlike the 1990 original where you actually felt some emotional connection with the characters, the version in this film are so cartoonish there’s zero depth to them whatsoever. In many ways, this reboot is really a badly done remake from that 1990 film with many of the same characterizations for the Turtles, but the difference is the people behind the 2014 version fail miserably when trying to make these bad asses anything more than punch line fodder with the occasional ninja kick. There’s even a fart joke thrown in at one point because why the hell not?
And then there’s Shredder — or should I say Transformers robot part five — because the outfit they put on this guy is so CGI’d that you forget it’s supposed to even be a human. Shredder was supposed to be a master martial artist and gang leader, not the Terminator with knives. While you briefly see him out of the armor in the beginning of the film, he spends the rest of the time dressed from head to toe in ginzu with some of the most ridiculous special effects to make him appear to be the best bad guy ever. Instead, the costume is laughable and the effects are obviously done to work best in 3D (which I did not see this film).
Even Will Arnett, who is typically a pretty solid comedic actor, failed to deliver any kind of lines that ended up being funny and instead he spent the entire film staring at Megan Fox’s ass and competing with Michaelangelo for most creepy way to hit on your co-star. And the rest of the cast from William Fichter (who is actually an actor I really enjoy) to Whoopi Goldberg are just not in sync with whatever it is this film is trying to say. Admittedly, I like Megan Fox and believe she could fulfill some better roles than the ones she’s landed in so many movies, but the most positive thing I can say about her part in this film is that she’s not the worst thing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This franchise deserved to be so much better than this, but the film was so bad that at one point I actually contemplated getting up and leaving the theater.
This film was just another example of a big budget Hollywood remake that could have been handled a thousand different ways and all of them would probably be better than the steaming pile of dung that ended up in theaters right now. Michael Bay has a tendency to take these great, childhood franchises, tearing them down and then decides he can build a better machine. The framework remains the same (huge robots from outer space, mutant turtles who happen to be ninjas) but the rest of a vague recreation from that used to be a sterling original.
I wish there was something positive I could say about this latest incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but alas there’s nothing there. This is a vapid waste of time and be glad that I took the bullet for 90 minutes on opening night to hopefully save you $10 or $20 this weekend.