“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Review

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Posted August 8, 2014 by Randy Z. Ochoa in Movies

They’re teenagers. They’re mutants. They’re ninjas. They’re turtles. They’re back in a summer blockbuster that was surprisingly okay.

Going into this movie the biggest worry was Michael Bay’s name. Every piece of advertisement and talk had his name big in lights despite the film being directed by Jonathan Liebesman. There are still explosions, lens flares, and the gratuitous Megan Fox butt shot, but all of that Michael Bay-ness is almost a non-issue. What Liebesman delivers is something that is fun to watch, and leaves you thinking about family.

The most important thing about any TMNT movie is the relationship between Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael. This movie absolutely nails that aspect of the story. Through out the movie we see them coming into conflict with each other, but there is always overturned by the understanding to have each other’s backs in any situation. Every action scene, and a couple showing how they traverse the sewers, show how in sync they are with each other. They know each other’s moves, and faults, and are always there to fill in the gap. There’s big emotional pay off near the end of the film where they uses stuff that brought them together as children and use it in a new way to solve their problems.

The individual turtles themselves are also a major improvement visually and personally than just about any previous incarnation. There are some issues at times with their nostrils and lips moving too far into uncanny valley territory, but those aspects are somewhat easy to forget about once the movie really gets going. There is a particular scene of the them as children where they look like bald green toddlers, but it’s only for a minute so it doesn’t create an issue. For every cartoon, or comic book, or video game that came before, we had only the colors of their masks or their voices to tell them apart. This movie introduces an extra aspect to things that adds a bit more depth. Leonardo is wearing things a Japanese warrior would wear, Michelangelo is wearing a seashell necklace, Donatello is wearing all of his tech, and Raphael is wearing sunglasses and other things. With all of that you only need to take a glance to get what each turtle is about.

While this movie nailed the brotherly love, everyone else in the movie just felt like they didn’t really matter. Splinter, while much more active than previous outings, was just their to tell a story and then removed from the rest of the film. He did have his moments though. Eric Sacks was a generic villain whose motivation is what you would expect for businessman in a movie. Even Shredder, who is their biggest villain, never had an actual reason for doing what he was doing other than wanting to control the city. You never need to know why a villain is bad, but you need to know their motivation to why they’re being evil in this instance.

None exemplify being almost a non-character than Megan Fox’s April O’Neil. Fox’s acting is actually a lot better than we’ve normally seen, but what they do with the character makes it seem you could almost replace her with a lamp and almost nothing would be lost. For the first half of the movie she’s used for nothing but exposition delivery and to put us in places to see the turtles when nothing about the situations require she be there. After that, there is this attempt to tie her to the origin of the turtles that basically takes away certain TMNT mainstays and tries to attribute them to her. Having the main character be tied to the hero’s mysterious past has been done a lot in cinema, but it falls flat here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun summer film that while enjoyable could stand to take a cue from what came before it.


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Randy Z. Ochoa