MOVIE REVIEW [SPOILERS]: Five Reasons To NOT See “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2014)
Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, Platinum Dunes
Distributed by Columbia Pictures Philippines
Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Johnny Knoxville, Jeremy Howard
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Philippine Release Date: August 13, 2014
Total running time: 101 minutes
MTRCB Rating: PG
“My mind’s telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes…”
– Some rapper, some song I honestly can’t remember and can’t be bothered to Google
The great thing about morbid curiosity is that it lets us ignore the squeamish, sensitive part of ourselves that discourages us from acknowledging (and thus learning new and fascinating things from) terrible experiences. Granted, forcing yourself to watch a movie that you just *know* will be bad isn’t exactly the best way to spend your time (as opposed to more productive activities such as reading your Facebook news feed, getting addicted to pay-to-play online games, spacing out, and picking your nose). Still, science has found numerous reasons why we keep staring at things we really shouldn’t be staring at, and it’s not just because we’re biologically programmed to be sadistic dicks. It’s helpful in understanding things that can kill our own stupid asses dead; plus, on some level, we actually do feel compelled to empathize with people who are suffering.
I guess that’s part of the reason why I went ahead and spent money to see the Michael Bay-produced, Jonathan Liebesman-directed live-action/CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film (watch the first official trailer HERE).
I’ve been a fan of the TMNT ever since I learned how to read and draw. I can’t remember how many times I’ve drawn Michelangelo (my favorite and almost-namesake Turtle) on scratch paper. I owned (and still own) a lot of the action figures and the comic books, and spent way more time reading about TMNT lore across various mass media adaptations than a well-adjusted and socially capable person would. Thus, I felt that I had a responsibility to see with my own eyes just how far Michael Bay planned to shove a broom handle up my childhood’s ass. In my mind, it was the closest thing to holding the hand of every TMNT fan in the world while confronting this Hollywood horror head-on.
However, I admit that I *did* enter the theater with a faint glimmer of hope, praying that this film would turn out to not be as bad as I thought. Of course, because you’re reading a review entitled Five Reasons To NOT See “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2014), you probably already know where this is going.
Oh yeah, spoilers ahoy.
5. It will alienate longtime fans.
The movie starts with a comic book-inspired sequence narrated by Splinter, explaining that the Turtles are “destined” to be the “heroes of the city.” I’m sorry, but if the opening montage gets the core of the characters wrong, you know your movie is in trouble.
They might as well have called this movie Oversized Radioactive Superhero Goombas and it STILL would have made more sense than to pretend that it’s a TMNT movie. Simply put, the Turtles’ origin in this movie is, well, stupid. Drawing elements from the current (and excellent, if I say so myself) IDW comic book run and completely getting them wrong, the Turtles are now the products of a laboratory’s efforts to create a magical cure-all (more on that later). There goes the whole point of the Turtles’ existence as genetic accidents – now, they’ve been reduced to freaking lab rats in the possession of scientists who somehow managed to confuse “magic medicine” with “magic steroids.”
Oh, and because the filmmakers decided to focus on providing logical explanations for things that don’t need them instead of the things that actually *do*, the experiment is named “Project Renaissance.” That’s about as subtle as taking a whiteboard, scrawling the words “Leonardo,” “Donatello,” “Michelangelo,” “Raphael,” and “Fuck You” on it in big letters, and slamming it into the faces of everyone in the audience.
4. It’s different for the sake of being different.
Months ago, news broke out that the Turtles were going to be aliens in this picture. To say that fans didn’t warm up to that revelation may be the understatement of the decade. Thus, the filmmakers hastily tried to cover up their tracks by not only junking the alien angle but also dismissing it as downright “stupid,” in an intended-to-be-humorous exchange between Megan Fox’s painfully emotionless April O’Neil and Will Arnett’s Vernon Fenwick.
Unfortunately, despite the supposed revisions to the script, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still seemingly abides by the time-tested saying, “If it ain’t broke, break the fuck out of it.”
I think I don’t need to talk at length about the Turtles’ costumes. They’re terribly designed, and honestly, they don’t do these ninjas any favors. The major changes to the Turtles’ origin, Michelangelo’s rather irritating characterization bordering on “pervert,” Shredder’s ridiculously over-complicated design – these are but some of the many things that prove that this film adds nothing to the TMNT mythos except burning questions about who thought this was a good idea in the first place.
3. It has no idea what it wants to be.
Aside from trying its best to sell more toys, the movie has no consistent message or tone (and essentially, no point).
Some scenes are either too violent (such as the one where Shredder nearly guts Splinter) or for more mature audiences (such as that unfunny boob joke at the end of the film). On the other hand, it’s, well, too dumb for viewers to take seriously. In trying to capture as much of the target market as possible, the people behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended up with a huge, complicated, and barely intelligible mess.
2. Almost nothing in this movie makes any fucking sense.
If I were to talk about every single logical or story loophole in this damnation of a film, this article would be twice as long. Here are a handful of my issues with it.
– If the mutagen was created to be a cure-all, then how and why did it transform the Turtles and Splinter? In the comics and cartoons, they at least tried to explain it with iffy but somewhat acceptable comic book science (“the mutagen is an alien compound that transforms creatures into intelligent beings, yadda yadda yadda, shut up and buy the toys already”). What they tried doing in this film is the equivalent of developing a stronger formula of Tempra and accidentally creating Captain America.
– What was up with the overly-complicated plan to poison Manhattan (with the villains themselves still in the damned city, might I add) and then offer the *sigh* cure-all Mutagen for a price? If all Erick Sacks (William Fichtner) ever wanted was to swim in stupidly large piles of money a la Scrooge McDuck, he could have just sold the cure-all as, you know, a goddamned cure-all for everything that hasn’t been cured yet.
– Why does the Shredder insist on speaking in Japanese, even though virtually ALL of his conversation partners are English-speakers and they STILL perfectly understand one another? That means two things: (a) all the big bad guys were at the very least bilingual, and (b) absolutely no fucks were given when the script was written. At ALL.
– How the hell did Splinter manage to learn Ninjutsu from a fucking book?
And so on.
1. It could have been good. (Really).
The sad thing is that there are little signs that the scriptwriters, directors, and maybe even Bay himself did have some idea as to how to make a good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. They somehow managed to put in some references to other mass media interpretations of the series (i.e., “Tonight, I dine on turtle soup”), the action scenes were a sight to behold, and some jokes were actually funny and entertaining (such as that elevator scene).
Alas, watching the entirety of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suggests that, instead of being faint signs of intelligence, these may have been nothing but fortunate coincidences.
I wish I could recommend this to younger audiences, families, casual fans, or people who aren’t that into the TMNT. Honestly, though? I wouldn’t. After all, I don’t take much joy in inflicting pain and misery upon others. Ultimately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles puts the “ow” in “cowabunga,” gives Chinese poachers a run for their money as “the worst thing to ever happen to any species of turtle, ever,” and proves that I am, without a doubt, a masochist.