Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) – Movie Review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – PG-13
Release Date: Fri 08 Aug 2014
This movie makes the third time the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had an origin story in film. There was the original live-action movie of the same eponymous name at the height of Turtles’ popularity in 1990, the 2007 3D-animated “TMNT,” and now this latest version that blends live action human characters and environments with motion-captured 3D-animated turtles. With all the worry people had for this film, the expectations were at an all-time low. Is it as bad as it appeared?
The answer turns out to be an even “no, it’s okay” rather than a bomb or bombshell. Of the concerns preceding the release of the movie the three major ones turn out to be non-issues. First, the turtle design looks very different (and therefore strange) than what we’re used to. Within a few minutes of the characters appearing, this evaporates and we adjust just fine to this design. They’re not nearly as hard to look at as the Michael Bay Transformers characters who can have indiscernible features and tend to look like a floating pile of shiny parts.
That brings us to the second concern – the involvement of Michael Bay in the production. This too turns out not to be an issue – if you had not known Bay was involved, nothing about the film itself feel like his style in particular. It obviously is not directed by him, but there was still concern that this movie would do to TMNT franchise what Bay had previously done with his Transformers films.
Finally, the concern that Megan Fox was a terrible fit to play the series’ main human character, reporter April O’Neil. None of the human characters are particularly well-written or interesting here and Fox is pretty dreadful overall, but she doesn’t ruin the film just by being present. Could the movie have been improved by a better lead actress? Certainly. But seeing how even Will Arnett struggles to stand out as Vern the cameraman it’s hard to imagine the role being that much better in other hands. April O’Neil is an audience surrogate in the 1990 movie. In the cartoon, the Turtles were the stars. In this film it’s less clear, but once the Turtles appear they run away with being the most interesting and entertaining part of the movie.
For a movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it delivers on giving us the four distinct characters. They’re fun to watch on-screen together. They’re a bit more menacing than the cartoon or live-action movies, but they also constantly bring self-effacing attention to this fact. They don’t mean to sound creepy – but seriously, they will find you!
Kids who are relatively new to the Turtles will probably enjoy the film and those who grew up on previous adaptations (original comic, tv cartoon series, original movies or 2007 reboot) shouldn’t have much trouble taking this new interpretation on board. It doesn’t malign the source material or prior outings. The lack of interesting or relatable human characters is the biggest issue the movie has which makes it feel like it’s trying to present the Turtles front and center while being very kid-oriented. Adults won’t feel insulted or bored by the movie, but it is firmly courting the younger audience. The 2D version is recommended as the 3D makes a darkly lit movie almost hard to see and uneven effects and shaky-cam do not compliment the 3D format well.
Aaron, Jeremiah and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car: