Michael Bay's New Ninja Turtles Movie Is Even Worse Than You Think.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Director: Jonathan Liebesman.
Writers: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Evan Daugherty (screenplay); Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters).
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner.
Where it's playing: Everywhere.
I don’t take great joy in bashing a movie.
From the little indies to the big studios, at least one person on that set worked very hard and passionately believed in what they were making. But it’s my job to watch movies and tell you what I think.
With all of that said, you should know the Michael Bay-produced version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is unequivocally a pile of shit.
Before I start getting really aggressive with my negative feelings towards this film, know that I don’t hate Michael Bay. I also don’t dread when I hear he has a new film coming out. He’s pumped out some really great work in his career — The Rock and Bad Boys being two examples of his better work. Make no mistake: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't a bad movie because Bay produced it; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bad movie because it was poorly written and horrifically executed.
The movie completely lacks charm, which is unfortunate, because that's generally what makes the Turtles such awesome characters.
I bring up Bay’s name because he’s crafty with explosions, big set-battles and destruction. He usually makes those things look good. Not here, though. The camera gets jerked around harder than a rag doll between two toddlers, and it’s hard to tell what the hell is exactly going on. Most of the action in TMNT will put you in a dizzy spell if you haven’t already vomited. Seeing it in 3D only makes the nausea worse. Much worse. It’s also really loud. At one point I plugged my ears because it felt like they were going to have a blowout.
Even though the entire film is almost literally spoon fed to you — y'know, because this is the kind of movie that would have otherwise been so tough to follow — you're probably familiar with much of the TMNT story going in. To wit, four giant turtles have a rat for a sensei/father figure, who talks and teaches them karate. They all talk, actually. And were all genetically mutated after being accidentally being exposed to chemicals from the same lab that seeped into the sewer where they were living. In this version, though, the mutation was done on purpose for more sinister reasons (Shredder!). Eventually the turtles come out of their shells to save the day.
The four brothers are over six feet tall, and their masks are crafted from obviously very worn and torn clothing to give them an edgier appearance than previous incarnations. Unlike the rubber suits from the original TMNT, these guys are all CGI. This isn't a distraction because motion capture is expertly used, which you've seen in Avatar and the new Apes movies. It’s really slick and the best kind of computer graphics to date — CGI has never looked more real.
This is about the only praise these turtles deserve, however.
Their slick look is overpowered by their voices that never settle in right, and continuously spout out immature dialogue. One thing director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) and his team really wanted you to know was that these turtles were teenagers, first and foremost. And they all talk like Baby Huey. Mutant Ninja Baby Hueys.
Never mind the years they spent learning discipline and martial arts, and disregard the fact that they're all highly skilled with various deadly weapons, these turtles are complete morons. If I were a teenager and watched this movie, my feelings would be hurt. I really hope the team behind TMNT really doesn't think a majority of youngsters act, walk and talk like these turtles to do. If so, everyone needs to apologize to Mike Judge for not taking Idiocracy seriously enough.
Of course, there are a lot of things in TMNT that don't make sense, and most of those lie in the plot. The first time we meet Shredder, he’s this badass martial artist who can snap an arm by trapping it under his chin because both of his arms are tied behind his back. But, in order to fight a four-foot rat, he needs to wear a metal suit with knifes that fly out of it faster-than-a-speeding bullet. According to this version of the story, these two haven’t met prior, so Shredder had no way of knowing Splinter could kick and move so fast. He's also not-at-all shell-shocked that he's fighting a four-foot rat who can talk.
He did know the turtles were being experimented on when they were babies, but I'm sure the thought of them growing up to be lean, mean fighting machines never crossed his mind. Liebesman tried to make the turtles story as real as possible, at the expense of any consistency whatsoever.
Megan Fox does a pretty solid job as April O’Neil, the stubborn but persistent news reporter. She sells her character and that’s all she needs to do. Will Arnett co-stars as her camera man. Arnett is a naturally gifted comedian, so it’s no surprise that he’s the comic relief in the movie. Problem here is all his jokes are forced. It’s like they told Will, “Hey buddy, when the cameras start rolling, be funny. OK? Action!” — and he had no idea what to do. William Fichtner takes being a bad guy for another spin — which he does so well — but his talents feel wasted. It feels like he showed up on set, read his lines, collected his paycheck, and left just in time for dinner.
One thing about about the first TMNT movie: It’s fun to go back and re-watch it. It’s great for nostalgic reasons. The only thing great about this new TMNT movie is how often I’ll use it as a drink coaster when it releases on DVD.