August 14, 2014 by Paul Curtin
If you grew up in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, chances are you were, or still are, a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Over the many years since their debut, kids haven’t been able to get enough of the turtles in their numerous forms of entertainment and merchandise. Even to this day, the turtles are still alive and kicking with a great new animated version of the cartoon on Nickelodeon. So has Michael Bay given even more life to the turtles in his latest live-action reboot or destroyed yet another childhood memory for fans of a beloved franchise?
To be fair, the original live-action Turtles movies don’t hold up very well by today’s film standards… and it would be crazy to expect a movie about talking ninja turtles to win any prestigious film awards – especially when it stars Megan Fox, is produced by Bay, and directed by a wannabe Bay who is last credited for the terrible Wrath of the Titans movie. But even going in with low expectations, the latest take on the turtles feels like nothing more than a shell of what it could have been in the hands of better owners.
Based on the comic first released in 1984, the story opens with Megan Fox. Followed by more Megan Fox… some dull generic plot involving Megan Fox… and then even more Megan Fox. As April O’Neil, Fox plays a beautiful news reporter who wants to be treated with more respect; yet, almost the entire movie is devoted to pointing out how hot she is. Yes, Megan Fox is beautiful (even with all the plastic surgery that is starting to make her look weird). We have eyes… We get it! We don’t need to be verbally reminded of this every time one of the other characters delivers a line.
Even after April stumbles upon the turtles, they’re barely involved in scenes, and when they do get their own screen time it’s not used solely to build their character and rather to shamelessly promote brand-name pizza. As if the usual product placement in Michael Bay movies isn’t bad enough, now he’s willing to make the ads pop out at you in 3D and throw them into meaningless extra scenes during in the credits. It’s ridiculous that there’s more creativity behind trying to figure out how to fit a brand name into a scene than actually trying to fix this disaster of a film.
Each turtle’s new attire has more detail and thought put into it than their own dialog and actions. While the superb realistic visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic bring the turtles to life, they still take the backseat in their own movie. None of the turtles get a chance to stand out other than Mikey because he’s the one, of course, who’s always talking about how hot April is.
Michael Bay might not be the director, but his style-over-substance approach is used here more than ever. Like Transformers and Titans, at times so much is going on, it can be hard to comprehend everything you’re seeing, and it all just ends up turning into forgettable visual overloads of meaningless CGI.
Other characters are even more forgettable than the turtles. Will Arnett adds nothing to the movie other than desperate and awkward jokes that fall flat. William Fichtner couldn’t be any more of a generic bad guy character trope, and even children should take offense to the idea that they could be sold on his heel turn twist. Whoopi Goldberg is in the movie for all of a minute. Splinter is creepier looking than the turtles, and Shredder has been turned into a Transformer. Oh, and did I mention Megan Fox? Because she’s in this, too, and she’s soooo hot – just in case you didn’t know already.
There are a few lines here and there that make the turtles likeable, but there’s so much being thrown in your face that it just gets tiring. The movie’s only redeeming moment is an action scene towards the end which involves the turtles sliding down a snow-covered mountain while fighting members of the Foot Clan and chasing after April in a semi-truck. The scene disobeys the laws of physics and any sort of logic, but does so in such a fun and exciting way that in the moment you don’t care – you’re just happy that something good is finally happening and willing to let the kid in you enjoy what you’re seeing on screen.
To dismiss Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a dumb movie for kids is unacceptable. Clearly, this reboot wasn’t going to be the next film to transcend its genre — and quite honestly, it didn’t need to be. Guardians of the Galaxy proved just last week that the idea of an anthropomorphic raccoon and tree in a live-action film could be done brilliantly for audiences of all ages. Marvel’s Guardians was a reminder of how great sci-fi adventure films from the ‘80s used to be. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a reminder of Michael Bay’s terrible Transformers movie you just shelled out even more money to see in IMAX last month and promised yourself you’d never do again. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets 2 out of 5 stars (Bad).