Leonardo (Pete Plosnak), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) have been confined to the sewers of New York City all of their lives by their father and Ninjitsu master, Splinter (Danny Woodburn), who wants nothing more than to protect them. But when the Foot Clan, a gang backed by the evil Shredder (Tohoro Masamune), threatens to take over New York City with a deadly toxin, the turtles come out of hiding and take on their enemies with the help of spunky reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), whose scientist father gave them their mutations.
Never mind the fact that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘s plot was almost directly copied and pasted from The Amazing Spider-Man, where Peter Parker’s father died because he didn’t agree with the genetic engineering his partner was doing. At least we didn’t get alien turtles who “look to the stars” at the end of the film, right? Wrong.
This movie is still a Grade-A piece of shit. Now, I didn’t have high expectations going in to it because of Michael Bay’s involvement (though he only served as producer for this movie), but I had hoped that director Jonathan Liebesman would take the TMNT charm we grew up with and add some blockbuster appeal to make it watchable. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen, and I left annoyed that Michael Bay will undoubtedly take more unearned money from moviegoers.
Here’s the thing—most bad movies have at least one redeeming quality (whether it’s the cast, the plot, the action sequences, the music, or the cinematography). But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was unique among bad movies because it was equally terrible on ALL fronts. From the stupid villain plot (You’re going to take over the city by releasing a toxin…really?) to the absolutely hideous CGI that made our beloved turtles look like reptilian pedophiles (God, even the Muppet-like suits from the 1990 movie were better), there was nothing to love about this movie. The nicest thing I can say about it was that it was lackluster and devoid of any heroic charm.
I will give the writers some credit for keeping the dynamics of the turtles straight. Leonardo was the leader, Donatello was the nerd, Raphael was the muscle, and Michelangelo was the goofball. But even that got screwed up when they stopped focusing on the best part of the turtles—they’re mutant turtles doing goddamn Ninjitsu!
We could argue that this is an “origins” story of sorts, so the turtles are still becoming the heroes we’ve known for years. But, seriously, how do you make an action movie based on ninjas without actual ninja shit? We should’ve watched the turtles learning and training with Splinter as children so that the climatic fight between them and Shredder would’ve felt like—oh, I don’t know—the end of a coming-of-age story and the beginning of a new life as adults/heroes.
Instead, we got a half-assed sequence in the movie’s opening that rushed through that potential story goldmine (You know, the one that sets up their family relationships and hero backstories) because the writers were too busy giggling over the prospects of a 20-minute, boring-ass car chase down a snowy mountain. Or because they were trying to force comedy by turning Michelangelo into a horny, teenage douchebag who made boner jokes and constantly hit on April O’Neil.
Speaking of April O’Neil, poor Megan Fox. Don’t get me wrong—she’s not an amazing actress by any means, but I feel for her. Any time she works with Michael Bay (the king of pervs), her roles are written into oversexualized eye candy (which is creepy when you think about who this movie is trying to target, but more on that in a moment). Sure, she started the movie as an April O’Neil we’ve come to love—a reporter trying to break out into a serious journalism career (a graduated role compared to her Transformers “female prop” days). But after the turtles arrived, she was relegated to open-mouth, blank-stare T&A.
Which leads me into the thing that confuses/irritates me about this movie. It has no f***ing idea who it’s targeting. Is it for 30-year-old dude bros who loved TMNT in the ’90s? Is it for young kids who could be recruited into the new-age nostalgia? I don’t know, and neither does the movie, as is obvious by the juxtaposition of its juvenile humor with the creepy sexualization of April O’Neil.
Think about it like this—Guardians of the Galaxy and How to Train Your Dragon 2 are both action-packed films that came out this summer, and they managed to have complex stories and characters while still balancing adult and kid humor (Not to mention, they were both entertaining for all demographics). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, on the other hand, felt more like a collection of man-child jokes that were poorly assembled into an hour-and-a-half film.
But, hey, what do I know? This movie will still make millions of dollars, even though it’s an affront to filmmaking and storytelling alike.
Overall, if you planned to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because you loved TMNT when you were younger, I would highly recommend you just dig up the 1990 film on Netflix. Because it’s got way more going for it than this movie. With thin characters, a dumbed-down plot, nightmarish CGI, and poor understanding of its audience, this movie is an assault to all of the moviegoing senses. And by the time the turtles finally drop a “Cowabunga” line on you, you might actually die a little inside. Do future blockbusters a favor, and forego this. It might force Hollywood to come up with something good for once.
Oh, and I have an answer to this post’s title: It’s for the filmmakers. Because money speaks louder than quality filmmaking these days.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: D
(I said C/C- this morning on the radio, but I changed my mind after actually sitting down and thinking about this movie some more. Also, the fury finally seeped in.)
For my radio review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:13 mark).