Wednesday, August 13, 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)

For all the money and special effects they threw at this thing, it failed pretty badly.

I'm a huge TMNT fan from back in the day - I even have the original films on BluRay and DVD and have all the comics locked up safely in storage!  I grew up watching the cartoons, reading the comics (and drawing everything I saw in them), collecting the toys... I was pretty obsessed with the Turtles.  Of course, today, at age 33, I'm not the obsessed fan-boy I used to be.  At least not all day, every day.  But I felt I had to check this new movie out for old time's sake.  I didn't expect much - I knew who was making it and could see from the trailers that it wasn't "my" Ninja Turtles, but I went in with an open mind hoping that it had some redeeming qualities.  The verdict:  it has a few redeeming qualities, but they are very few and quite far-between.  My biggest problems were with the the casting and the entire presentation of the turtles themselves, as well as the action and the plot. (So, basically, the direction.)

First off, Megan Fox was a horrible April O'Neil.  Her hollow performance perfectly compliments the soulless character written in this script.  She simply has no depth and no real reason for existing.  You can easily see what the filmmakers were TRYING to do with her - specifically, to make her the key to everything, really.  But instead, she comes off as kinda ditzy and completely boring.  Any gusto April should have is robbed from this film by Fox's expressionless, botox-riddled, clown-make-up-laden face.  She expresses every single line in the film with the exact same tone and volume.  There's simply no way we can buy this cut-rate fashion model as the ambitious, hard-nosed and intrepid young reporter we got to know in the comics, cartoons and original film.  She ruins the movie.  But she's only the first problem.

When we finally do get to see the Turtles, they're cartoons.  I mean, it's not as flat as a Roger Rabbit kind of character in an otherwise real world, but it's not far off.  These Turtles are CGI through and though. I have no idea why they bothered with doing any motion/performance-capture stuff with real actors.  It seems that pretty much every frame of every shot of the Turtles is completely animated in the computer almost from scratch.  There's next to NO resemblance to anything realistic in their presentation.  After having just seen Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes recently, and seeing how far we've come with performance-capture technology... seeing how a real and dramatic performance from an actor could be translated so flawlessly into an on-screen ape... it just seems cheap and gaudy.  There's never a clean or believable shot of the Turtles (or Master Splinter) that would allow a viewer to really lose himself in the fantasy.  It's a real shame.

Next problem: this movie is written for kids.  It's dumb, it's overblown and it's shallow.  But it's so packed with extreme action and explosions and crazy crap like that, that it earned itself a PG-13 rating, insuring that those over 13 who are allowed to go see it generally won't like it, and the kids for whom it was obviously made are too young to be taken to see it. (That's not to say that some parents won't take their under-13-year-old kids, but... many will not.)  The plot is pretty thin and a little needlessly complicated.  Again, there's little to no depth or dynamics to the characters.  And the only laughs come from one Turtle - Michelangelo.  The others are overly rigid caricatures of themselves: Donatello is NOTHING but a tech-y nerd, Raphael is NOTHING but the angry badass, and Leo is NOTHING but the intrepid leader.  (And, to the same extent, Mikey is NOTHING but a goofball.  Can't he have a serious moment here or there?) Only in a few brief moments do we catch them acting like brothers or friends... God forbid they ALL get to be badasses.

Then there's the direction.  There are WAY too many "Transformers" shots in this film: shots that are literally impossible to create with an actual camera and are thus created entirely in a computer, pulling us even farther away from any realm of reality.  (Seriously... why is this a "live-action" movie?)  There are fight scenes where the camera is bouncing around and cutting wildly - supposedly to convey a sense of chaos - and it's just nauseating.  The main villain - The Shredder - is himself a smaller version of a Transformer robot - he's just a guy covered in metal that shifts around and shoots out blades and somehow calls the blades (but no other metal things) back again... and all he does is spin around, shoot those blades and kick and punch with metal appendages.  He's just another one of Michael Bay's "steel fetish" robots!

I could go on and on about the things I didn't like about this film, but there were a few little moments that I did like.

First, I like that the script harkened back to some old-school fixtures.  Having characters like April's Channel 6 News teammates, Vernon Fenwick and Bernie Thompson from the old cartoons, played by Will Arnette and Whoopie Goldberg, respectively.  (A small twist in gender to one of them, but still - it's a nod.)  Yes, their characters were paper-thin as well, but... they had their roles in the plot.  They made reference to TCRI, the covert operation that is connected with the mysterious origins of the mutagen that created the Turtles to begin with... and they even let Mikey and Raph blurt out a couple of robust "Cowabunga"s.  And, perhaps my favorite callback: they pulled an actual line of dialogue straight from the original graphic novel - Shredder's proclamation that "Tonight, I dine on turtle soup!"  Cheesy and clumsy in its placement, but... there it was.

All in all, not a good movie.  Not horrible, by any means, but it's not for guys like me; it's for little kids.  Stupid little kids.  Stupid little kids with an over exposure to violence, course language, gratuitous sexual innuendo and occasional fart jokes.

But, in the end, I'm only more inspired to write a way more awesome Ninja Turtles script of my own.  Oh, and Megan... you're fired.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. I'm not paying to see it! You should write a script for a good turtle movie since you actually know your shit!

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