Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

If you visit this site regularly you’ll know that I’m a huge TMNT fan. The original 1990 live action film is one my all time favourites. Faithful, funny and surprisingly adult; it’s extremely under appreciated.

Putting aside TMNT ’90, there are two obstacles blocking my possible enjoyment of the latest take on the Turtles.

Those obstacles are the current IDW TMNT comic series and the current Nickelodeon TMNT TV show. I’ll go as far as swiping a line from the new film’s posters and say they’re both ‘Turtle-y Awesome’. Both are reassuringly familiar yet fresh and exciting. I feel fortunate to have these two fantastic takes, as if this film was the only slice of Ninja Turtle action we were being provided with I’d be sorely disappointed.

This is not a bad film. But it doesn’t stack up well when placed next to what else is going on Turtles-wise right now.

What is good then? Well, I have a shock for you. I didn’t think Megan Fox was terrible. I know right!? A yellow jacket is never going to put her on the same level as the excellent Judith Hoag but she isn’t annoying and fits in with the overall vibe well (take that how you will). It might be a back-handed compliment but the fact she didn’t stick out as particularly good or bad to me is a triumph.

The action scenes are cool too, with the snow based scene many will have seen in the trailers the main spectacle. It’s good to see the turtles away from the sewers and rooftops for a different sort of battle. You’ll never top the physicality of men in suits, but unlike some other blockbusters, we can at least what’s going on.

The bond between the brothers is present and strong, as is their relationship with Master Splinter. He’s quite the task master, and not averse to punishing them. I’m not sure about his design but I can’t fault his portrayal.

It’s exciting to see a new take on the design, but it’s lazy! Lips and nostrils take the anthropomorphism too far for my liking. The tech is impressive, but popping glasses on the clever guy is just derivative. The size of our heroes is odd too. They aren’t just human size, but bulky, 7 foot tall bruisers; which make them seem a weird fit for being ninjas.

The turtle’s personalities are clearly defined, but oh my goodness, why does Mikey have to be such a perve? The original film struck a very adult tone, with robbery, violence and smoking all dealt with in a way that didn’t make them seem cool whilst not hitting you over the head with a ‘it’s bad m’kay’ message. Here though Mikey talks about his shell hardening and on more than occasion just comes across as leery. One of the turtles having a crush on April is nothing new, but it could have been handled far better.

Then there are the villains and the plot. There should have been a better Shredder here. and it should have been clearer what was going on. Who is actually in the suit? What are his motivations? He’s just…there. Though he possesses way more hardware for making coleslaw he doesn’t have half the presence of James Saito’s 90’s incarnation. There’s no link to Splinter or the Turtles; there is no drama and everything happens because it has to.

The plot has…similarities lets say, to other films of the of the last ten years, with the final scenes striking more than a passing resemblance to a certain Arachnid based hero’s reboot. A bit more thought put into the story and characters and less in putting more and more ‘detail’ on the Turtles would have gone a long way.

I wanted to like TMNT. But with barely resolved villains and an uncompelling story it’s hard to root for it.

To sum up, in a world that includes armoured ninjas and mutated animals I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact Splinter learns Ninjitsu from a book labelled ‘NINJITSU’. He then teaches it to his sons.

Even with my love for the franchise I couldn’t help but think “Come on…that’s just silly”.

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