Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Brothers Become Legends

Posted: August 7, 2014 in Personal
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TMNT-CollageWith New York City stuck in a crime wave, it appears that the only solace is the assistance of Eric Sacks and his industry’s assistance with the NYPD. While his efforts seem to be working, reporter April O’Neil believes that there is more to the story of the Foot Clan and their criminal actions. She heads to the docks one evening to find the Foot Clan unloading containers. While trying to document their actions, a mysterious vigilante thwarts the group and forces them away. Convinced that she must uncover the truth and get her big break with Channel 6 News, she gets caught up in another of the Foot Clan’s exploits, but is saved by more than the one vigilante. Following their escape from the scene, she discovers that the vigilantes are actually mutant, ninja crime fighters. With virtually no proof but too much dedication for the story, she continues her investigation, only to stir up a sinister plot to bring New York City to its doom.

Starring: Megan Fox (April O’Neil), Will Arnett (Vernon Fenwick), William Fichtner (Eric Sacks), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), Danny Woodburn (Splinter), Tohoru Masamune (Shredder), Whoopi Goldberg (Bernadette Thompson), Minae Noji (Karai), Abby Elliott (Taylor)

With the story focused more on April’s first meeting with the turtles and not specifically with the turtles origins, Fox had a lot of responsibility for leading the cast. She was not as over-the-top as she could have been, but her overall performance was reminiscent of Transformers without the oversexualization. Arnett was a solid supporting actor, with his role being more of the desperate sidekick and comic relief. As for the turtles, each of the actors clearly presented more of a comical, exaggerated version of each character’s personality, whether it was Ritchson’s brashness or Fisher’s carefree and clownish antics. Woodburn was not as memorable as Kevin Clash’s version of Splinter in the 1990 original. Masamune was certainly menacing, but the audience never got to see his face or learn anything about him other than his high level of aggression and unclear degree of intelligence.

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While the Michael Bay influence can be felt a bit, this film may have done better with Jonathan Liebesman directing the action. The story was a bit different in this one, as compared to the other versions. The more known story about the turtles was that they and Splinter were creatures in the sewers that came into contact with the Ooze, which had been discarded. The mutagen caused them to transform. Splinter had learned martial arts by watching his owner prior to meeting the turtles, and he had witnessed his master’s end at the hands of Shredder. Instead in this version, the turtles and Splinter were lab experiments that received regular doses of the mutagen, and they were being treated by April’s father and Eric Sacks. April saved them from a fire and released them into the sewers to survive, not knowing that the mutagen was starting to take effect and transform them. This plot point was significant in that it established an earlier connection between April and the turtles, while also placing April more at the center of the film’s story.

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The presentation of the film was a bit of a mixed bag. The fact that the film was more about April meeting the turtles made the action seem almost secondary to her attempt at breaking a major story about the Foot Clan, at least for the first half of the film. While it was interesting to see more of the development of the turtles from non-mutated to evolved children to teenagers through a relatively quick bit of storytelling by Splinter, there was little other character development across the rest of the film. Eric Sacks and his relationship with Shredder was explained with only a quick student-master comment, while Shredder never really got much of a story or clear visual presence outside of the mechanical suit at all. Each of the turtles had individual personalities, but some of the exaggerated qualities were a little much. Leonardo and Raphael seemed to be represented much stronger than Donatello’s overly-geeky image (now sporting glasses) and Michelangelo’s odd blending of urban and surfer personas. They were entertaining, but a little over the top at times. The ending to the film clearly set up an opportunity for sequels, as so much of the story was left wide open with almost too many questions to count.

In a summer of strong action and sci-fi films, this one was just simple entertainment. While it will not totally impress viewers, it was a worthwhile way to enjoy a couple hours of CGI entertainment. In addition, I was not a fan of the character model design for the turtles, Splinter, or Shredder’s armor, but the objection did fade with time. The best versions still remains the first and second movies from the 90s.

“Tonight, I dine on turtle soup.”

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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