Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Remakes are a reality that we have to face. Sometimes they'll be simple cash-grabs from companies desperate to drag their fingers through your childhood in the hopes that you will pay to see them, some are bland shot for shot remakes, and then occasionally we'll get some that genuinely have something valid to offer to the audience besides a brutal molestation of their childhood. This movie is not that last one. Not at all. You should know this going in, as it sadly has Michael Bay's name attached to it even though he didn't even direct it.

Naming his production company after something found in a place of desolation & death is strangely appropriate.

I cannot think of a single movie from Platinum Dunes that isn't a shittier version of a classic film or a film that's desperate to be edgy to the point where it seems like a caricature of the concept of edgy, not unlike many characters found at Marvel Comics in the 90s (or at DC Comics now). This right here is very obviously going to be the very first problem with this film, as you have to ask yourself how a company with no original ideas can properly take an imaginative concept marketed towards children and make it work. The simple answer is that they can't. What they can is what they always do: BAYITIZE IT!

EXPLOSIONS! CGI!! MEGAN FOX!!! DICK JOKES!!!!
Keeping that in mind, let's discus the "plot" of this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Megan Fox (who I refuse to acknowledge as playing a character when she always plays herself) is a young reporter who has been researching the gang known as the Foot Clan (stop me if you've heard this one). She follows a lead that...well, leads her to the docks where she observes the Foot Clan unloading something undoubtedly nefarious and evil. Her investigation is interrupted though as a shadowy figure that totally isn't a giant mutant turtle kicks all of their asses and leaves her looking like a crazy person to her co-workers she tells the story to. Perhaps if she could act less like Megan Fox and more like who she's supposed to be playing then they'd believe her. I feel like this movie is suffering from the same problem that the Coming Out Their Shells Tour video documentary suffered, which is the mentality that just putting a woman in yellow somehow makes a convincing April O'Neil.

It doesn't.
She again throws herself into danger (I guess) by rushing to the Foot Clan's next jamboree, hoping the mysterious totally-not-a-giant-mutant-turtle vigilante shows up again so she can snap some photos and maybe get a selfie with him. Selfies are still a thing, right? Ah, who cares. I'm struggling to care about anything at this point and I am barely into the film. Anyway, all four of the turtles show up and kick ass, leaving Megan to chase after them. They notice her bad acting and delete her photos as penalty (and because they want to remain a secret), she asks them who there are, and they literally call themselves everything but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but she leads them there anyway. Alright movies, you're not even half over and you've already jumped the shark. Never, and I do mean never, do they ever call themselves that in anything. It's the name of the many comics, cartoons, games, and what have you, but it is not a self-aware group moniker like the X-Men or the Justice League. The generally only ever call themselves ninjas or turtles, or perhaps both if the planets are aligned right, but never do they acknowledge the title of their book/cartoon/game/movie/whatever as if it was somehow on a business card the tucked into their belts. They're not a bloody company with customer service, for fuck's sake, they're ninjas.

Hi, I' Donnie from Cincinnati & I'll be your customer support for today.
But, before I continue, let's discuss another problem related to what I just said. They're ninjas. Ninjas are meant to be quick, deadly, silent, and efficient. Now, while they've often been the opposite of quiet in their many depictions, it's mostly forgivable being that they're meant to be teenagers. At least they were always portrayed as quick and formidable, always sticking to a sleek design free of cumbersome things that would undoubtedly slow them down. In here though? They're wearing all sorts of nonsensical junk that looks like it was created for them by Blankman in his secret subway headquarter where he hoards junk like the Wayans family hoards brothers.

Yes, clearly this is the man to take cues from as he jizzes himself uncontrollably.
They look awful. I mean, the CGI of them is bad enough but their outfits are so jumbled and busy that it's impossible to believe that shit doesn't randomly fall of them all the time, immediately blowing their attempts at being silent. Donatello alone has so much useless junk on him that it's fairly clear that they wanted to just throw as much vaguely nerdy things they could on him along with the biggest pair of glasses ever, just to hammer home the fact that he's clearly the nerd. Thanks, movie, I had no idea that the character who has always invented things and been mocked for being a brain is the nerd. Can you please stop giving him a wedgie for a second, because I'd like to actually try getting invested. So, try I did, as we get back to the super interesting Megan Fox as she dashes home to reminisce about how her father once experimented on her pet turtles when she was a kid and....no, fuck you. That's stupid. This is not called "April and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", it's called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and that carries with it the expectation of a focus on the TITULAR FUCKING CHARACTERS. I did not want to see Megan Fox struggle through her lines in an attempt to build some sort of interesting backstory for her that really just shits on the concept by making it all about her. Especially when I can't tell if she's supposed to be April O'Neil or that bland girl from the Transformers movies.

Will Arnett can't even make me care about your scenes.
So, yeah, through some rather extreme leaps in logic, she figures out that her pet turtles are now mutant ninja vigilantes and she tries once more to convince her boss that she's not a crazy actress off her meds. This results in what is possibly the only scene that makes any sense in this film: her boss reacts badly and fires her. Yay! Is the movie over yet? No? Dammit. She then seeks out the help of her cameraman boyfriend, Vernon, who also reacts to her news about giant turtle ninjas with the appropriate reaction of not believing her at all. Also, Vernon is her boyfriend? Vernon, the annoying asshole from the original cartoon who acted so effeminate you expected him to at any moment comment on how tacky her clothes were before going of about how he needs to take her shopping? Because, yeah, April never dated him. She dated Casey Jones, the lovable schmuck vigilante who befriended the turtles. And on the current cartoon Donnie has a serious jones for her (which has resulted in a lot of fanart), but never has she dated the creature that is Vernon.

Also, I think Zack Braff would have been better casting for such an annoying character.
But hey, why make sense now? Let's continue our descent into "UGH". Vernon takes her to her dad's old lab where she meets up with his old partner Sacks. She shows her photos of the CGI abominations and he tells her about how the project was supposed to be about healing the sick and the like. He says the lab being destroyed must've resulted in the mutagen meant to heal sick people turning the turtles into mutants. Totally plausible, right? Because healing the sick and mutating animals are totally related things. Finally, in the sewers we see the turtles talking to their master, Splinter, that a terrible actress spotted them and he orders them to kidnap her and bring her down into the sewers because she'll probably get killed by the Foot Clan because they hated Jonah Hex a whole lot.

I can totally empathize, guys, I really can.
So, yeah, they snatch her and bring her down where it smells about as bad her career. Splinter explains that....*long exhasperated sigh*...she saved them years before from the fire and let them loose in the sewer. Because she has to be the 'deus ex machina' for everything in this movie, apparently. She mentions she told her dad's scientist buddy about them and then it turns out....GASP! Sacks is evil! What a completely predictable twist. He actually works for the Shredder, who is a sickly old man, and they're planning to release a deadly viral contagion into New York City, leading to the city being sealed off so they can used the mutagen to cure people a take over. But it turns out that the mutagen is all in the turtles, so they need to drain them. Strangely, I find myself rooting for that outcome, as I haven't had any time to even get attached to the turtles or see them as anything more than CGI effects devoid of personality short of vague ideas. Mikey is the only defend personality in the film, which is the exact same personality he has always had but with more jokes about how Megan Fox gives him a turtle erection.

My mask doubles as a condom, sweet thang.
Anyway, the Foot Clan finds their hideout, a battle ensues, and three of the turtles get taken with Raphael being left for dead along with Splinter, Megan Fox, my patience, and poor Tony Shaloub's career. She, Vernon, and Raph go to free the other turtles, Shreddertron Prime kicks their asses again and gets away, then the heroes escape down the showy mountain (yeah, they're on a mountain now, apparently) whil being chased by ninjas and a character who is important everywhere but in this movie because she's not Megan Fox. I probably also forgot to mention Sack is Shredder's adopted son, because that's a thing they threw in there. They then plan to attack the bad guys on the rooftop of their building or something before the whole city gets the worst case of "help me, I'm dying" since the movie The Day After Tomorrow, and they fight them again in a big battle. Megan Fox helps, because she's clearly qualified to fight giant ninja robots, and Vernon knocks out Sacks, but who really cares? Shredder gets tossed off the building, the day is saved, a potential sequel is set up, and Vernon gets his new "I have a really big dick" car blown up, and we close on Mikey being slightly less creepy (but still very creepy) as he sings a love song to April. That's the movie. Was it good? Not on your life.

They turned the Shredder into a fricking Transformer.
It wasn't accurate to the story of the turtles from any of the previous mediums, relied too heavily on CGI with little to no practical effects, the director tried too hard to ape Michael Bay's "style", it had an annoying cast of actors, and Megan Fox got more attention than the titular characters. Shredder was seemingly tossed in as an afterthought, which is pretty crappy, while they clearly initially meant for Sacks to be their villain. If that wasn't bad enough, they stole their idea for Shredder from another bad movie, The Wolverine. Let's toss an old Japanese man into robot armour and let him try to drain the life out of our main heroes so he can achieve his goal. Really original idea there, guys. I'm sure you totally didn't watch another comic based film before writing this drivel and steal all of its bad ideas. I mean, is this really all that hard of a concept to pull off well? They did it fine back in 1990, so why does it have to be so bad now? The turtles looked better in the original, not clunky and overdone. Hell, they looked better in the aforementioned Coming Out Their Shells Tour. Do you realize how bad that is? Really?

I don't think you do, because it's exceptionally bad.
It's also pretty mind-boggling that while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have popularly been marketed as being for kids, there are so many horrible things on display here that kids shouldn't be shown. Michelangelo makes a comment about having an erection, have I mentioned that? They have a dick joke in a movie that little kids undoubtedly got their parents to bring them to see. A childhood icon made a dick joke and people rewarded that by making this movie the number two film in box offices right now. Good job, everyone, you've made me lose more respect for you than I thought I even had in the first place. It's also pretty surprising that they didn't just make a movie based on the current incarnation of the turtles, which is a pretty popular show among fans and kids. I guess that would've made too much sense, right?

Defined personalities & slick designs? Who needs that, right?
I cannot say that I enjoyed this experience. It was a very hard film to sit through and I have sat through some really bad movies. I do not recommend seeing it, showing it to people you love, or paying to see any sequel. Save your money and go buy a pizza instead, because the tie-in at Pizza Hut was the only good thing to come out of this film. Period. If you want to watch a good movie about the turtles, go pick up the 1990 one or its sequel. Even the third movie, which is also pretty bad, is better than this. So, until a get dumped into a vat of mutagen and turn into a literal hairy monster, I'll be here watching things and telling you if they're worth your time. Later days.

You should probably go get drunk now.

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