Darke Reviews – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


Wow was it hard to avoid reviews for this today! The skims that I saw as I scrolled through my news feed were not good. Even talk at work today indicated this wouldn’t be good. Now to preface this review there are some ground rules to understand where I come from on it.

1. I have not read the comic, but was aware of it when I watched the original cartoon.
2. I have watched the original cartoon, every episode. My favorite is the catwoman from channel 6.
3. I have watched a single video/AMV from *one* of the new reboots (2003 I think). It was epic. It was dark. It worked. Wish I could find it again.

So where does this movie fall in?

First thing is first. Remove the Nostalgia glasses. Acknowledge how bloody cheesy the original animated series was. If you think it was serious in any respect, I present you Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X. A Giant Brain living inside the STOMACH of a robot. Beebop and Rocksteady. If you can now acknowledge how ridiculous some of this is, we can continue. That is to say nothing of the core concept. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. Trained. By. A Rat. If you can’t just skip the TL;DR right now.

If you have embraced the insanity of the concept and all that comes with it; I present to you TMNT. As I have said this is based on a comic originally written and drawn by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who did the opening title sequence. If they didn’t do it – someone who imitates their style did. This movie does bear the dreaded triple writing credit beyond that. Josh Appelbaum (Mission Impossible 4 (the good one), Alias), Andre Nemec (who has all the same credits as Appelbaum), and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent). They *did* embrace the insanity. Their sin? (ok one of them) Too much human. Too little Turtle power. Their homage? I can’t count the number of callbacks to the original run I picked up on and laughed at (mostly alone).

What about Michael Bay? Well…he is only a producer. The Director here is Jonathan Leibesman. The same man who gave us Wrath of the Titans, an unwanted and yet somehow better sequel to an unwanted remake of a classic film. He also gave us Texas Chainsaw Massacre 50. No that’s not it’s actual title. It might as well be. To his favor he gave us one of the better alien invasion sci fi epics with Battle Los Angeles. Yes, it had problems with the camera work but as a film it worked. He does much the same, good and bad here, with TMNT. His camera work makes much of the action hard to take in, but what you do see appears to be epic looking and kind of awesome. Decent tension and ok pacing.

Acting? Oof. well, it wasn’t too bad actually. Megan Fox (Transformers, Jennifers Body), Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Monsters vs Aliens) get far too much screen time and most of it’s groan worthy – but they make it work.  I don’t know if its the writing or acting or both. Whoopi Goldberg was here for a paycheck or perhaps some debt to satan for Sister Act 2? Tony Shalhoub as Splinter? A bit jarring yes, but because it is a man of his talents it works. The brothers are fine. The personalities mostly realized with the usual focus on Mikey and Raph. Their voice actors, including Johnny Knoxville do just fine. William Fitchner makes everything he does better (Drive Angry is a perfect example) and brings the ham and cheese with him as he chews scenery in a way that even Jeremy Irons can appreciate.

Effects. I have heard many comments about how creepy they are. “The noses are weird.” “The teeth and animations are just off putting.” Meh I say. They weren’t that bad. They’re strangely more appropriate than what we had before so I guess I don’t mind them. Not all of the effects are clean and the CGI over practical is evident but I got to ignore that to see the Ninja Turtles on screen for the first time in 20 years and they *do* look better than we got in the previous films. Period. Sorry my opinion on this one.

I want to give the Villain a bit of a special talk. I had a guy behind me dissing the look of the new Shredder. My only retort – you have to make a guy who is supposed to be a walking cuisinart look threatening. Sorry it needs to be armor. It needs to be samurai like. It needs a lot of blades. A LOT of blades. Did they go a bit overboard on it? Eh maybe, but so be it. This is a movie where a man in ridiculous bladed armor had to take on four six foot turtles wielding dual katana’s, nunchaku, sai, and metal collapsible bo staff. Check your suspension of disbelief at the door.

TL;DR

I had a group of people behind me who hated it. The guy next to me, whom I asked, and his  lady loved it. They felt it captured the feeling of the original run. The person I saw it with felt the same.

I happen to agree with them.

It really brought the heart of the original comics and animated to film. It is very superficial, but lets face it most kids movies are folks. This *is* a movie for kids. There’s enough here for adults, especially all of the aforementioned callbacks, but it is a childrens movie. That grants it a lot of forgiveness from me.

What also grants it forgiveness? It was a fun little romp through my own childhood. It just kinda works

Final recommendations:
TMNT is better than most reviewers are giving it credit for. It is not for everyone, but if you have kids – its an absolute this weekend. The kids I saw leaving the theatre in their masks were running and tumbling and just enjoying themselves. What else is it supposed to do?

If you are an adult who wants to see it – take off the nostalgia glasses, sit back, and just try to enjoy it. You just might.

If you weren’t interested – neither this review nor the movie will change your opinion.

At the end of the day TMNT is kinda fun.

Cowabunga!

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