Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a reporter for Channel 6 Eyewitness News in New York City, investigates a crime wave by criminals called the Foot Clan. At a dock at night, she sees the Foot raiding cargo containers. After an unseen vigilante attacks the thieves, April notices a symbol left behind. April’s supervisor Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg) and her coworkers are oblivious to her story. Later while covering a charity event thrown by Sacks Industries, April expresses gratitude to the company’s CEO Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who was her late father’s (Paul Fitzgerald) lab partner.

Frustrated by the vigilante, the Foot Clan’s leader Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) has the Foot Soldiers take hostages at a subway station in order to draw him out. April, at the scene, becomes a hostage herself. Four mysterious figures arrive, take out the Clan, and free the hostages. April follows them to a rooftop and is confronted by four anthropomorphic mutant turtles, causing her to pass out. When she regains consciousness, they advise her not to tell anyone of them. As they leave, April hears Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Leonardo’s (Pete Ploszek and Johnny Knoxville) names.

April returns to her apartment and remembers “Project Renaissance”, her father’s science experiment, which involved four turtles named Leonardo, Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher), Raphael, and a rat called Splinter (Danny Woodburn and Tony Shalhoub). Unable to convince Bernadette of the Turtles’ existence, April is dismissed. Her coworker Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) drives her to Sacks’ estate where she confides in him about her discovery. Sacks believes her and reveals that he and April’s father had been experimenting on a mutagen created to cure disease, which was thought lost in the fire that killed her dad.

At Splinter’s behest, the Turtles bring April to their sewer lair. Splinter explains April had saved them all from the fire and freed them into the sewers. The mutagen caused the five of them to grow and develop humanoid attributes. Splinter took on the role of their father, using April’s father as an example. After finding a book on Ninjitsu in a storm drain, he proceeded to teach himself, then the Turtles, in the fighting style. When April reveals she told Sacks about her discovery of the Turtles, Splinter informs her that Sacks betrayed her father and killed him.

Then, Shredder and the Foot Soldiers attack the lair, defeating Splinter and incapacitating Raphael while the other Turtles are captured. April comes out of hiding and she and Raphael plan to save the others. At Sacks’ estate, he has the Turtles’ blood drained in order to create an antidote to a deadly virus that Sacks hopes to flood New York with, believing he will become rich from people seeking his cure. Raphael, April, and Vern storm the estate and free the other Turtles. The group then escapes the compound in pursuit of Sacks.

On a radio tower in the city, Sacks and Shredder plant a device that will flood the city with the virus. April and Vern subdue Sacks in the lab, while the Turtles fight Shredder on the roof. During the fight, the tower’s support beams collapse. As the turtles try to keep it from falling and infecting the city, April confronts Shredder with the mutagen. In the struggle, the tower collapses and the Turtles pull April onto it with them, while Shredder falls to the street and is confronted by police. Believing they are about to die, the Turtles confess their secrets, while Raphael gives an impassioned speech of his love for his brothers before they land harmlessly on the street. They vanish before the humans find them and return to the sewers, where they give Splinter the mutagen and he begins to recover.

Sometime later, April meets with Vern, who tries and fails to ask her on a date. The Turtles appear in a special modified “Turtle Van”, and Michelangelo accidentally blows up Vern’s new car with a rocket. As police respond to the explosion, the Turtles leave, but not before Michelangelo tries to serenade April with “Happy Together”.

REVIEW:

Like every other kid from the 80s and 90s, I have watched slowly as my childhood has gone from awesome to obscure to blockbuster film franchise. Just as the Transformers would not be recognizable to my 8 yr old self, I doubt that the turtle would be either, at least from what I saw in the trailers. Does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live up to its legacy, or is this just another big movie that is reliant more on the built-in fan base money rather than being an actually good film?

What is this about?

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vernon Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.

What did I like?

Family. Like many fans of the Turtles, I was introduced to them via the Saturday morning cartoon in the 80s. From what I recall, it was never said that they were brothers, but the toys mentioned their family bond. I want to say that the family thing was there in the original comics, but I don’t know. I applaud the filmmakers from bringing the family back together, rather than just making them four random amphibians and a rat in the sewer.

Personality. Each of the turtles has long been known to have a distinct personality. Leonardo is the no-nonsense leader, Raphael is a hot head, Donatello is the nerd, and Michaelangelo is the skater dude. These personality traits were maintained in the film and made for a much more entertaining flick. Much like the Transformers, their personalities are a part of what distinguishes them from each other, but also endeared them to fans. Wise choice including that in here, rather than make 4 drones, which was probably the initial idea.

Action. Let’s see…a movie about ninjas in New York City that happened to be based on a cartoon/comic, so one is watching this expecting long, dramatic speeches and such, right? If you are, then I’m seriously questioning humanity. This is a picture that is all about the action, from bad-ass ninja moves to daredevil antics, and of course pizza! It is like someone actually listened to what the fans wanted, as opposed to just making a movie that no one involved had any passion or connection to growing up.

What didn’t I like?

April sours. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of April O’Neil as hot. Attractive, cute, girl next door…yes. Hot, no. So, you can imagine that I was among the multitude of fans displeased with Megan Fox being cast in this role. I think we all know she was cast for her look and not talent (or lack thereof). I would say she did bad, but truthfully, she wasn’t given anything to do. My issue is more with the change they made. Apparently, according to this film, the turtles were April’s pets, not Splinter’s, and she named them. In other words, someone didn’t like the origin the way it was and felt it needed to be changed.

Return of the Super Shredder? I was excited to see what Shredder would look like. The 90s films made him look pretty close to what one would expect…sort of. That excitement quickly went away when he showed up looking like a rejected Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. I don’t know what was up with the weird wings he seemed to have protruding from his hands, either. They seems to be used as blades, but the design didn’t work for me. Basically, this new Shredder seems to be a shiny upgraded version of Super Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze, and not in a good way.

Design. While on the topic of design, let’s talk turtles, shall we. Before this movie came out, I started seeing the toys. In action figure form, they aren’t as bad. However, when you have them side by side with the toys from the current animated series, they look as frightening as they do in person. Yes, I said frightening. I can imagine being a little kid and seeing these giant creatures on the screen and, while they are the good guys, they are still terrifying. Who thought it would be a good idea to make them look like that? Probably the same person that thought Transformers need to have all kinds of whirly gadgets on them, rather than what they have looked like from the beginning, I would imagine. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got it right. 4 guys in rubber suits. Today, just update the technology and its perfect. No kids are scared, more toys are sold, etc. Before I leave this design topic, the size differential bothered me. Raphael was huge! We’re talking roided up football player huge. What was the purpose of that?

I did my best to keep an open mind about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I really did, but there are just some things that couldn’t be ignored. That said, I see potential here for bigger and better things. The writers did take the time to keep much of what fans have come to know ad love about the turtles in place, and that goes a long way. I believe the sequel is going even further with that by bringing in Bebop and Rocksteady, two of the turtles’ biggest adversaries. I’m almost excited to see that. My biggest issue with this film is that things were changed for change sake, and William Fichtner’s character didn’t serve as big a purpose as we were led to believe. Still, I did have fun watching this film, much more than I had any right to, and wouldn’t mind watching it again sometime down the road. Do I recommend it? No, the 90s films are better and feel more like care was put into them, as opposed to this one which just feels like a giant cash grab.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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