Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Well, here it is. The big one. The return of the heroes in a half shell to the big screen. I’ve made it very clear in the past year that I’m a huge fan of the TMNT, so I was very nervous about my favorite fighting family’s newest film. I was not disappointed. Then again, I went in with dirt low expectations anyway, so that’s not too much of an accomplishment. There is a ton I have to say about it, so instead of breaking it down to the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’ll just list what stood out to me in the movie in no particular order. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

The Comic Book Style Opening and Narration: The opening scene and narration, animated in a comic book-like style, was fantastic. It looks cool and is a great shout out to the original comic and style of flashback of the 2012 series.

April O’Neal: You may have well just called this April O’Neal the Movie. The first quarter of the film is wasted on April trying to get a scoop and the Turtles are barely there. It wouldn’t be so bad if she was an interesting character, but she was as interesting as watching painting dry and just would not leave. Meghan Fox just did not make a good April. She held a perpetual look of dull surprise, with her mouth hanging open more than Bella Swan and was gasping for breath so much that I was beginning to wonder if she was asthmatic. To top off all of that, the way the camera lingers on her, showing exactly why Meghan Fox was picked: to objectify her. No joke, there is a scene where a character crashes the truck that he was driving because he was so busy staring at her butt. The majority of Mikey’s jokes are about how he thinks she’s hot. There’s also the issue that the Turtles owe everything to her, right down to their names. She’s even the one who defeats the Shredder in the end. Not the Turtles or Splinter, who have trained as ninjas practically all their lives, it’s the April who ends up killing the Turtles’ arch nemesis. All things considered, since Shredder was the one who caused the death of her dad, he’s more her enemy than the Turtles’. This is because…

There is No Mention of Hamato Yoshi: One of the defining aspects of Splinter and Shredder’s characters is their intense rivalry. Whether by mutation or murder, the man, Hamato Yoshi is dead. Splinter his avenger and their rivalry is one of the bitterest in comic book history. In the movie’s origin, Splinter is simply a mutated and highly intelligent rat. Without any mention of Hamato Yoshi, the mutual hatred is gone, and so has a lot of the drama in their battle. While their battle in the movie is really well done, it lacks the dramatic weight of this rivalry and feels a lot less satisfying.

The Action Scenes Are Very Cool: Being a movie with Micheal Bay attached to it, many of the explosion laden action scenes are a ton of fun and where the movie really shines. After the somewhat boring first half, the movie really picks up at around the time the Turtles have in their battle on the Subway. It’s a definite step up from the opening plot where April wants to become a respectable reporter. This is where the movie goes from excruciatingly boring to silly and fun. The action scenes alone are almost worth slogging through the boring beginning.

There Are Many Pointless Characters: What was Verne doing here? All he does is flirt with April, drive the getaway car, and fight Eric Sacks. Two out of three of these actions would and should have been done by April herself. Nothing in the movie would have been lost if they had edited him out of the script. Well, maybe one thing, but we didn’t need another male gaze shot and more awkward flirtations with April anyway. Speaking of Eric Sacks, he ended taking the parts of Karai and Baxter Stockman because everyone kicked up an understandable fuss over him being the Shredder. That managed to void all three characters because why have Karai and Stockman when you could have Sacks and vise versa? What saddens me most is the fact that Karai goes from the complex and interesting Anti Villain from the two most recent animated series and the Mirage comics to the token dark sexy chick that does absolutely nothing. They left out all of the parts that makes her a great character–namely the conflict between her duty and what is right and the mutual respect between her and Leo–so she also could be edited out of the film or replaced by a lamp and nothing would have changed.

The Turtles Themselves: Shockingly, I didn’t hate them. With the exception of Donatello waving a neon sign saying IN CASE YOU DON’T GET IT, I’M A NERD in every other line of his dialogue, they actually stayed very true to themselves. Out of the five Ninja Turtles movies, these Turtles behaved the the most in character. I was the most nervous about Leonardo because writers have a tendency to make him a jerk just to make Raph look in the right for rebelling. To do this, they’d completely ignore all of Leo’s character development in order to martyr the preferred brother. When I came into the theater, I expected my favorite Turtle’s characterization to be skewered worse than Superman murdering Zod. I expected to rant about how we’ve seen Raph go from “Grr I’m a loner so don’t boss me around” to “teamwork is awesome” in practically every iteration of the character, and that I’m sick of it, but surprisingly it didn’t happen. They treated Leonardo with dignity and actually made Raph look in the wrong for whining about his brother being bossy. The arc is still there, but due to another issue that I’ll get to in a minute, it’s somewhat downplayed. When the brothers are onscreen, they behave just like that: brothers. There are even scenes that I though I’d hate from the trailer and the online footage that was actually quite good in the context of the film. One example is the elevator scene. In the scene, the Turtles are taking an elevator up to face the Shredder for the climax. Mikey starts clanging his nunchucks to the beat of the elevator beeps. Slowly but surely, the other Turtles join in with their own weapons and they do this until the doors open. When I first saw the scene online, I cringed because I thought it would be a major mood killer. In the film though, it worked because it had significance. It was the brothers realizing that they might not all make it out alive so they may as well have one last fun moment together.That being said, I wish we had more of the Turtles because they were easily the best parts of the film. Unfortunately, the movie wastes most of its time on April when it could be developing the Turtles’ relationships. I mentioned the ever popular loner Raphael character arc being in the movie, but barely there. It’s hinted at but nothing is done with it. In the end, he just starts a blubbering confession about his love for his brothers seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly decides that teamwork is awesome, especially is Leo is the leader. Because this personality trait is rarely touched upon in the movie, the confession lacks the dramatic weight it should have had. While Leo is well done, Raph deferring to his leadership doesn’t make much sense because Leo hasn’t really proved himself to be a good leader. He’s just leader now because that’s his character in every other iteration. I guess I’ll chalk that change up to the near death experiences.

Overall, is this worth a watch? Yes, but wait until it’s on cable. Out of the five theatrical movies, this one is probably the second best, but considering the competition is Vanilla Ice randomly rapping, the Turtles traveling back in time, and stone warriors hunting for thirteen monsters and messy characterizations, that isn’t saying much. The first movie is still by far the best, but this is enjoyable despite the Swiss cheese plot, terrible villain motivations, the loss of very important relationships between characters,  obviously re-shot scenes, the pointless characters, and way too much focus on April. When the Turtles were one screen, the movie got so much more fun and enjoyable. I even got past their and Splinters’ somewhat grotesque designs. They all behaved in character and were likable. I can only hope they focus on the Turtles more in the sequel. This is by no means a good movie, but once you slog through the first twenty minutes, it gets to be really entertaining. I guess the reason I’m not angry is because there is nothing particularly offensive to me. The low expectations I had didn’t hurt my opinion either. I knew it wasn’t going to be a masterpiece going in, so I just went along for the ride. I knew that, even if the movie was going to be bad, there was still plenty of other great Ninja Turtle stories out there. For example, the trailer to the season two finale of the current cartoon looks awesome. Seriously, if you haven’t checked it out, look it up. My theories for the future of the cartoon are as follows: 1. They’re adapting my favorite Turtles storyline, the What Goes Around Comes Around/Shredder Strikes Back arc with Leo in the Finale. I believe this because Leo is seen fighting the Foot alone, is barely interacting with his brothers in the trailer and April is essentially replacing him as the fourth member of the group. 2. Splinter will be captured be the Kraang. This is supported by scenes being shown of the Kraang attacking the lair. Whether or not he’s rescued by the end of the episode, I don’t know, but I doubt it. 3. The ending will be a bit of a downer, with the Turtles exiled to Northampton Massachusetts as per tradition. Leo is badly injured, and the Turtles are recover from a Pyrrhic victory. This is supported by the Ninja Turtles Panel at the San Diego Comic Con, where they mentioned that the Turtles will be leaving New York.  Of course, these is just my personal theories, and are probably wrong, but a girl can dream. Now, if you excuse me, I have a Tome of some sort that I need to find.

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