A review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
One sentence synopsis: Four ugly yet colour coordinated anthropromorphic turtles fight a man with a shit ton of shiny knives.
My rating: Four empty turtle shells, devoid of all turtlage/10
Housekeeping: The 2014 film, written by Josh Appelbaum and directed by Jonathan Liebesman (and produced in part by Michael Bay, which will become very obvious if you actually decide to watch this), runs for 101 minutes. 101 minutes that you will never get back. Yes, it’s going to be that kind of review.
I grew up with the tmnt, I watched them on tv, I had all the merchandise, Hell, I still own teenage mutant ninja turtle pyjamas and I’m not even sorry. I’m telling you this not to paint you a picture of my nerdy childhood but to contextualize the sheer sassiness that is going to follow, because this film is simply horrific.
I’ll start with the positives (this won’t take long, I assure you). Undeniably, the CGI is cool; the turtles look ugly as sin, but really I suppose if you were to breed turtles with a mutagen inside them, they probably wouldn’t be the most aesthetically pleasing crime-fighters. Shredder, decorated with his shiny armour and knife-fists also looks pretty awesome, which distracted for a few seconds from the drivel that is this film. Also, Whoopi Goldberg makes an appearance for a few minutes and I like her, so that was fun. And “Hollaback Girl” plays for a few seconds (I’m really scraping the barrel here). And that’s about it for the good parts.
First on this tirade of home truths, I shall address April O’Neill. I’ve never been the greatest Megan Fox fan, but she is surprisingly not the problem with this film. Rather, Liebesman has made the film into “The April O’Neill Show”. Did the fans pay the over-priced ticket prices to come and see Megan fox take pictures of things in a horrific yellow jacket? No, they came to see cool superhero turtles fight bad guys. And yet the first fight doesn’t come until about 50 minutes in, and as soon as it’s done, we’re back to more April. Liebesman has significantly misjudged the fanbase and what they would want to see. At one point, a man drives a truck off a cliff because he is too busy looking at April’s butt. Really. REALLY?!
Moving on to the turtles, and it gets no better. Michaelangelo, the silly, pizza craving, party turtle has been transformed, effectively, into a sex pest. The majority of his lines encompass his apparent sexual attraction to April, which wasn’t funny the first time or the tenth. Leonardo is devoid of all personality whatsoever and, apart from a sort-of gruff voice, I’m not entirely sure where Liebesman was trying to go with him. Donatello really is not too bad, and he was probably the only character in the entire film who I actually was content to watch. Raphael, classically, my favourite of the team, was turned into some sort of fake-badass, who is only pretending to be unfeeling and sarcastic.
Splinter. Oh poor Splinter. What have they done to you? HE HAS A TOP KNOT. He’s not the loving but stern old-man rat anymore, more a middle-aged rat who can’t actually fight and has a god-awful haircut. For some reason, the most terrifying punishment he could possibly inflict on the turtles is to make them balance on things whilst tempting them with a “99 cheese pizza”. And somehow, Liebesman has also managed to make Shredder, the terrifying leader of the foot clan, boring. I didn’t care about him in the slightest, didn’t care if he won or lost and don’t actually even remember why he was even helping Sacks in the first place. It was that unmemorable.
The fighting is over the top, but that is by no means the biggest mistake of the film, and is something I would actually expect in a ninja turtle movie. The plot, however, is some of the laziest Hollywood writing I have ever seen, completely transparent, overly-simple and obvious. Good guys have a bit of trouble but then they defeat the bad guys. And that’s it. And the so-called ‘humour’ failed to make me crack even the faintest shadow of a half-smile.
Liebesman and Bay have done a great job butchering what is, for many including myself, a beloved franchise. Please, I urge you, do not waste your time with this film.