Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

Few critics are fond of Michael Bay, whose Platinum Dunes company produced this sour reboot, but I want to make it clear, for the benefit of my readers, that I consider myself, with some reservations, a Michael Bay fan. I would concede that in many respects he's lacking as a filmmaker - his stories are incomprehensible, his movies are always half an hour too long, and his weakness for sentimentality, especially in the case of films like Armageddon and Pearl Harbour, is egregious. However, if you hold up the likes of Pain & Gain, The Island and Transformers against their leading competitors - by-the-numbers blockbusters like Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man - his films are, comparatively speaking, very interesting. They disorient the viewer with their obfuscating use of quick cuts and unusual angles, and are almost entirely comprised of shots which are beautiful in themselves, but together leave you unsure of where you are and what you're meant to be paying attention to, like sentences in a Thomas Pynchon novel. 
TNMT 2014
I find the overall effect of his technique to be startling and artistic, and while there may be comparable filmmakers whose work is more consistently enjoyable, nobody in recent times has had a more significant and interesting influence on mainstream cinema. His methods may sometimes be crude, but his movies are always going to strike as hard as they can, and the results are never going to be mediocre.

I wish I had equally kind words to say for the films being produced by his production company, Platinum Dunes, but I don't. This, their latest release, is a change in direction after many R-rated horror remakes, but is neither welcome nor unwelcome, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only meets the very low expectations Platinum Dunes have set for themselves. It's an especially notable film in the context of Bay's oeuvre as it's directed by Jonathan Leibsman, a Bay clone who has learned to perfectly mimic Bay's technique without inheriting any of his skill or talent. To put it frankly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is about as bad as mainstream Hollywood gets. 

The cinema I was in was hardly packed, but everyone seemed just as unimpressed as I was. Not one line delivered by comic relief Will Arnett elicited a laugh, and the Turtles' flippant references to modern technology and pop culture fared no better.

Maybe I'm just being nostalgic, but I remember the Turtles in the original 1990 film seeming relatable and real. The way they reacted to events and situations just made sense. When you watched the film, you believed they were experiencing the story as it happened, and not just arbitrarily spouting "clever" lines. When the "funny" dialogue clashes with the gritty sequences of computer-generated carnage, it's feels like someone's shuffled the pages of the script. The rubber suits of the original have been replaced by CGI, which is not inherently bad, I'll confess, but the designs are grotesque to look at, monstrous enough to clear anyone of the fairer sex out of the room, and scary enough to frighten all but the most psychologically adroit boys.


There's something endearing about men in rubber suits joking about pizza, but when these grotesque, militaristic mutants with ugly scars and growly Batman voices are delivering awkward one-liners, the amount of cognitive dissonance is enough to induce a manic episode in those predisposed to bipolar disorder. Megan Fox, meanwhile, is completely unbelievable as ambitious, alluring reporter April O'Neil, and in the years since Revenge of the Fallen, her face has become so puffed up from collagen and plastic surgery that she finally resembles the sex doll she aspires to be. 

While dicey and charismatic in interviews, her rail-thin body and porn star face fail to light up the screen. Despite all the gravity-defying action, the least realistic moment in the film has to be when Will Arnett, driving while O'Neil climbs out the window, gets so distracted by her non-existent ass that he veers off the road.

Finally, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a film that can be recommended to nobody, even the children for whom it was intended. The film has already done great business, so it's too late for the international movie-going public to make the right decision, but for anyone who's managed to hold on this long, please, stay well away

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVD

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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photo credit: BagoGames via photopin cc

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  1. Yes, Michael Bay can be very effective. Even if the producers he associates with have a spotty record. I'm going to wait for this one to come out on disc.
    A couple months ago I was at a theater waiting for a movie to start, with my mother in tow. They played a trailer of Ninja Turtles but she didn't understand it all & thought the "green people" were crazy looking. She said, "Oh, look at him! He's ugly". (She doesn't get the whole concept of fantasy.)

  2. i heard from a lot of people a lot of bad things about this film. i totally understand your mother. this turtles look way too rough and ugly than when the original film got out in 1990.