I’ve been a fan on Ninja Turtles for a while, even if at this point it is more of a passive fan and respect for such a crazy premise that has gone through so many iterations and managed to remain fresh while still staying true to the core characters (April, The Turtles, Shredder, Splinter). It is really from this place that this film can really be seen for both what it did well, and also how it failed.
There have been tons of iterations of the Ninja Turtles, some of which I haven’t seen or only seen briefly. For example, I haven’t read the original comics, I’ve only seen a little of the 80’s version, haven’t seen the anime version, saw most of the 2003 series and the Future Turtles and the first two live action movies as well as the CGI film and the new 3D animated series going on currently which I haven’t seen. Each of these brings or takes away something different. I have a soft spot for the 2003 series since it was serious but could be funny, and what got me interested in the lore in the first place, and April was an active character who didn’t always need to be rescued. Later on I’ll be reviewing all of them since this 2014 version already has a sequel in the works.
This film was directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay’s company. Michael being attached to this franchise was and still is worrying to me in regards to what some of the issues were and the future of the franchise…also the fact that it was written by 3 people (Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty) and it shows.
The story this time around is April is a reporter trying to get out of the fluff stories so she begins following up on vigilantes who are fighting the Foot Clan (the terrorist organization) that is terrorizing New York City. When they capture and hold her and other hostage she discovers the Turtles after being rescued and the story unfolds from there as she learns they were the turtles she’d helped raise as a child in her father’s lab and the reasons on why he was killed, as well as Shredder (the Foot Clan’s leader) and what his plans are.
Here is the assessment of the film:
The Pros: The Opening – The opening credits are done in the style of the original comic book, which is awesome. I wish the whole movie had been done that way, or that they will do one in that style at some point. Black, White and gritty with sparse color.
The Action – Unlike Bay’s “Transformers Franchise” you can actually see what is going on. The fight between the Shredder and Turtles on multiple occasions is pretty awesome, as well as the escape from Sack’s lair on top of a snowy mountain.
The Turtles – Leonardo – Leonardo is great as the leader and being the balance between the happy-go-lucky of Michelangelo and the seriousness of Raphael. You get why he is the leader as he manages to be the one who figures out how to defeat Shredder near the end.
Raphael – He is threatening but has a good heart. You get that in his final scenes where he is rescuing his brothers from Sax and Shredder and confesses his love for all of them. It is actually a sweet scene. He has more depth than the guy who wants to dangerous and this helps get past his douchy exterior (he has oakley’s and is trying to look gangster).
Donatello – Is an Erkil style nerd, but within the story it makes sense, since their identities came from popular culture, since it was popular culture and Splinter who raised them. He is a good character though he gets his moment to shine in the mountain scene and whenever he gets the chance to hack a system or computer.
Michelangelo – Comes off as creepy…thinks April is his girlfriend even though she says nothing to show this and keeps trying to win her heart. It eventually becomes harmless when you see her with her camera man and the fact that he is basically a thirteen year old who has a crush on the teacher. He has quite a few funny moments in this.
Shredder – He is big and threatening and his plans of conquest make him a mini-Bane (though not nearly as fleshed out or cool). He still manages to defeat the Turtles on multiple occasions and Splinter. He is a worthy foe for sure. I liked Tohoru Masamune in this role.
Okay: April – Megan Fox actually isn’t bad, she isn’t good either though. She doesn’t elevate the okay sript and is the definition of safe…which is a shame considering how many times she saves the Turtles and fights Sacks. Her plot is a bit contrived though, the big bad Sacks who is the billionaire industrialist wanted the mutagen from the Turtles to gas the city for money and to cure them while letting Shredder take over and her dad knew this so burnt all his material before getting killed. Oy vay…it’s like “The Amazing Spider-Man” all over again. None of that is needed.
Erik Sacks – Adopted by Shredder, all he wants his money. William Fichtner is great in the role, but his character is so weak and shallow. I expected more from someone raised by the fascinating antagonist of the Shredder. Money means nothing to guys like Shredder, and you’re his adopted son?
Splinter – Raised the turtles with a Ninjitsu book, yeah there isn’t much here for this character sadly. His plot is contrived, He is the old mentor figure without much there.
Karai – Shredder’s second in command of the Foot Clan is pretty much there to lose in every fight unless the Shredder is on hand. I hope they fix that in the sequel. She is great in the other material she appears in, but doesn’t do much but get beaten again and again in this. She isn’t a bad character, just not much there.
Cons: Vernon Fenwick – This guy is a dudebro and it is terrible. He hits on April on multiple occasions when she clearly isn’t interested, and unlike Michelangelo who everything is a joke to, this guy feels like his manhood is at stake. Give me a break…I wish Sacks had killed this guy. He is useless, give us Casey Jones instead. This guy is only there to do bad romantic jokes when no romance should even be there.
Eyes on April – This occurred less than I thought it would, thankfully. But it was still creepy when the Turtles first size her up…and any scene with Vernon…what a terrible character. He is there just to talk about her body it feels like. He has a moment where he fights with her against Sacks at the end, but than gets a nice car right after to flirt with…he is a much bigger problem than anything the Turtles do.
The Writing – The writing is a con in that Sacks’s plan is terrible, Splinter training the Turtles to be Ninja’s is contrived and Vernon Fenwick should not be in this film. I don’t know anyone who saw it who thought he was a needed or in any way redeemable character.
Would I recommend this film? If you like Ninja Turtles, it is worth seeing if only for it very much has it’s own flavor and flair. Is it good as a movie…no. Is it enjoyable, yes. It is isn’t bad either, it just is in no way a great or good film. I would still rate it above all of Bay’s “Transformers Franchise” though…and it got me interested in seeing the other Ninja Turtles works, which we’ll do as a week one of these times on the blog.
Final Score is 7 / 10. Okay, enjoyable fun with obvious problems.