Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Stupid Fun With Good and Bad Moments

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

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.

 

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973): Completing the Original Planet of the Apes Cycle and a Story of Hope

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

      “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” completes the original Planet of the Apes cycle and is the 5th film of the Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect. It brings the story full circle into how things got to be the way they were in the original “Planet of the Apes.” It succeeds at this well while at the same time being an enjoyable film. It carries the themes we’ve seen from the other films forward, which I will go into in the assessment. The film was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who also directed “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” 

      The premise of “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” is the Caesar is working to create a city where apes and humans can live in harmony…but General Aldo, leader of the Gorilla faction is causing conflict which later includes humans as an enemy faction when Caesar, Virgil (an Orangutan adviser) and MacDonald (brother of the MacDonald from the last film) go to the dead city to find the archives where the tapes of Cornelius and Zira are located. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film: 

Pros: Caesar – This is Robby McDowell best acting I’ve seen. You see the conflict he feels as a leader and why the people follow him, as well as the reason behind his mistrust of the situation and attempts at idealism and trying to change the future that he learns about from the tapes of his parents. After Aldo injures his son Cornelius they have a really sweet moment with his son is injured and dying… 

Virgil – He is the calm and soft spoken intellectual. He knows about radiation and is the philosopher (living up to his name). He is friends with MacDonald and and is the only counter to Aldo later on. 

MacDonald – Is also friend of Caesar and one of the few calm heads in this movie. He is the one who advises returning the Dead City, which is also a good idea…though in a way it creates the future by the action since it gives Aldo and the Governor the excuses they need. 

Mendez – One of the mutants and one of the calm heads in the city. He showed what I wanted to see with the Gorillas…but what we never get in this series. All Gorillas are war mad…at least the mutants have Mendez to counter the madness of the Governor. 

The Mutants and Dead City – This movie captures the Post Apocalypse better than the other films that take place in the future of this world. From the dead city with the radiation, to the mutants who are weak and mad and the broken down vehicles used for military purposes. The exploration of the city and conflict among the mutants was one of my favorite parts.

The Final Battle – The final battle is great. Apes with tech. and mutant humans in mad max vehicles facing off against each other. It captures the cruelty and violence of it all. 

The Confrontation – Virgil confronts Aldo with the knowledge that he murdered Cornelius turning the Gorillas (yay they aren’t mindless violent creatures in this series!) and the rest of the apes against him. It ends on top of a tree with Caesar confronting him with the truth of his actions before he tries to kill Caesar and plummets to his death in the same way Cornelius was killed. 

The Hope – The is the only film to end with hope. The Lawgiver, a Moses type Orangutan is teaching children of apes and humans the story of Caesar and the dream of peace…he also recounted the movies up to this point at the beginning. We see Caesar’s statue cry…but this is also the only time where the final hasn’t ended in mass annihilation or the killing of protagonists or the coming war…hope, what these movies lacked, this one had. 

Okay: Governor Kolp – He is evil and he knows it. He isn’t over the top either in how he plays it too. Severn Darden does quite well. Just wish we had got more of his motivation and more character behind how he was ruling beyond (attack the outsiders!). 

The lead up to war – Aldo should have had more depth. He is the first ape antagonist who has no depth and terrible action. He reminds me of Governor Breck from the last film. Governor Kolp is a little better but he never listens to cooler heads…he at least as the excuse of madness though.  

General Aldo – We see him feel guilt at the end, making him okay. But like Kolp he isn’t a pro. Otto was the best protagonist besides Dr. Zaius and General Ursus. Dr. Zaius being the most complex and greatest of these antagonists of the original series. 

The music – Isn’t super memorable. 

 Cons: Lagged – If some scenes had been shorter (the confrontation, the battle, exploration of the Dead City) it would have been stronger. Some scenes feel like they go on a little too long. But that is the only con. 

    I definitely recommend this film. It is strong on it’s own and completes the Original Planet of the Apes Series Cycle. It is worth it for Caesar and Virgil alone, but MacDonald and the mutants are also fantastic…and we even see complexity among the Gorillas a little bit. I personally would recommend the series as a whole, even though “Planet of the Apes,” the original film didn’t need sequels. The sequels add some fascinating characters and tackle some interesting ideas and even some great drama and action.

 I’m giving this film an 8.5 / 10. The ending and exploration of civilizations elevate beyond being just a good film. Is definitely a favorite.