Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is what happens when Michael Bay gets his hands on another beloved 80’s toy line/Saturday-morning cartoon. In the 7 years since the last theatrical film TMNT released, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kept themselves relevant. Eventually leading to Nickelodeon buying the rights from the original comic book creator. I was too old for the 2012 computer animated Nick series, but I did look forward to the new movie that was announced. With the increased popularity of superheroes, another live-action movie with CGI Turtles was inevitable. I knew it was doomed the second Michael Bay was attached.
No one will ever remember who directed it since Bay’s explosive DNA is all over it. Like Transformers, I expected excessive CGI, sexy women, product placement, and explosions galore. It sounded worse when he mentioned turning the Turtles into an alien race with the shortened title Ninja Turtles. So Bay felt the wraith of a thousand devoted fans. Leading to several much needed rewrites that only did so much. My opinion of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is roughly the same as my opinion of the first Transformers. It’s a guilty pleasure that’s entertaining and has geek worthy moments. But since I was 19 at the time, I couldn’t ignore its dumber decisions…
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) looked like a Michael Bay movie the moment I saw the trailer. Which is why I forget it’s a Nickelodeon movie. Odd since they made such a fuss about their previous PG-13 movie Fun Size having too much adult content. Although the Bayisims aren’t as aggressive as they were in the Transformers franchise. The opening pays partial homage to the comics with Master Splinter explaining the origin that every fan knows by heart. Followed by a recreation of Fruit Ninja. Anybody can watch Transformers without knowing the history, but the Turtles will forever be for people who already love it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is basically an April O’Neil movie. Since CGI is hard, they take an obnoxious amount of time before fully focusing on the Turtles.
Despite her vocal criticism of Bay, Megan Fox returns to play April O’Neil. Although she’s the hottest actress to play the knockout reporter and is sort of trying with her performance, Fox is just as bad as ever. With a gratuitous butt shot and aerobics scene for old time sake. April has the redish hair, reporter position, and even a yellow jacket. The main problem is all the side characters in April’s life that they linger on. She has a forgettable roommate, a boss played by Whoopi Goldberg for some reason, and the biggest offender, April’s cameraman Vern Fenwick. Will Arnett hijacks the movie with his unbearable standup that didn’t make me laugh once. Including a cringy joke about the whole alien fiasco. The ninja Foot Clan are changed into a Black Ops group that carries guns. The only accuracy there is Karai making her live-action debut. The Turtles save the day from the shadows, but April catches them on a rooftop. The most obvious Bay influence are the ugly roided out CGI Turtles. They’re as realistic as humanoid ninja mutant turtle teenagers could look, but they’re faces needed some work.
Although I prefer simplicity, I do like the idea of each Turtle having a look that reflects their personality. Leonardo is still the generic leader with his semi-samurai look reflecting his strong devotion to martial arts. Leo is somewhat humorous, but I still don’t get Johnny Knoxville voicing him. Raphael is tough, so he makes it more obvious with a do-rag bandanna, shades, and a much more muscular build. Of course Leo and Raph fight like they always do. Donatello is the tech guy, so expect him to be covered in technology and have a thinner build complete with dorky glasses. Although Donnie’s intelligence is a bit over-the-top. Michelangelo is the comic relief he always is, so that means easy going sunglasses, a party necklace, and a high tech skateboard. Mikey’s crush on April is also creepier than it usually is. The comedic banter is hit or miss with a ton of pop culture references and product placement. Namely Orange Crush and a delicious looking Pizza Hut pizza. Master Splinter is still a caring sensai, but much more aggressive with the voice of Tony Shalhoub. A giant CGI rat is off putting, but equally convincing.
When April is taken to the sewer, Splinter explains their origin once more. Except they’re now lab experiments that were exposed to TCRI mutagen thanks to April’s scientist father. April gave them their Renaissance names and love of pizza, then saved her pets after a fire broke out. Learning pop culture from Time Square makes sense, but the dumbest decision was Splinter learning Ninjutsu from a book flushed down the sewer. Shredder is always the de facto antagonist in any iteration. They just made another mistake by intending an original industrialist named Eric Sacks to be the Japanese Shredder. William Fichtner is a great antagonistic actor, but the last minute change to stay faithful to the source material is distracting. The reshot scenes with a shadowy Shredder make Sacks’ inclusion seem pointless. Together they plan to contaminate New York with the mutagen, cure everyone, and become stupid rich.
Shredder attacks the Turtle hideout in a Transformer-like mech suit equipped with giant shooting blades. Splinter is badly injured, the Turtles are captured, and Raph is of course on his own. Raph, April, (and Vern) rescue Leo, Mikey, and Donnie at a snowy base. It’s comedicaly violent, but the action is actually pretty entertaining. They slide down the snow with their shells and effectively use all their weapons. While April (and Vern) deal with the pointless Eric Sacks, the Turtles fight mechanized Shredder on a much more CGI building rooftop. But not before the best scene in the movie. When the Turtles simply goof off in the elevator with an impromptu song. The never before seen nod to the cartoon is the Turtle van at the end that naturally blows something up. Along with some homages to the original live-action movies. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) earns my “Cowabunga!” seal of approval, but that’s mostly the fan in me talking.
Followed by: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows