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Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' is a shell-shock for franchise fans

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened August 8th, 2014
Theatrical release poster

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," the current box office hit, follows the story of the four beloved teenage turtles as they try to save the city of New York from the evil Shredder. In a franchise that’s been rebooted and depicted in several different ways, this new film gets lost in an origin-lacking display of muddled graphics and distracting action. For a beloved fan of the franchise, this film isn’t the best, but it somehow does manage to elicit a minor sense of enjoyment by its conclusion.

The first thing that’s wrong with this film was the main decision to cast Megan Fox as April O’Neil. O’Neil remains the stock character of pesky reporter, but Fox manages to turn her into an overzealous psychotic mess. Not to mention there was little to no emotional depth to the character of April. We are given slight glimpses into her past, but it isn’t enough to cause an audience to actually care about her. Instead, she becomes a nuisance, and one that causes more trouble for the turtles than help.

Another negative about this film was the major disregard for the past story behind the mutants’ existence. This movie would have worked much better as an origin film, but instead it starts off as a terrible hodgepodge of a half animated, half live-action narration with really poor cinematography. The turtles’ story is not at all similar to their actual origin, which is something long-time fans will be peeved about. Also, the brotherhood of the turtles is what makes them so relatable and enjoyable to watch. That brotherhood wasn’t nearly touched upon enough, making what was at stake not at all worth our attention.

Finally, the way the turtles are depicted is just downright insulting to the history of the franchise. Oversized, hulking blobs of reptilian filth is what they look like. But fortunately for them, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. That’s right: personality to the rescue! The turtles actually are depicted close to perfection. Leonardo (Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville) is the fearless leader, Donatello (Jeremy Howard) is the tech-savvy nerd, Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) is the lovable jokester, and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) is the moody rebel. They are all portrayed wonderfully, and the way they all mesh and complement one another is what saves the film from disaster.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is one of those films that you have to disregard any expectations going into it, give it a chance, and keep watching, because it actually improves slightly as time goes on. While some of the early action scenes are a bit unbelievable, the subsequent ones actually do seem impressive. Tail-wielding Master Splinter (Danny Woodburn/Tony Shaloub) is a visual disappointment, but the turtles and Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) are all that mattered in the end.

Overall, the plot didn’t manage to elicit any desire to care for what was going to happen, and the main human character of April O’Neil was horribly portrayed. However, it was visually appealing during the latter portions and was also surprisingly amusing. The brotherly bond of the turtles, April’s camera man Vernon (Will Arnett), and Michelangelo provided some much needed comic relief.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" would be a good stand-alone film if the characters didn’t have an extensive history. The problem is, there was a history that was disregarded. While the most major aspects of the film remained true to the past (the personality traits of the turtles), it was still a bit of a letdown. There wasn’t enough of a story to draw emotion from the audience. It was a lackluster depiction of a franchise that is so well known, it’s obvious the popularity is all that drove this movie to its success. The minor saving grace, as is perhaps fitting, was the turtles themselves. True to their form, they were heroes in a half shell, doing all they could to save this film from future obscurity.

Final grade? C+

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