Release date: August 8, 2014
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Josh Applebaum, Evan Daugherty, and André Nemec
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and Willian Fitchner
If you're hoping the enjoyment of watching your favorite Ninja Turtle skateboarding around, eating pizza, and ninja fighting Shredder will be enough to cancel out the bad turtle design, the lack of a script, or the fact that Michael Bay's name is attached as producer, prepare to be disappointed. The turtles are back, but without the silly ironic sense of humor that made it a cult phenomenon back in the 90s.
Even for a summer movie based on a comic book, cartoon series, and four previous movies, the plot of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a total rip-off. In this case, director Jonathan Liebesman ("Wrath of the Titans", "Battle Los Angeles") and producer Michael Bay mine most of the key plot elements from "The Amazing Spider-Man" and this year's sequel "ASM2". The turtles, and their eventual master, Splinter, are the products of genetic mutation testing, the kind that's supposed to save the world.
The villain, Shredder, plans to release a toxic gas on NYC only to be able to save everyone with an antidote he's extracted from the Ninja Turtles' blood. None of it every makes any real, logical sense. But like most super hero movies, cliches can be overcome with strong villains, but there are none to be found here. Tohoru Masamune plays Shredder, a Japanese terrorist who runs a gang of thugs called The Foot Clan and dresses like a robot samurai. Think that awful villain in last summer's "The Wolverine", except even more horribly developed. He kinda has super powers, or maybe it's magic, either way it's not totally clear.
He's got a protege, played by William Fitchner ("The Dark Knight", "Go"), who is more of a puppet master. When the Foot Clan start to cause trouble, a wanna be reporter, April O'Neil (Megan Fox) stumbles upon their activities and gets herself into trouble. She's rescued by the protectors of NYC, the Ninja Turtles, who wear different color head bands so you can tell them apart. Fitchner is usually solid, but he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself in a role that is as over the top as it is under-written.
The rest of the humans don't fair much better. Megan Fox struggles to be convincing as April O'Neil, the hard-hitting journalist just waiting for that one big story that will make her a star. Will Arnett is limited to being April's sidekick. He's supposed to be the comic relief, but isn't given much to do that's of any real use. When Whoopie Goldberg shows up as April O'Neil's tough editor boss, it begins to raise the question as to whether or not the filmmakers are taking this serious and whether or not the audience is supposed to.
The unfortunate part of it all is the Turtles, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo almost entertaining. There is just far too little development in their characters beyond what everyone already knows about them. They are teenagers, who have mutated into six-foot talking turtles, who are surprisingly adept at kung-fu -- and they love pizza. They have different enough personalities: Leonardo is the leader, Raph is the muscle, Donatello is the brains, and Michelangelo is the wild card. They are fun to watch but never all that interesting. You'll recognize none of the voices, the only of note being Johnny Knoxville, who voices Leonardo. Not that you'll notice during the flick.
Liebesman does his best to channel in Michael Bay's ability for mindless action and blatant disregard for human life. Most of the action is hard to follow. There's loads of destruction. Liebesman's camera never stops moving or shaking -- action scene or not -- making it nearly impossible to tell what's really going on. One action scene, in which the turtles and April escape from a snowy mountain fortress in a semi-truck, is one of the dumbest action sequences in recent memory. And the sense of humor is sorely missing. This is, after all, a movie about 'teenage mutant ninja turtles' -- and it takes itself way too seriously.
Kids and hardcore fans may be able to have a little fun while watching "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", but the painfully bad and unoriginal script combined with woefully developed villains, make this adaptation something fitting for a sewer.
Running time: 101 minutes.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence