Sunday, August 10, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review; another terrible reboot

The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film holds a place near and dear to my heart.  I was one of THOSE kids, that was obsessed with the Ninja Turtles.  The Saturday morning cartoon, the toys, the video games, I loved it all.  I vividly remember my brother and I waited in line to see the first live-action take on the turtles, and how much we absolutely loved it.  There was a charm to that film, that may not hold up after rewatching it today, but the magic was there 20 some odd years ago.  Now, 2014, we get a reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with all the digital upgrades you would expect.  Jonathan Liebesman directs a Michael Bay produced reboot of the heroes in a half shell.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Choreography / Action Set Pieces 
You may not know Liebesman's films by heart, but he has a decent enough resume, involving some big budget action films.  Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans had to have prepared him for this massive undertaking.  In fact, the action in the film is pretty much the only thing I liked about the film.  The action set pieces are thrilling.  Where the 1990 film showcased actors in suits fighting against other human actors, the stage is much bigger in this film.  Sure, there is hand to hand combat, but there is much much more.  The trailer showcased a tiny bit of an action scene that takes place on a mountain side, but let me tell you, the finished product is incredible.  Sure, there is a total disregard of time, space and physics, but nonetheless, it is entertaining as all hell watching the action.  The climax is very similar to the original film, in the sense of circumstances and location; but everything else is taken up a notch.  If there's one thing I couldn't complain about, it was the action.

What I liked and didn't like about the film:
The Special Effects / Design
I've only done this a few times, but there is an aspect of the film I liked and disliked... the special effects.  While the special effects during fight scenes like the one I described above are terrific, the overall design of the film is just bad.  The turtles look terrible in my opinion.  They are downright scary looking and do not look real, at all!  Splinter, the turtles' sensei and father figure is an awful design that does not look real in any way, shape or form.  Again, the 1990 film may not hold up today, but at least the animatronics/actors sold us on the fact that the characters inhabited a human world.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Writing
The movie is flat out bad, and I will attribute a large part of the blame on the writing, or lack thereof.  I will try to discuss as little as possible when it comes to the plot, which has an oddly similar climax to The Amazing Spider-Man.  But, I will say this... the film is not funny, and that was a problem for me.  Instead of smart and witty jokes, much like the original (sorry, I can't help but compare it, knowing I shouldn't).  Smart writing, and jokes for all ages is a very difficult thing to accomplish, I understand that.  But instead, we're treated to fart jokes and physical comedy that doesn't keep us engaged or interested.  This critique is especially apparent, considering the terrific Guardians of the Galaxy that absolutely nailed the comedy.

The writing is also bad in terms of story and plot... there is none really.  The 'plot' is so simple that you wonder why go through all this headache for something that seems so easily avoidable.  Without spoiling anything, the entire plot folds on itself with this simple notion... if the turtles lay low, there is no plot to the film.  It's simply a stupid story with disproportionate consequences to the action.

Finally, the characters and their development just plain sucks.  The human characters, made up of Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner, are not intriguing at all.  I'll start with Megan Fox; I didn't hate her in the film, I just thought there was very little material for her to work with.  And another gripe with the film, also without spoiling everything is, like I mentioned earlier... it has a serious case of The Amazing Spider-Man syndrome.  Why does the parent of the main character need to be a part of this much bigger conspiracy that lead to the hero's existence?  April O'Neil (Fox), didn't need to be at the center point of the origin story.  She could have simply met the turtles, after they became the heroes we know.

Will Arnett is supposed to be the comic relief in the film, I think.  I think Arnett is a gifted comedian, but he's just not very good in this film, and again, it may be due to the writing.  And if the turtles were funny, the way they've been in every previous incarnation, Arnett wouldn't have to be.  Lastly; it takes about 30 seconds of screen time for us to figure out where Fichtner's character is headed.  It's too bad too, because Fichtner is a tremendous talent who is often downgraded to a supporting character, with very little to do.  He does a fine job with his limited screentime, I just expected more.

The Verdict:
I wish I Didn't See it
I'm serious.  I wish I didn't see this film.  The 1990 film will always, ALWAYS, have a special place in my heart, regardless if it holds up today.  This film had no soul, it had no heart.  It's like a painting... it may look 'pretty' in some people's eyes; but if the artist who created it had no feelings evoked though the painting, it will never amount to much more than some paint on a canvas.  And that's how I felt about this movie.  I never got the sense that the filmmakers were creating this film out of a sheer love, respect, or admiration for the source material.  And I'm not one of those fanboys that feels that filmmakers shouldn't stray from the source material.  I understand a film is a film, and a comic book/tv show/etc. is a completely different thing.  But show us some life in these characters, tell us an engaging story, and you'll get my money everyday of the week.  This movie didn't do it for me.  Maybe I'll go back and watch the 1990 film instead tonight.

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