Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Review

Possibly the most dreaded reboot of any to roll off the 21st century Hollywood assembly line, it’s of note that – as a franchise – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may actually be the single most inherently rebootable series around. Think back to how fans of the nineties animated series took so warmly to the completely unconnected yet equally likeable live action films of the time, or how the handful of animated series reboots in the years since – with one having begun only two years ago – have all gained genuine traction with new audiences without every truly alienating the core fans. It’s a result JJ Abrams must stare at in awe, and yet it’s to the detriment of (the new, 2014) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that it marks not only the lowest creative point of the franchise’s thirty year history, but that it’s far and away on of the year’s worst movies; beaten only by Transformers: Age Of Extinction in terms of sheer overproduced and excessive dullness.

Megan Fox leads the human cast as April O’Neill, here rejigged as a sort of tabloid fluff journalist with a history that conveniently ties her into the origins of the four walking, talking amphibian ninjas that she discovers waging a secret war on the criminal organisation known as The Foot Clan. True to canon, The Foot Clan are led by the mysterious Japanese warrior known as The Shredder, but new to the fold is an entirely new – and unnecessary – second villain known as Eric Sacks, who has designs on launching a biological attack on New York City which suggests that he can count The Amazing Spider-Man amongst his favourite movies. For the sake of transparency, it’s also worth noting that Sacks shares a history with O’Neill, was instrumental in creating the Turtles to begin with and has an origin story based in Japan in order to truly demonstrate the cracks in a script which has clearly been rewritten continuously throughout production.

First and foremost, the film is a shambles. Lacking any kind of coherence on a story level or making anything in the way of sense (the sheer volume of horrific backstory the April character has repressed is a crying indicator for serious psychological help), the film fails on the one basic level the franchise has always been dependable for: character. There are no distinct characters to be found in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a reboot of a series that has outstripped others for decades now purely on the back of characterisation. With no real chameraderie or banter, the 2014 Turtles are genuinely unlikeable and uninteresting creations; which is made more troubling by their borderline horrific design and almost comically racial portrayals.

Fox remains one of the most baffling and disposable starlets to have graced the silver screen in many years, with the most genuinely interesting aspect of her role being that the actress managed to avoid the rear-end introduction of the third Transformers movie only to receive a trampoline-based introduction for her next Michael Bay project. Will Arnett is devoid of any of his usual charm as would-be sidekick Vernon (whose entire character, it would seem, is defined by enjoying April O’Neill’s backside), Whoopi Goldberg makes a rather pointless appearance as a news editor, and William Fichtner is so much better than the slapdash material he’s given to work with that he can now genuinely count the final season of Prison Break as one of his better jobs.

On a visual level, things are even worse than you’d expect. For all the decrying of “Michael Bay’s Turtles” – it’s worth noting that he merely produces – director Jonathan Liebesman somehow manages to fall short of even that shlocky standard, with a lifeless and dull imitation of Bay’s style that makes one briefly wish it actually were a Michael Bay film, simply so it could be notable enough to be considered bad, rather than dull and forgettable. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in every conceivable way represents the dark side of contemporary Hollywood, from the cheap and poorly thought-out design, the boring action sequences, the business behind it all; it’s almost sad that it’s not even irritating enough to be this year’s Lone Ranger, though it takes a serious shot in the boredom department. It will appeal to none of the existing fans, create no new ones and genuinely bore to tears anyone unfortunate enough to sit through it. Hands down, it is the worst franchise movie of 2014 and therein marks the only noteworthy achievement behind it: that producer Michael Bay is the only person to have made a 2014 tentpole movie anywhere near as poor as the one by director Michael Bay.

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

In it
Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Behind it
Jonathan Liebesman

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