Podzilla 1985

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I wanted to lighten the mood, which is an unenviable task considering everything that has happened in the past few days. And I'm not just talking about the tragedy of Robin Williams death, but also the horrible things happening in Ferguson, MO. It's just a few hours away from me, and I was actually near there over the weekend and completely unaware of what happened. Add to that the sad news that Lauren Bacall passed away today, and you've got more than enough reason to drink yourself to sleep.

Still, it is okay to laugh every once in a while in the face of overwhelming darkness, and what screams fun more than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Well, technically, Ninja Turtles 1, 2, and TMNT were all way more fun. But the newest Turtles film still ninja beats the crap out of that awful Ninja Turtles 3 movie that was absolutely NOT called Turtles in Time. Yes, they did go through time, but no, it wasn't the name of the goddamn movie! Get your shit straight, fanboy.

Anyway.

You might recall in a previously bold article that I proclaimed the new Turtles movie would probably be awesome because they're still the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Micheal Bay has a way of making fun blockbusters. Some people doubted my sincerity, while others refuse to believe the new film would ever stack up against a rich history of ninja action that we already treasure.

Did the new film make me scream COWABUNGAAAAA? Or did it strike hard and fade away without a trace?

Honestly, it stuck a shuriken in the wall somewhere in between the two.

I went into this film with a lot of expectations, but I was smart enough to give myself only one condition on whether or not I liked it. I could deal with a new origin story, Megan Fox as April, and a huge departure from the Japanese influenced style of Turtles past. All I cared about was - is it fun?

If you're looking for a simple answer, then it would have to be yes. It was fun. I enjoyed it on the most primal level of "is this a fun movie?" The action was fast, Megan was capable, and at the end of the day it was a new Turtles movie. I enjoyed the terrible jokes and the little nods to previous Turtle entries. It was an experience I don't regret.

However, as a journalist and longtime TMNT fan, it would be wrong of me to not point out the many flaws in this film. The jokes are terrible, and those nods that I mostly enjoyed were almost insulting in their pandering to the hardcore fan.

There are probably going to be some spoilers in this, so if you're going to go see the film based solely on my judgment, stop reading and go. Go. GOOOOOOOOOOOO!

For those that stayed, I assume you've either already seen the movie, don't care about spoilers, or have no plans to see Micheal Bay's Ninja Turtles.

So be warned, good reader, that spoilers start here!

Let's start with the new origin story. I didn't like when they messed with Spidey's origins in ASM, and I'm not a fan of what they did here. I'm a fanboy, and in my heart of hearts I will only accept the explanation given in the first TMNT movie. They were pets, they got mutated, and a mutant rat raised them and taught them the ninjitsu he learned from his master. That's how the turtles got their start, and fuck all else.

The new movie puts them in a lab under the care of April's father when she was a wee girl, giving them a connection far before the present day troubles caused by Shredder. She actually names them and takes care of them pre-mutation, and after a tragedy in the lab she releases them into the sewer.

It's not a bad origin story, but it takes a lot of the meaning out of the characters themselves. Splinter is the one most harmed, as the personal story between himself and Shredder is completely gone in this version. There is no animosity between the two sides, and any grievances caused by the bad guys revolve around April almost entirely. Maybe I'm just being too harsh, but the hatred between Splinter and Shredder was one of my favorite aspects of the TMNT mythology. I also miss the "fish out of water" side to April's character in the original, because in this one she has a personal investment in the turtles and their fight before it's ever actually made personal.

The other part of the film that I really despised was the wasted potential of the actors. I was thrilled when I read that Whoopi Goldberg was in this playing a very significant character from the old cartoon. Blink and you might miss her though, as she is barely in it, and her entire part could have easily been cut without having much impact on the story.

I'm a big fan of Abby Elliot, and while she her two scenes in the film were pretty funny, they could have done so much more with her. I don't care how, but I wanted to see more of her pretty face! And also, they should have put her dad in, for no reason other than he is Chris Elliot.

Karai was in the film. They even referred to her by her name once! She could have also been named anything at all, because her character was meaningless. She was never referred to as Shredder's daughter, and she only played a thug that was slightly higher up the ladder than your basic foot soldier.

The biggest letdown belonged to K. Todd Freeman, who you may remember as Mr. Trick in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was badass there, and I had great hopes for his portrayal of Baxter Stockman in this one. Well, if you blinked you would LITERALLY miss him, because his entire part is looking distressed from a zoomed out perspective in one scene. That's it. What a waste of a great actor and iconic character! I hope they cut his scenes and plan on reinstating them on the home release, because his minuscule role was just plain depressing.

William Fichtner was great as always, even with as little as he had to work with here. He was the real villain in the film, which makes his simple and anticlimactic ending baffling to me. Shredder was barely in the film, and Fichtner's Eric Sachs seemed to be the real big bad. I even expected him to actually be in the armor at one point, as the voice in the suit did not match the man who played Shredder.

I know it sounds like I'm bitching a lot, but I only do it out of my love for the turtles franchise. I did not go into this film expecting perfection. I just wanted something I could enjoy, because it was my birthday and I wanted to spend it with my old green friends.

In that sense, I still stand by this film. It may have fallen flat on plot and character development, and the whole just seemed rushed, but it's still the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dammit! There was action, humor, mutagen, pizza, and four of my childhood heroes on the big screen once again!

And, because of my eternal love of the franchise, I'm awarding the 2014 version ofTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles two and a half heroes in a half shell out of four.

Party on, little dude.

It was fun, loud, and a worthy addition to the legacy. As long as you don't go in expecting perfection, you will have a good time.

And then you and your friends can tear it apart piece by piece afterwards.
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