Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Review

Do you guys remember when fans were angry when it was revealed this reboot of the Ninja Turtles would be produced by Michael Bay, star Megan Fox and have the turtles be six feet tall and aliens? I sure do. I also remember seeing an opening of complex ninja weapons swinging and slicing and bashing like nobody’s business.

The other Ninja Turtles movies tended to have basic but sometimes layered plots, though this one leans more toward basic. April (this time Megan Fox sporting her yellow coat) is in the stages of her journalism career where she wants to tackle and investigate high crimes but is left with lowbrow surefire (says some anyway) entertainment, or advertainment reporting. But during a self-scheduled night shift of snooping around a story she’s chasing, she overhears shady activity by the docks and sees even weirder activity when the crime is supernaturally thwarted. But her higher-ups don’t give a care about any of her hard work if she’s unable to find a face to put accusations over, and soon she actually is able to when a group of vigilantes rescue her and a group of hostages from the notorious Foot Clan in the NYC subway. April ends up figuring out it’s the one and only turtles, and her now being acquainted with them and their Master Splinter will soon put the clan right on their tails.

I haven’t seen all of Michael Bay’s movies, but for his Transformers movies, I’m in the minority and not only like the first three, but love the second one despite heinous reviews from other critics (I decided to quit the franchise after the fourth one, though). Bay has been slandered for being too raunchy and reliant on explosions, a reputation that made many people hate the idea of him being on this project even if only as producer. But those Transformers movies managed to be fun, so if there was going to be some of that in this rendition of the turtles, as long as it didn’t cross too many lines, I knew I’d probably not mind.

My main concerns about this movie going in were completely different from what the public was fearing. My first concern was how the turtles and Splinter would be portrayed. If the turtles were going to be fun and Splinter was going to be laid back and April was going to not just be the typical damsel in distress, there was a high chance of a recommendation just for those things. Their portrayals and personalities and the depiction of April had a big say in my grades for the other Ninja Turtle movies I’ve reviewed so far.

I didn’t have concerns about Megan Fox as April, because she is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses. Whether it is ferocity, innocence, bravery, or all of the above, she really knows how to make a role her very own. In her interviews you can tell she’s a very good person overall too, which translates well to her roles even if she’s supposed to be an antagonist like in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. She shined in this production too, as my favourite kind of April; someone who never gives up on a story and is brave and independent enough to put herself on the line to expose bad activity, and yet people aren’t willing to give her the light of day. It’s journalism like that which needs proper attention.

The plot may be a little typical overall, simply the desire to get rich and achieve power, even though the antagonist other than Shredder is already clearly rich and powerful. But the thing is this is not a far-fetched concept, especially in a world of spoiled, tremendously greedy one-percent-ers. I cared more about the execution of this stop-the-evil-villain movie, and the action scenes were more than good enough, especially a long and masterful snow and avalanche anarchy fight. Like the other action scenes, it is filled with camera flips and corkscrews, making the whole thing seem like we’re the marble in a rube goldberg contraption.

The movie is admittedly a little stuck in origin-story mode even though it didn’t really have to be. Raphael ends up late into the movie confessing a very hard-hitting truth about his feelings towards his apparent attitude towards his brothers that transpires years, meant clearly for longtime fans of the turtles, and at the same time throughout the movie that introduces them all once again, Raph doesn’t display enough of the attitude he references to require an apology for what actually happens on screen.

Also, the turtle models are a little flawed. They at least tried something new and I don’t hate them, but Michelangelo is right up in our face a little too much, his lips a little disconcertingly big, and you can feel some of the turtle’s skin, especially on their faces, is a bit slouchy. You can tell Mikey also likes to show himself off a bit too much, including an elevator scene I had mixed feelings about. It was funny but a bit unnecessary.

However, the origin story definitely has perks. In this version April has prior history with the turtles and Splinter, her having been their formal owner before they were mutated. That was a twist on the classic turtle startup that really worked, throwing a curveball and giving Fox and the turtles a strange instant chemistry. And even if the turtle designs could’ve been better, at the very least the personalities still really shone. Unlike the 2007 CG-animated TMNT, all four of them carry likeable enthusiasm for who they are and how they fight.

This movie is problematic, but when it was first released I ended up seeing it in the theatre twice. Maybe it was because its good points really stood out. Especially when Splinter near the end says something that makes up for so many times throughout different incarnations of the character that annoyed me.

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