Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman.
Screenplay: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty.
Runtime: 101 minutes.
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville.
Trailer: “Batter up!”
Plot: Rebooting the popular franchise the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back, rescued from a fire in a lab where they were pumped full of an alien mutagen. With super-healing powers and a mastery of the martial arts, they battle crime underneath New York – particularly, the Foot Clan and their mysterious leader Shredder. Forbidden from venturing above ground by Splinter, they quickly get embroiled in foiling a plot to destroy New York and enlist the help of intrepid reporter April O’Neal.
Review: There are a lot of cool things to like about Jonathan Liebesman’s rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – that is, if you are a child, or a CGI-crazed director, or both. For the rest of us, don’t bother, as there are more enjoyable things to spend out money on – like tax audits, or dental surgery, or both. However, if you are determined to experience the film despite unanimous critical advice, then make sure you drink heavily, or drastically lower your expectations, or both. All of that and more; because this is the sort of highly accomplished, deeply lazy, designed by spreadsheet studio tentpole that deserves all of the venom spat over it’s glossy, computer generated surface.
Your humble correspondent has had to break a few of his personal rules to bring you this review of Jonathan Liebesman’s reboot of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of great significance to mankind, I know, but think of it more as a necessary change in perspective; in order to be able to deal with this film as more than just an easily dismissed, brainless big budget mess engineered to suction dollars from the wallets of the gullible. I mention it because you may have to do the same, being slowly pulled towards the film, as towards the inescapable event horizon of a black hole; by either children you might be affiliated with somehow, and forced to take to see this film, or friends who suffer for pangs of nostalgia and questionable judgement in selecting films for group outings. In short, you may find yourself forced to see this film – and we all knew it was going to be bad, back when it was first announced, so there’s no mileage to be gained from mounting our high horses and acting surprised. We know the exact product they are aiming to churn out here; we’ve seen this film before. So, a few broken rules.
Firstly, before entering the cinema I had to get a few drinks under my belt, like I’d just been indecently proposaled by the world’s ugliest, sleaziest man (I’m thinking James Franco). Sure, it cuts into the razor thin to non-existent profits of your humble proprietor’s website, but this was for a good cause. This was to get through a film produced by Michael bay. So, friends, before seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I encourage you to drink, and drink heavily. Forget all responsibility warnings; get hammered like it’s the first week of university and you’re a college resident fresh from the family farm. A tip for new players, though: here’s the risky calculus you’ll have to navigate – consume just enough, and the time will fly by, as it does when you are on the way to pleasantly drunk. Too much, and the many camera tilts, swoops, action shakes, etc will have you vomiting on the floor. Take that drinking seriously; it’s more an art than a science, but one every adult viewer should attempt to master before viewing this film.
Secondly, I read the reviews. I almost never do this, because I like to go into every viewing experience as a blank slate, trusting in the gods of cinema that each time could be something wonderful and unexpected. But one must be a pragmatist about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; better to follow the Roman philosopher Seneca’s advice and expect the worst to be pleasantly surprised when the actuality is only slightly better. So read the professional reviews (you know, the ones that aren’t allowed to say ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ and ‘masturbate’ like this amateurish website is allowed), and enjoy just how much the professional critic’s circle hated this film. And they truly hated it. But there’s some amazing, witty venom out there. Sure, Michael Bay is immune to it – having built himself a custom super-robotic suit of armour, like the one Shedder wears in this film, but made out of cash. But reading it beforehand you’ll feel cleansed of expectations; ready to confront the stupidity of this film’s world with the protection of something like a zen koan. ‘Noise for nuance,’ as one insightful reviewer put it in a perfect summary of what Bay and his company have come to represent within cinema.
So, all of that preamble to avoid discussing the actual film itself. It’s filmed in bright candy-neon colours, a lot of it at day to avoid the ‘sustained threat’ tag by the Office of Film and Literature Classification which is apparently a thing; although the film was still classified ‘Mature’ anyway (an irony, as by purchasing a ticket you have probably disqualified yourself from that category; I certainly did). The cinematography is hugely frustrating, the camera always moving and swooping even in static scenes – in an indication that the film doesn’t trust its audience to remain interested or the action to maintain that interest. The overbearing soundtrack attempts to constantly dictate audience reaction, like a cinematic ride engineer; while the director liberally sprinkles a low bass sound that can only be described as 'Brrrrrrrooooooooooggggggghhhhhhhhnnnn' to denote to the brain dead that something is up. There are numerous, numerous other problems with the film documented all over the web.
In the spirit of laziness, I’m just going to type up my notes in list form. Really, if you have better things to do, don’t bother with this one. I wrote down a lot of stupid things. Oh, and for those wondering, promotional consideration was furnished by Pizza Hut (of course), Nokia (yep, they’re still around), and Victoria’s Secret (I have no idea either).
- Everyone has something to do with a stupid fire in a lab; yet these strong motivations for revenge make little impression as far as the portrayal of characters is concerned.
- Splinter masters martial arts from a book, and teaches it to his charges. Still doesn’t explain his bad Japanese accent.
- Speaking of which, Japan apparently still has medieval warlords like Shredder. News to the Japanese, I suppose. Follow-up: hidden villain of the film has a disturbing fetish for medieval Japanese art and objects, but April O’Neal has no follow-up questions on that. Great investigating, April.
- Magical mutagen, the MacGuffin of this tale, has come from outer-space. No discussion of the discovery that there is life in outer-space. Some private lab gets full ownership of the universe’s most valuable sample – presumably Area 51 was full.
- If I found genetic material from another planet, I’d definitely start randomly injecting into different animals, like a kid with a chemistry set. No harm could come of that.
- No Beebop and Rocksteady; just a mystical Asian lady that spends most of the film being punched in the stomach like a hillbilly abortion patient. Yep, that’s a pretty offensive joke – but not as offensive as Hollywood’s fetish for repeatedly punching women in the stomach.
- The sole motivation for the Foot Clan, and presumably Shredder, is that they ‘don’t want to be a myth anymore.’ Just run a PSA, or buy a page in the New York Times. Geeze.
- The NYPD seems to be entirely funded by a billionaire. This universe is obviously run by Congressional Republicans.
- Sole motivation for evil billionaire is to make billions more dollars by destroying the trade capital of the world, tanking the stock market, and causing a global depression. Watertight plan. Thinks the US government will just hand over control of New York to a private militia in the wake of a terrorist attack. Plan is airtight, too. Explains why the flow of oxygen seems to have been cut off from his brain.
- Splinter expresses loving fatherhood over turtles; uses it to domestically abuse them, and force them into stress positions. A parenting technique only common in the Cheney household.
- Foot Clan comes up with an ingenious plan to trap the turtles – creates a disturbance to which they’ll show up. Doesn’t plan for when they show up. Gets arse kicked. Rinses, repeats.
- Turtles threaten to find April O’Neal if she says a word. She’s a reporter on T.V., so I’m guessing she’s pretty easy to find.
- Raphael rewritten as Vin Diesel. No further comment.
- Splinter randomly knows stuff, like Shredder’s plans. (File that one under the ‘Bane knows where Batman’s basement is, just because’ case file)
- An hour into the film we’re still getting exposition and flashbacks.
- They smash through the front gates to confront villain. They smash through the same gates an hour later to escape. No shot of downcast repairman holding hat and cursing.
- Shredder is given a Robocop outfit. Now he’s like a transformer.
- Business card has a tracker in it. Never trust people with fancy business cards, ask “why are they wasting it on you?”
- Having thrown a few punches and knocked the turtles around a bit, Shredder just leaves. Absolutely no follow-through. Amateur mistake, hate to see it.
- A massive overdose of adrenaline later, and they’re right as rain. ‘Because science is whatever we want it to be.’ Thanks Dr. Spaceman.
- Citizens of NYC don’t notice giant turtles snowboarding on a crumbling tower in Time Square in the middle of the day. Their secret is safe.
- Ominous chemical spire on top of villain’s skyscraper really doesn’t look up to code, but isn’t inspected by building authorities anyway. (I'd pay good money to listen to that conversation - 'looks like you've got, your ah, typical unapproved death spire here. Gonna need to file for a variance for that one, to bring it up to code.')
- Sure, fire shots and fight around your delicate lab equipment, endangering the only cure to your toxin.
- Climactic speech lasts several minutes; takes that long to fall 80 stories or so.
- I’ve successfully attacked their base and know their exact number. I won’t bother to check whether that fourth one is dead or not. Note to self: Always, always drop enemies into molten vats at nearest steelworks.
- Why does talking in unsubstantiated percentages make you sound smarter, Donatello? Actually it just makes you sound like the resident boob, Cliff Clavin, from Cheers.
- Giant, snow-covered cliffs just outside of New York. But not a drop of snow in New York proper.
- Stolen mountainside shot from the opening of The Shining.
- Odds calculated at 0.0000003%; Leonardo says he’ll take them. Next stop: career as a professional gambler.
- Tower started disbursing the toxin before the countdown even ended. Control system must be by Siemens, stolen from an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility.
- Michelangelo is almost certainly headed towards a sexual harassment lawsuit; teaching leering, trademark Michael Bay behaviour to a whole new movie-going generation.
- Michelangelo has rocket skateboard now suddenly. Parents, start saving up for flimsy plastic rocket skateboards.
- Shredder starts to sound like Darth Vader with a cold.
And stupid lines:
- Everything Michelangelo said.
- ‘Foot clan so named because they step over the people of this city with no regard.’ So that makes the people of NYC Foot Paths? Or just drunk hobos.
- 'Foam, froth - you get the point.' Sorry? I drifted off for a while, GOB. “Come on!” He’d reply if he could hear me.
- 'Now I have my story; there’s no more froth and foam for me!' Unlikely April, you’re in a film affiliated with Michael Bay.
- 'Oh look, he’s doing his Batman voice.' Yes, it’s going around at this time of year. The girl at reception had it last week.
- 'Ah she’s hot! I can feel my shell tightening.' Where does one even begin with that?
- 'Maybe she has hot friends.' Yes, hopefully they’re incandescent with justified feminist rage.
- 'I know those names!' We all do, April. They’re Renaissance painters.
- 'I was awake all night googling thwarted crimes.' Ah, good old fashioned police work.
- 'The mutagen possesses powers beyond our wildest dreams.' So lazy.
- 'I don’t understand' says April, despite having revealed the mystery to everyone but minutes ago. Oh, women!
- 'They would be ridiculed' by society, says Splinter; who has spent most of his time so far ridiculing them.
- 'First I would teach myself the ancient art of jujitsu.' That’s right, “I learned it from a book” to quote Manuel/the Moose from Faulty Towers.
- 'Inside those turtles is the most precious compound on earth – mutagen.’ Also, great soup if you know how to cook them right.
- 'Get the first aid kit, on the shelf there.' Sure, cure critical injuries with bandaids.
- 'I’m a talking turtle and you’re a human nerd.' Playgrounds around the globe echo with the cry.
- 'That spire is filled with tons of chemical toxins - bad stuff.' As opposed to good toxins, like candy in a piñata.
- 'Oh my gosh, they have guns!’ They’ve had them for a while, guys. You fought them in the first act.
- 'I still don’t understand the ending to Lost.' It’s funny because it’s a reference.
- 'All you needed to discover was that your power lies in believing in one another.' Yes, although a giant, indestructible suit of retractable blades seems to help.
- Mandatory cowabunga.
- 'Time to take a bite out of the big apple.' I rest my case, your Honour.
Rating: One slow, long pepperoni fart while wedged in a tight sewer tube.