All right, so I finally saw it. I was given a download code by a friend, so I didn’t have to pay money for it, and I saw the CGI-fest that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not great. There are some truly bad parts in the film, and I will be elaborating on them later, but on the whole, the movie was fun and enjoyable. I’m sure the vodka helped, of course.
Minor spoilers ahoy!
First, the parts that I liked in the film.
The turtles. Easily the most enjoyable due to their interactions and banter, the four teenage mutant ninja turtle brothers were immensely enjoyable when they were on screen. They would bicker and fight and joke around just as brothers would, and you really believed that they had grown up together and had a 15 year history with one another.
Will Arnett. I love me some Will Arnett. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since Arrested Development, and he is a highlight of this movie, to be sure. He’s not only great comedic relief, but you get a sense that he’s a smart, kind of lonely, nice guy. A surprisingly well-rounded character that could have very easily been one-dimensional.
The action. Even though most of the actions scenes are basically cartoons comprised entirely of CGI, they were still very exciting and fun. The fights were intense, you often felt it when the characters were hurt or struggling, and they were often very thrilling. A highlight is definitely the mountain chase scene, where the turtles are being attacked while they flee down a mountain in an 18-wheeler. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and it is. But it’s also extremely entertaining.
Then there’s the bad.
The CGI turtles. This is more of a pet peeve of mine, but making the turtles and Splinter AND Shredder all CGI was too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was really well done for the most part, but the CGI characters have nothing on physical creatures on set and on film. They just don’t have the same feel and I’m not sure it ever will. I get that for what they were trying to do it would have been impractical and nigh impossible to have puppets and actors in suits (have you seen how fucking massive Raphael is? Noone could move in a suit that big), but I still think it’s to the detriment of the movie.
The plot. So the basic plot: The foot clan is terrorizing New York City. Their leader, The Shredder, along with a rich scientist/business man named Eric Sacks want the turtles blood in order to get the mutagen in the blood. They need the mutagen because they are going to turn it into a cure for a disease that they’ve procured. They’re going to release the disease, then sell the cure. Shredder and the foot get New York City (somehow) and Eric Sacks gets rich off of the sale of the cure. So, really, the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. I mean, without the turtles they have a plan of “kill everyone in New York.” Like, really, they had no plan after that. They didn’t even know the turtles and remnants of the mutagen were still around until April discovered them. No sense. Then, I can’t figure out if the fight on top of the building at the end was an homage to the 1990s Turtles movie or a cliché. Could go either way, really.
Some of the acting. So, the acting for the most part was actually pretty good, save for a couple characters. Leonardo, as voiced by Johnny Knoxville, really did not fit at all. His voice is not the voice of a leader. It was very gruff and almost mean at times, and just felt all wrong. Then there’s Splinter. Splinter was all-around not so good. Tony Shalhoub was serviceable as the voice, but that’s at best. At worst he was doing a terrible asian accent. Additionally, Splinter’s animations seemed sub-par for the movie. Out of all the characters, he looked the most like a cartoon character. It’s as if they ran out of time or money and had to pick a character to give less attention to and Splinter drew the short straw. When he’s on screen, the visuals take a big nose dive.
And lastly, the much-maligned Megan Fox. I actually didn’t mind her terribly. She did an OK job as April O’Neil, but never really made the character anything special. I did notice she has a very unique acting style where how fast or heavy her breathing is denotes how her character is feeling, much more so than her face. Pay attention to it, it’s fascinating. But again, I thought she was fine. I did read that Anna Kendrick was in the running for April, and that made me sad because she would have absolutely crushed it. She made the movie “Into the Woods” almost bearable.
Other than those complaints, I actually really enjoyed this movie. It was exciting, pretty funny at times, and full of nods to Ninja Turtles lore. The people who made this movie clearly do have a lot of affection for previous movies and TV shows, and really, it can stand proud with the movies that have come before. It’s like a mix of the live-action movies and the cartoon, and that’s not a bad thing. After all, the premise in and of itself is pretty cartoony. The film is flawed, but it’s fun and exciting enough that you can overlook those flaws. Though, those lips are still pretty creepy and Raph is clearly roiding.