Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie ReviewParamount Pictures
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Running time: 101 minutes.
One and a half stars out of four.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a reboot of the franchise that began with comic books and morphed into television shows and films and general pop-culture ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But it’s essentially a “Transformers” movie — a Michael Bay production complete with mass destruction, urban panic, white-hot lighting, inane quips, product placement, explosions and, well, Megan Fox.

Fox is back working for Bay after infamously comparing the director to Adolf Hitler in 2009 and getting booted as the “Transformers” series’ obligatory eye candy after only two films. Now Bay, as producer, appears to have given her a make-good. Her performance as intrepid television reporter April O’Neil is the most believable element of this movie. Let that sink in for a minute.

This “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” isn’t aggressively terrible. It’s just kind of bland and boring. Granted, it holds no nostalgic tug for me; I was in college by the time the original movies came out, so I’m a little too old for all this. But there’s nothing spectacular about this spectacle. It’s the kind of glossy, empty, CGI-heavy extravaganza you get in the middle of August and soon forget. Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle Los Angeles,” “Wrath of the Titans”) is the director; he knows his way around this kind of enormous action picture and presents his set pieces with sufficient coherence, if not much panache.

One of the main problems — beyond the script from Josh Applebaum & Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty — is that the turtles themselves are just distractingly creepy-looking. Yes, you can tell which one is which thanks to their signature, color-coded masks. But they’re all just weirdly blob-like, despite their hard shells and sharp weapons. This is especially apparent when they talk — which they do, a lot, because they’re gabby, hyperactive teenagers. Forgive me if I’d like a little realism in my Ninja Turtles movies.

Here’s the deal this time around: It’s an origin story. So novel.

A criminal group called the Foot Clan is terrorizing New York City. April, whose ambitions reach far beyond the fluff pieces she’s usually assigned, digs around alone late at night and discovers a group of mysterious vigilante crimefighters is already on the case. With a little more digging, she determines that they are turtles. And they are teenagers. And they are ninjas. And they’re named after Renaissance painters.

Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville, played by Peter Ploszek), in blue, is the de facto leader. Donatello (Jeremy Howard), in purple, is the tech geek. Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher), in orange, is the wisecracking flirt. And Raphael (Alan Ritchson), in red, is the muscular hothead. Each of these characters is constrained within his specific, one-note mode — nothing more, nothing less — for the entirety of the film.

April’s smitten photographer, Vernon (Will Arnett, thankfully straying from his “Arrested Development” Gob persona), doesn’t believe her. Neither does her no-nonsense producer (Whoopi Goldberg, for whatever reason). Because really, who would? But it’s true. These are mutated turtles who’ve grown up in the sewers of Manhattan and trained in the art of ninjutsu by their rat sensei, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub, played by Danny Woodburn), to serve as protectors of the city. Everyone she informs of her discovery thinks she’s crazy — and for a while, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” acknowledges its inherent ridiculousness in welcome fashion. That is, until it abruptly shifts and starts to take its own mythology seriously.

April works with the turtles to get to the bottom of the Foot Clan’s nefarious plan, the architect of which is an old family friend of hers: scientist Eric Sacks, her late father’s former research partner who’s now a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist. Even before we find out what Sacks is up to, it’s obvious that he’s evil the minute he steps on screen because he’s played by the ever-reliable character actor William Fichtner. But the one who’s really in charge is Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), a samurai who dons a suit of armor which basically turns him into Japanese Megatron. (I brought Nicolas with me to the “Ninja Turtles” screening, and when Shredder appeared in all his fierce, shiny, metallic glory, he turned to me and asked, “Mommy, why is Megatron here?” It’s an excellent question.)

Massive, noisy battles ensue, placing many thousands of innocent New Yorkers in peril. One sequence in which the top of a high-rise topples over, stranding our heroes in a brilliant, blue sky, is straight out of the third “Transformers” movie. But even that isn’t nearly as thrilling as it sounds. Another major set piece — a chase involving an 18-wheeler skidding down a steep, snowy mountain as the turtles go sledding on their shells (joking around the whole time, naturally) — is choreographed in a complex way. But it looks so cartoony and detached from the laws of physics that it’s hard to become engrossed in it the way we should. My mind kept wandering, wondering where there could be this kind of topography and this amount of snow this close to New York City this time of year.

But then I just thought about all that delicious Pizza Hut pizza and Orange Crush the turtles consume in the sewers — because the movie pretty much stops in its tracks to provide commercials for these products — and my mind turned to pondering what Nicolas and I should eat for dinner after the movie.

32 Comments on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  1.  by  Trev

    Great review! I think this movie might be better with Vanilla Ice, in all honesty.

  2.  by  sam

    I think you said it when you said you couldn’t relate since tmnt came out after your time. Have you seen the other tmnt movies? They are not meant to be in depth cinematic masterpieces…everyone goes to these movies for the ninja fight scenes which was done very well.

    •  by  DarkDon

      Oh… there were NINJA fight scenes??? nah… not done very well. this was a mindless action movie. NOT a martial arts movie…

  3.  by  Matt Rooney

    I agree wholeheartedly about how creepy the turtles looked. I compared them to the off-putting look of The Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man. Bleh.
    But I’m not sure about the directors ability to direct an action sequence. Like Bay, he sort of throws everything at the screen as if he feels like the only way it works is to ram so much into eyeballs that all I see is talking turtles. Its sort of violating, in a way.

  4.  by  Edmund

    Ms. Christy, the job of a film critic is not to review a movie subjectively, but objectively. Why Michael Bay movies make a fortune is simple; he understands what his audience wants- visceral hyperkinetic action that entertains with no slow podding drawn out emotional nolanesque Shakespearean high brow fakery. If fans wanted high drama, they would go watch a broadway play- the fans just want action. Lots of it. Story arcs, emotional gravitas, or character nuances are irrelevant to the contemporary box office-hence why transformers still grossed a billion dollars and is virtually critic proof. Objective reviews should state critic preference and bias, renounce film material on that subjective premise, yet objectively admit the mass market appeal of the product.

    •  by  Jory Griffis

      This is condescending and ridiculous. The writer is obviously a professional who doesn’t need such elementary stuff explained for them. A truly objective review is a myth and what you’re describing is a meaningless pretense. Do you seriously think every film review, no matter how scathing, should end with a cursory explanation of the movie’s box-office potential?

    •  by  Durp

      Edmund, you are absolutely wrong. The job of a film critic absolutely is to be subjective. “The fans” aren’t the only ones wondering if they should go to a movie. You probably were sold on this flop of lame puns and overdone CGI before you even stepped into the theater, no? Some people are more discerning than you. Which is why “Ms Christy” is a film critic, and you are low brow cretin who is confused by drama, skill, a film having a point, etc.

      Are you really out spending your time scouring film reviews for those that don’t agree with your “Boom is Good” philosophy of cinema? Have fun with that, you might be busy for, oh say, the rest of your life. But I’m sure you have your finger on the pulse of “mass market appeal” all the same, right? Oh wait, no you don’t, you just are a complacent filmgoer who will enjoy anything that is put in front of you.

      •  by  Jenn

        Whatever except Nolanesque Shakespearean high brow fakery apparently.

    •  by  QCSabotage

      I went to go see the Ninja Turtles, this is not the Ninja Turtles. Nothing here is what its supposed to be. Maybe the producer and director should have done some homework. Its a brainless, two dimensional fireworks display. Anyone who read the original comic books or even the old cartoons should be insulted. Michel Bay may not have directed, but it was still his style of brainless action. Someone else should have produced and directed.

      •  by  Person

        I watched the old cartoons & I wasn’t insulted. It changes every single time it’s rebooted. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it bad. I didn’t love the movie by no means but it wasn’t bad.

  5.  by  Nate

    You were in college when the Turtles became popular? Why the hell would you even watch this movie then?

    Of course, your review reverts to a Michael Bay bashing, even though he had a pretty small amount to do with the film.. but hey, you can’t think of anything original, so you can fall back on that! 🙂

  6.  by  Matt Rooney

    I think everyone needs to relax and eat some pizza

  7.  by  Melissa

    This is what i dont understand. Whats exactly wrong with michael bay making a movie that is similar/reflects transformers. Movies like this are his style. He should include “mass destruction” and “urban panic” because it wouldn’t be a michael bay movie without it. Its like asking Quentin Tarentino to never make another movie that involve guns, blood and gore. Its simply just a style.

    •  by  Naivasha

      This movie had nothing to do with Michael Bay and his transformers like movie, or with the physics, this has to do with the fact that, THIS IS NOT TMNT!!!!!!!!!!!! The ORIGINAL STORY was great as is! I don’t know why the writer decided that the old story needed to be changed in anyway shape or form, and honestly as a true fan, this really disappointed me. Then there was the characters. Wow. Ok first off Megan Fox is one of those actor/actresses who can only play like one or two Similar roles. Her one role is the hot chick. That’s it. Rather she’s the hot smart chick, the hot cool chick, the hot bitch….actually, any character who you need to be portrayed as a cool, relaxed, and sexy person who can sometimes get angry/smug/ feisty, then she’s your girl. But for her to play as April O’Niel, you know a character who has other emotions and can actually show it, is just like a slap to the face! Plus, I came to watch tmnt, not a reporter realizing herself and getting revenge for her dad while befriending four turtles. April is supposed to be someone in the turtles lives, not the other way around
      Now, let’s talk about these “teenage” turtles. Did anyone else think they looked a wee bit……..old? Like somewhere in the 20s old? When I went to high school there weren’t ANY teenage boys who looked as buff and tough as them with such deep deep voices. The animators as well as the writers should’ve added more “teenage” moments. Sexual puns isn’t enough to portray you as a teen. I’ve heard more older men talk about sex more than teenagers at times!!!!!!!!!! I remember the one part where the four turtles were there rapping together, right before they went to save the world. It was a cute, funny little reminder to the audience that even though they’re about to save the world, they’re still kids, teenagers.
      Then there was splinter……sigh. He didn’t seem at all like a loving father with loads of helpful advice. He seemed to be colder and less calm than other portrayals of him. Where was the family love???? Where are the scenes that touch our hearts and make us cry a little?????
      Karai was just, dull. In the comic she was supposed to be amazing.
      Shredder was actually ok, although he wasn’t as vicious as the real shredder should’ve been and his motives we much more “cliche villain” rather than a vengeful monster.
      The fight scenes were just disappointing because well, they’re TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! When you hear that name you assume they would be super skilled cause they are mutated, they learned the ninja arts, and they’re teenagers who have raging hormones (or I would assume so lol). But instead of assume ninja fights I got….well….Petty battles. That’s all. It was like the director was trying to make it innocent enough for kids but still be somewhat adult at the same time.
      Someone previously stated that they’re just “giving us what we want” but honestly this ISNT what I wanted. And if the trailer wasn’t so misleading I wouldn’t have watched it, but that was the directors plan right? To make it look at cool as possible. But I would honestly take crappy graphics with a great storyline over “cool cgi” with they whole thing messed up any day.

      •  by  Chanel

        Well teenagers do have deep voices. My nephew is 14 and his voice is really deep and it creeps me out. In this movie they are age 18 or 19 which is still teenage. As far as their size. Idk. I get why they had to make them so big because gone are the 90s when they where fighting local street crime and bad teens and a monster or two. Now, they have to fight an army like clan and idk, if the turtle were smaller and too friendly looking I’m not sure if that would have worked either. It not cartoon turtles in real life New York. And I don’t think we want them to be like the Smurfs in New York. I like the ugly, big turtles. Not that you said anything about that but I’m just saying. I agree with everything else you said about April hanging around way too long. I’m sorry about your dad April but if you could move to the side so we can see Leo that would be great.

        •  by  Person

          I have to agree with you. You summed it up perfectly. However I think people, including me, were expecting more 90’s style with awesome graphics & less bullets. In turn it makes the fact that the turtles were over bulked disappointing.

  8.  by  sid

    Here is what annoys me with practically every review that I have read…if you are going to see the TMNT movie expecting highbrow dialogue and drama targeting people with doctorates then you have absolutely no clue about anything TNMT…they are all about one-liners, pizza, being chatty, and maintaining true to their personalities…if you are really THAT concerned with physics then you are obviously not a genius because there are four fucking turtle humanoids in front of you yet you have a problem with a mountain? Are you absofuckinglutely retarded?

    •  by  Ian Tepoot

      She gave a good review of Guardians of the Galaxy, which could be argued to be a competently made version of this same style of movie. I actually am not that enamoured of that movie, but Rocket Racoon had more character development in that than all the characters in this movie combined — and that was between doing a prison break with a sentient tree and helping save the planet with a glowing rock.

    •  by  Lauren

      I don’t think a lot of people are expecting high brow dialogue, that’s really an exaggeration of what many of us were hoping for. There is a huge leap between ‘high brow’ and ‘god awful’ and I don’t think its particularly evil to hope a movie will try its best to find a middle ground.

      Lots of children’s movies have well written scripts that have tip bits for the adults while still keeping witty one liners and kid humour.

      As to not knowing TMNT, it wasn’t actually originally written as you’ve described it. The comics were dark satires full of violence, gore and a whole tonne of character development that didn’t revolve around a single recognisable trait.

      I can understand why you’d be annoyed at some of the reviews coming out. ‘OMG I hates it its ruined my childhood!!’ isn’t a good review and comes off whiney, but underneath that is some people who were just disappointed at what is really just a bad movie that could have been so much better. Its not really that nice to declare someone a retard for having that opinion.

  9.  by  Leslie

    Great review! Thanks for saving us from trying to get Alex to sit through this “not aggresively terrible” film. Love your reviews! LM

  10.  by  Mikey

    The movie was almost exactly what it should have been. The quips were spot on from the turtles especially Mikey….what is supposed to be realistic about Ninja Turtles? What kind of comment is that? The CGI was spectacular and the movie as a whole was a lot of fun to watch with plenty of action and laughter. Take this review with a grain of salt as she has no idea what she is talking about because the TMNT are all about that nostalgic tug and this movie was spot on.

  11.  by  Harold

    I saw the original trilogy growing up as a kid. Played the video games and had the toys. I loved the ninja turtles and I have the first two ninja turtles on DVD (cause the 3rd one was garbage) along with the TMNT film. I just have to say that I went seeing this movie with nostalgia, and I didn’t get it. The CGI thing killed it for me, it’s not amazing when you just see a computer image getting tossed around and really does no damage to the character (same problem I had with Man of Steel). I know they aren’t meant to be the best written stories, (I’ve seen the originals), but this didn’t feel like a ninja turtles movie to me.

  12.  by  Tickle

    Lol… No it wasn’t. I actually laughed out loud when Raphael got his very own slow-motion roar scene. WTF was that? TMNT meets Godzilla meets 300? I kept waiting for the joke but it never came. And how long was that avalanche scene? Like 15 minutes?! I gave up on keeping up with it halfway through that and by the end I was yawning, wondering when we were going to get back to the shoddily assembled plot.
    You say nobody wanted this to be an “in-depth masterpiece” but I think that’s exactly what the producers TRIED to make it. It certainly wasn’t light-hearted or comical… Wasn’t dark or serious… It was just… Blaaah while also managing to be terribly convoluted. I saw the damn thing three days ago and I can’t recall one memorable fight scene just a lot of busy, loud crap jumping off the screen and assaulting at least two of my senses.

  13.  by  Chanel

    Just because it’s a kid’s movie doesn’t give the writers an excuse to make a movie that makes not sense at all. For example Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Puss in Boots are some of the best written kid movies. So, when people come on here are say what did you expect from a TMNT movie? Well, not crap. I mean, there is a lot of gray between the black and white. We are not looking for Broadway, but I don’t want Showgirls either. Kids are not that stupid. They may enjoy the movie while they are watching it, but they may not want to see it again, or get the DVD or get it on Redbox. It’s a forgettable ‘smash and bash.’ They come out full force and once it’s over they don’t care if you never care about TMNT again because one hit from you is all they need. And a movie is not just for the fans. If a movie was only for fans it would never make money. So the tell this critic if she was never a fan of TMNT before and was expecting deep convo between the turtles is not a good agurement because 99% of people walking into any movie are not fans but they want a good movie. Yes, I know we are talking about talking turtles that do ninja stuff, but when they are not fighting something has to be there to carry the movie, and not just the humans. The turtles are the movie even when they are not fighting.

    And if you take away the 80s cartoon the turtles have very complexed personalities. Raph’s anger is because he fears of being alone and not good enough. Leo’s burden to lead his bother and be mentally together all the time. Donnie has to constantly invent things to kill or keep him and his bother alive. And Mikey….is Mikey. I think you can mix the dark and the light and still have a good balanced movie even for kids. And not kids like 5 but kids maybe 9 to teens. There was at least 10 other mutants that could of been added. The turtles live in a crazy world with crazy mutants and crazy human characters that could have (if it was well written) taken this movie to another level. But with little Shedder, no Kraang, no Ace Duck, no White ninja Rabbit, no Country Frogs, no Leatherhead, Beebop or Rocksteady, no Casey Jones, no, Rat King, no Mondo Geecko, no Metalhead, no Cody, no nothing! Why are the writers acting like they have to come up with a brand new concept when they have 25 years of material to choose from? They have 25 years of mutants to choose from. Why was this TMNT movie about Megan Fox? This isn’t like Transformers, the turtles can hold their own movie they shouldn’t be side kicks to the humans.

  14.  by  Justin

    Okay, I seriously have no idea why anyone above the age of 13 wqould defend this movie. It was utter and complete nonsense, start to finish. And no I’m not expecting “highbrow Shakesperean dialogue” but you know what I’m expecting….a comprehensable plot, maybe some character arcs, hey how bout some actual martial arts. For all of the fans out there defending that this is a good movie please answer the following:

    1.) Where is there a snow covered mountain in the same vicinity of NYC? A mountain that apprentantly has a sewer system on it that run directly into Mid town.

    2.) How was Shredder beaten by 4 turtles that learned their skills from a “NINJISTU FOR DUMMIES” BOOK FOUND IN THE SEWERS?

    3.) Seriously how did they learn to be ninjas from that damn book?

    4.) What was Shredder’s plan? Please I really don’t know. Was he going to rule the quarentined NYC?

    5.) Wouldn’t everyone know that Sacks deployed the toxin plague, since it was COMING FROM A SPIRE IN HIS BUILDING!!!!

    5.) Doesn’t Mikey know that human/turle mutant relations is gross?

    6.) Key actions of adrenaline include increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, expanding the air passages of the lungs, enlarging the pupil in the eye (see figure), redistributing blood to the muscles and altering the body’s metabolism, so as to maximise blood glucose levels (primarily for the brain).

    Adrenaline does not in fact replenish blood in your system, so there’s that. I learned that from GOOGLE in about 30 seconds.. I guess the screen writers were too busy writing terrible jokes to figure that out.

  15.  by  Justin

    Also best line in the movie:

    Sacks: “Drain all the blood from their bodies, even if it’s kills them.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAA! EVEN IF IT KILLS THEM!!! What? Just remember severly inept members of the general audience that actually enjoyed this film, having no blood in your body might in fact kill you.

  16.  by  Ninja Turtle

    Just saw the film and it was so … empty of content that it’s amazing how people green lighted a project for a sequel. At least it was considerable short, not like Bay’s Transformers that were painfully long. Although TMNT wasn’t that long it was terribly exhausting. And what about those jacked turtles on steroids, that was scary, the excuse they made up to put the Japanese guy into the Shredder was so lame and the suite itself was completely detached from reality, but it’s a Michael Bay film so that’s acceptable. This is so frustrating because the 90’s film was so light and fun when the 2014 version was so … exhausting.

  17.  by  Alex

    Nothing wrong with the review. Everything wrong with the film. Absolutely terrible. Half a star from me. Boring. Predictable. Dumb. Awful plot. The turtles looked rediculous, looked like a bunch of steroid munchers going to a music festival. Splinter looked young ,emotionless and devoid of any wisdom. Megan Fox has had so much work done she has lost the little emotion that she could previously muster in her facial muscles. Splinter wasn’t too bad, but again felt overdone without depth. Basically just terrible all over. The version I grew up with was a far, far greater viewing than this pile of crap.

  18.  by  Person

    I honestly don’t think it’s as terrible as diehard TMNT/comic fans make it out to be, but I don’t think it’s as great or fulfilling as Bay/action fans make it out to be. It’s purgatory. Good in & of itself but compared to the original story or even the first movies it leaves a LOT to be desired. All in all it was cute & I really liked the turtles personalities.

  19.  by  Ecks

    To be honest i have watched this movie i found it to be pretty bad for one of many reasons and that is messing up the origin story of how they were made. With the original TMNT movie they got the origin story pretty close but not correctly accurate but it was still considered to be close compared to this whole thing it being April’s father mutating the turtles and Splinter and also April naming all of them as well as a child. The one other thing that looked so wrong was the Shredder with his over killed armor and him being an old man. Ill be honest right now i think Bay should stop messing up our childhood shows and making them into an action explosion flicks and start to make something that is more original and entertaining then taking movies/cartoons/comics from our childhood and messing it up cause we the real fans of these franchises knows how the story is played out and wouldn’t mind seeing a remake of it with future technology but we don’t want to watch something that has been completely remodeled like Bay thinking he made something original.