With 6 movie adaptations under their belts, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are no strangers to the big screen. With this latest installment, they join the list of other comic book heroes like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and The X-Men who’ve all been featured in movies at least a half a dozen times.
2014’s eponymous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (directed by Jonathan Liebesman) boasts some impressive CG animation and character design. Unfortunately, aside from that, TMNT is just loud, chaotic and pretty much meaningless.
On a positive note, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is noteworthy in its use of original designs that are a big departure from any of their previous incarnations. Rather than “guy in a rubber suit” these turtles actually do kind of look like mutant warriors. Each turtle design gets some subtle design flourishes, and little things like Leonardo’s “NYC” pin and Michaelangelo’s puka shell necklace give some individuality to the characters. Depicting “real” looking mutant turtles was a risky move, but the character design, computer animation and performance capture really make the turtles come to life. Although they really don’t show up until about 25 minutes into the movie, when they are onscreen, they’re goofy and fun to watch.
As entertaining as the turtles are, it’s a shame that nothing else in this movie really adds anything to the experience. The non-turtle centric elements of the plot center on April O’Neil (played by Megan Fox) trying to establish herself as a TV reporter while Eric Sachs (played by William Fichtner) does some mad scientisty stuff. The story is about as uninspired as Nickelodeon is capable of being, and the human characters really just serve to move the plot along to the next turtle sequence.
It’s no suprise, but it has to be said that Megan Fox is horrible in this movie. Adding insult to injury, the script seems to take a few meta-swipes in referring to her as simply “eye-candy” through the course of the film. Will Arnett vainly tries to bring some humor to his role as Megan Fox’s cameraman, but it’s just not enough. Tony Shalhoub and Whoopi Goldberg show up to make a quick buck in supporting roles… and that’s about it in terms of story.
Michael Bay produced this movie, and while a lot of people blame the movie’s failures on his involvement, it’s clear that his fingerprints are all over the sophistication of the production design. The movie really does shine in its art direction and that is something to be proud of, but that’s the only thing really noteworthy. It’s clear that Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans) is capable when it comes to working with effects, but the narrative of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles never really comes out of it’s shell.