Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on November 1st 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is crap. Anyone surprised? No? Good. Well that’s that then… Oh alright, I guess convention dictates that I explain why it’s so crap, as if the trailers didn’t clue you in already. So basically the “plot” is as follows: Megan Fox plays news reporter (yep) April O’ Neil, who aspires to become a respected source of serious journalism. So she decides to investigate the crime spree of a Ninja, terrorist group… thing, called the foot clan who have been wreaking havoc across New York City. When her investigation leads her to the eponymous turtles she is thrown into the middle of a battle between the heroes and the villainous Shredder. Then some stuff to do with super blood, corporate corruption and the turtles hip hop Christmas album happens and after that it ends. That may have been more articulate storytelling than the film itself offers though.

Off the bat the first thing to point out is that the writing here is horrendous. Like, jaw-droppingly so. Featuring some of the clunkiest exposition in film history, truly painful comedy and several plot elements that beggar belief. The human characters are unwatchable, from Will Arnett’s creepy sidekick character, who wont stop hitting on someone significantly younger than himself, to Megan Fox’s April. The film has this adorable idea that it can demonstrate Fox’s (ahem) acting range. So lucky us, we get to see her as we’ve never seen her before! As a socially awkward, bumbling moron who doesn’t seem to understand why no one believes her when she claims she’s witnessed genetically enhanced super turtles take down a group of mercenaries. She is, suffice it say, unconvincing.

To a degree the film might have been more successful had it focused less on the bland human characters and more on the turtles themselves. Sure they’re annoying, yes they’re hideous, of course they’re unlikable…. Sorry I forgot what my point was. There’s Raphael, the angsty, intense, murder obsessed one (you know…for kids!), then there’s Michelangelo, the “funny one”, Donatello the nerd (we know this because he wears glasses and says words like “calculations” whilst pulling statistical odds seemingly out of his ass) and then Leonardo the…. other one. Michelangelo in particular is profoundly annoying, giving Jar Jar Binks a run for his money, especially since he is the one who instigates one of the most excruciating scenes in recent memory. Consequently all the time is spent divided between irritating 1 dimensional turtle characters and boring 1 dimensional human characters.

Then there’s the added bonus of all the gratuitous product placement. And boy is there a lot of product placement. Pizza Hut seemingly hijack entire reels of film, capitalizing on the turtles notorious love for the food. It’ll be a shock if anyone makes it out of the cinema without having an insatiable craving for their product.  After a while you begin to feel like you’re being brainwashed.

Having said all of this, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t that bad. Pizza Hut. Oh it’s bad. Pizza Hut. But it isn’t Age of Extinction bad. Michael Bay’s fingerprints may be all over this, Pizza Hut, but some of his more… problematic inclinations are restrained when he takes a step back from directing just to produce. So luckily there’s a mercifully short run time and some comprehensible action sequences. Pizza Hut. It’s also kind of entertaining, although you may struggle to tell if it’s fun despite the fact that it’s terrible, or precisely because of it. By the way have you gone to Pizza Hut yet?

RATING: 4/10.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), directed by Johnathan Liebesman, is distributed in UK cinemas by Paramount Pictures, Certificate 12a.

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