Friday, August 8, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Movie Review

I remember when a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was merely a rumor.  After Nickelodeon purchased the franchise, fans were told that a new animated series and full-length feature film were in the works and planned for the near future.  The new toon debuted to roaring reviews and brought the Ninja Turtles to a level of popularity they haven't seen since the early 90's, but the new film was still in limbo.

At first, we heard that a new film would feature live-action suits and actors with a combination of CGI.  At the time, "Where The Wild Things Are" had just premiered and that technology was said to be used in a new Turtles film.  However, all remained one big rumor before Michael Bay came into the fold and the ball really began to roll.  Suffice it to say, Turtle fans were not necessarily happy with the "childhood killer" producing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature.

The first TMNT script leaked to the public and our worst fears seemed to be coming a reality.  Now, instead of mutant turtles, the fearsome four were to be aliens.  What?  Are you kidding me?  Thankfully, the uproar from fans led to a re-write, but the damage had been done.  Nobody had high hopes or expectations for this film and, from that point on, it became nothing more than a joke.  From there, we caught word that Megan Fox was cast as Channel 6 reporter, April O'Neil and Will Arnett would be playing her sidekick, Vernon Fenwick.  Fans reacted with mixed reviews, but at least there was some star power now associated with the film.  That was great, until images of the Ninja Turtles were released to the public.

For as awesome as the trailer looked, I was not happy with the Ninja Turtle designs.  I hated reading comments from people comparing them to Shrek on steroids, but even I couldn't disagree.  I've been a TMNT fan since I was a child and have countless memories associated with these characters.  Just take a look back at the last week of posts and you'll see how passionate I am about this franchise.  So, to first see these CGI turtles was an utter disappointment and I, like millions of fans around the world, wished for a change before release.

However, first impressions aren't always everything and, over time, these Turtle designs grew on me.  Sure, they were different, but they were also much more realistic.  Look, if the world somehow managed to mutate four giant turtles, this is probably what they'd look like.  For as much as I personally love the cartoon faces from the original toon and 1990 film, I grew to welcome the change in appearance and hoped for the best.  I had low expectations, but advanced screening reviews were in and I began anticipating the film more and more.  Finally, last night at 8:15pm, the wait came to an end.

Now, as I said, I'm a true Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan.  I grew up on the original toon, I've read the comics less religiously, my family and I have spent thousands on merchandise in 27-years, and I understand the story, the characters, and their personalities.  So today's review is not coming from somebody who has no passion for the franchise, it's coming from somebody who wants to see these Turtles succeed on the big screen.  At the same time, it puts a lot more pressure on this film to impress.

When I first walked into the theater, I saw two young girls dressed in Ninja Turtle merchandise from head to toe.  It made me happy to see how much of an impact these characters still have on the next generation of fans.  I could clearly see how excited they were, but it was hard to believe there was anybody in that theater more pumped than me.  I was ready to go and, before I knew it, the theater was jam packed with people and completely sold out on a Thursday night!

Without spoiling anything for those you have yet to see the film, I can start by telling you I absolutely loved the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  I thought it was fantastic!  There is a big change in origin and fans of the original may not be happy with it, but I welcomed it.  During that scene, the actors do a great job of getting the story across to viewers and I feel as though they connected with each other in a way they didn't in previous films.  The sense of family is much more prominent in this film than ever before.

The characters and their personalities are spot on.  The writers and actors did a wonderful job of making sure each Turtle was represented as they should be on the silver screen.  Michelangelo is your young, fun-loving, care-free Turtle with a major crush on April.  Donatello is your typical genius with new abilities that enhance what the Turtles can do as a team.  Raphael is your bad ass New Yorker who always seems to have a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.  Leonardo is the leader who takes control of situations with common sense, logic and, when possible, peace.

Besides the Turtles, we have Splinter who is much more of a tough guy than he's ever been in the previous films.  Splinter reminds me of what he was in the original toon.  He's a father who will fight for his sons, both physically and mentally, even if it means battling to his death.  In turn, the Turtles love him as any sons would love their father.  There is a deep connection between all 5 and it's showcased perfectly.

April O'Neil is more of a focal point than she's even been before and, with Megan Fox playing the lead, that makes a lot of sense.  Fox does a decent job of portraying the Turtles' link to the outside world, but I do believe they count have done a better job casting.  While Fox is not the greatest actress in the world, she did surpass my expectations of her and I'm pleased with her performance.  At times, she seemed dull but, at other times, she was invested in the story and appeared to bring the family together.  I'm sure she was cast for her looks and, believe me, I'm not complaining about 2 hours worth of Megan Fox, but Emma Stone would have been the perfect April O'Neil.  With that said, I truly hope Megan Fox returns for a sequel.

April's sidekick cameraman, Vernon Fenwick, is played by Will Arnett for comic relief.  Now, this isn't the annoying dweeb we remember from the original toon.  He's not looking to steal the spotlight from April, he's looking to take April out on a date.  While I don't think this Vernon was all that necessary in this film, I do think his character will work greatly in a sequel.  Assuming we'll see the return of Casey Jones, his crush on April could come into play and I wouldn't be surprised if he joined forces with The Shredder or becomes mutated in one way or another.  Personally, I hope they don't go that route, but it wouldn't shock me.

Speaking of Shredder, his character brought me my only disappointment.  Personally, I didn't like his armored suit.  I didn't like the face that he could throw knives from his arms and have them magnetically return to their holster.  He didn't look like Shredder to me and it really turned me off.  Changing the Turtles in appearance still managed to stay true to their character, but Shredder's look was completely changed from what we all know and love.  He no longer has a face shield, but rather an entire head shield that acts as a helmet to guard his entire face, including his eyes.  His character is still that of a fierce villain and definitely gives the Turtles more of a fight than ever before, but this is where I really would have liked to see some change.

Overall, without giving away any spoilers, this film was incredible and I plan on seeing it again.  I know reviews are mixed, but I can't imagine why Ninja Turtle fans wouldn't love this movie.  Between and awesome story, great characters, and a few radical nods to the original toon, you should come out of the theater with a smile on your face and that anticipation for a sequel.  Does it beat the 1990 original?  Of course not.  Does it beat "Secret of the Ooze?"  Ask me again in a year or two.  But when it comes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and TMNT, this blows them out of the water, no questions asked.  Seeing these four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back on the big screen is an awesome sight and one that I treasure as a fan.  I may be a bit biased in my opinion, but I think that also put more pressure on the film to impress me and that it did.  Yes, there are a few cons and things I would have changed, but everything can be corrected in the sequel and I expect the next to be even better than this!

If you were on the fence about this film, I hope this review brings out the "Cowabunga" in you and pushes you to go see this film in theaters.  I know reviews are mixed, but I'm a die-hard fan and I was far from disappointed.  Oh, and for whoever said "Shell Shocked" didn't play as credits rolled, they lied!

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