TMNT review: A terribly made film that will also destroy your childhood
TMNT is produced by Michael Bay, who has a stellar track record of murdering films that informed our childhoods.
I watched the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the early ‘90s. I had milk teeth and the film was unlike anything I’d seen before. I got a pair of ‘TMNT’ shoes as birthday gift. I made my father buy me pizza for the first time after seeing that film and spent a large chunk of my childhood saying “Cowabunga!” to my friends because of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Fast forward 20 years. There’s a new TMNT movie and with my background, I am its target audience. Except watching Jonathan Liebesman break down turtle power, I wept because there he was, destroying my childhood along with a franchise that had been bubble-wrapped so carefully in nostalgia.
To be fair, there was no way the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could possibly live up to the expectations of the original film’s fans. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s filmography is made of disastrous disaster films like Wrath of the Titans, Battle Los Angeles and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
TMNT is produced by Michael Bay, who has a stellar track record of murdering films that informed our childhoods. He did it with the Friday the 13th franchise and he did it again with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboots. With the arrival of the new TMNT, he has now officially become the most loathsome producer of all time.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the new TMNT looks, feels, sounds and smells exactly like a Michael Bay movie. There is the same orange-teal color palette throughout the film; the constant lens flare meant to puncture your eyeballs; the sweeping low angle shots; action sequences that are too shaky to make sense of; atrocious plotting, horrendous acting; and Megan Fox displaying her shockingly void acting chops.
There is also too much CGI in the film and most of it is quite badly rendered. Even though the original TMNT movie was cheesy as hell, it had real sets and costumes, which made it easy to get immerse yourself in the film. The excessive use of computer graphics here make you hyper aware that everything in the film is fake, and it feels more like a carnival ride that goes on for too long.
The ‘story’ is bits and pieces of the original films mashed together. In a nutshell: April O’Neil (Fox) becomes friends with the Turtles and together they fight the baddie Shredder. End of story. To get through the movie there is funnyman Will Arnett required to not be funny and explain the plot to the audience. The utterly untalented Fox is required to emote and we’re required to suspend disbelief and accept her as a serious-minded journalist. William Fitchner is required to once again play the henchman of the baddie, and Tony Shalhoub gives the voice to the Turtles’ master, a mutant rat named Splinter.
Say what you want about the ‘80s film, but the Turtles’ costume was way more believable than the grotesque motion captured faces of this iteration. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are singularly unlikable because their designs don’t say ‘fun’, ‘funny’ or ‘adventurous’ – they say ‘fake’. Especially after seeing Dawn of the Apes the motion capture in TMNT looks hideous and repellent.
None of the legendary camaraderie between the four is present in this film. It’s like Bay personally presided over the edit and sucked out all the humor from the film like a Dementor’s Kiss. The only good scene of the film features an elevator where the four start beatboxing before leaping into a fighting match with Shredder, and that's already on YouTube.
This time around, the turtles almost never say “Cowabunga” (except once, in a negative way), and the action isn’t much fun either. There is no sense of wonder and discovery in them, which makes me wonder for whom was this film made.
The original films aren’t very good on a filmmaking level, but whatever was on screen had never been done before then. Everything about this film reeks of “been there done that”. If Bay’s master plan is to nurture today’s teens on this sort of mediocre codswallop, we need to hijack satellite channels and telecast the video of Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ninja Rap’ on every screen and save this generation of kids.
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