Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) - 8 stars out of 10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) - 8 stars out of 10

Cowabunga, the heroes in a half shell are back!  The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot is a success, despite what the critics are saying.  In a generation of dark, realistic superhero reboots, you will be surprised if you are expecting “The Dark Knight” or “The Amazing Spiderman.”  While TMNT is darker and more believable than its cheesy 90’s predecessors, it has retained (and even embraced) the pop culture references and funny one-liners of previous iterations.  The critics have blasted the film for these things, saying that the jokes ruin the plots momentum and the pop culture references are a distraction.  Perhaps it is because those critics don’t remember what it was like to be a teenager.  If the film was called “Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles,” I would expect these characters to be dark, intense, and serious for the duration of the film.  However, if you are going to keep the ever-important “teenage” in the title, these characters need to reflect the attitude of four teenagers whose only interaction with the world has been videos of cats playing chopsticks WITH chopsticks and tuning in Gwen Stefani from the sewers.  I believe that the attitude of the film is right on.  I don’t know how the TMNT purists feel, but I like the conceptual changes to the turtles’ origin story.  No spoilers here, but their existence becomes a lot more believable when the purpose of the mutagen is explained, both in its development and injection into the turtles and Splinter.  The backstory of April O’Neill and her connection to the turtles are clever plot devices that make sense of the trust that is quickly developed between them in a short period of time.  The most difficult part of an iconic story like this is probably the casting and character depiction.  We all have a particular image of the turtles, but I like their new design.  With different facial characteristics and accessories (Leo’s armor, Raph’s scar, Donatello’s glasses, Michelangelo’s skateboard), we can finally distinguish them from each other without seeing their masks.  The motion-capture technology is awesome.  The rubber suits from the 90’s only allowed for so much motion, but the turtles can finally fight like ninjas.  And most importantly, we finally get to see Splinter kick some butt.  He trained the turtles and should be better than all of them.  I think that this was important to show that the turtles’ power comes from their teamwork.  And I wonder if Splinter’s fight with Shredder will explain why he needs a cane in future films… hmm…  The design of Shredder may be my favorite part of the movie.  This Iron Man-esque suit that shoots blades is far beyond “Super Shredder” in TMNT 2 and a truly terrifying enemy.  I was surprised that most of the story revolved around April, but it makes sense because we can relate to who she is and it makes it more realistic that we could meet up with these turtles.  The casting of Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick was genius, turning this typically static character into a goofy sidekick that we love.  The action in this film is great, though I question the appropriateness for children (as evidenced by the PG-13 rating).  I was really scared of Tokka and Rahzar as a child, so I can’t even imagine how kids might react to the sewer battle and the caged turtles.  I was particularly annoyed with the two swear words uttered by the turtles, which were completely unnecessary.  I also thought that the reactions to the adrenaline painted a picture too close to the turtles being on drugs, and went on for too long. While the movie wasn’t perfect, I think that this reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has captured the heart of the original series.  Its limitlessness has paved the way for sequels that will finally show the Turtles fanbase the characters that we have been waiting to see since the first movie came out 24 years ago.

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