Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Betrays Everything Grand and Grimy About the Original

<i>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles</i> Betrays Everything Grand and Grimy About the Original
ILM/Paramount Pictures

Before you buy that tiny box turtle in Chinatown, know that it can live for 100 years. Which means that among all the Mad Libs nonsense of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- a comic book-turned-media-phenomenon that's always half-admitted it's a goof -- at least the teenage part is accurate. The bulletproof shells, bipedalism, and mozzarella tolerance aren't, but that was always the charm. "Why so serious?" the reptiles seemed to whisper, before about-facing to yelp, "Cowabunga!"

Alas, 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles strains for gravitas. Director Jonathan Liebesman wants to compete with the big boys, the glossy, fate-of-the-free-world-depends-on-us blockbuster heroics that have come to feel as generic as a row of toasters. He and his flock of screenwriters miss the point. In the '80s, the Turtles were a spoof. Today, they could be a welcome relief from all the dour bat-dudes and super-hunks who probably wouldn't have bothered with saving the planet if they could find a good therapist. Culturally, the turtles are supposed to be misfits -- they've even got "mutant" in the name.

At the risk of overly romanticizing the original film -- a movie I saw 20 times when I was 11 and haven't dared watch since -- 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had grime and a sliver of soul. Its New York was wet and dirty, the streets lined with manholes shooting up geysers of gross steam, and bad guys who committed crimes kids understood: stealing purses, attacking innocents, and ominous loitering. In fact, the bad guys were kids themselves drawn to the Foot Clans Pleasure Island-like hideout to smoke, shoot pool, and play poker -- a child's fantasy of thug life -- and the scariest thing was that we could imagine ourselves stumbling after them into the world of crime.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Paramount Pictures
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This TMNT is bigger and emptier, a wasteland of pixels. Instead of the visceral chills of alleyway crooks, the evil master scheme is, er, pharmaceutical fraud -- terrifying to anyone with an HMO, none of whom will buy a ticket to the movie. It opens with high-def shots of nunchucks, sai, a bo, and a katana smashing apples and watermelon (as if Gallagher had a cameo) and quickly gets less interesting. It doesn't help that producer Michael Bay has shoehorned in his sexual tics: Victoria's Secret billboards, Megan Fox, and rampant product placement, including a soliloquy from Splinter on the glory of Pizza Hut's mythical 99-cheese pizza. Bay and company have even amped up lead villain Shredder, a karate expert who wears a pagoda made of knives, into, well, a Transformer. It begs the question: Why introduce Shredder sans suit as a brawler who can literally knock a man unconscious while on his knees with his hands tied behind his back, and then make him rely on magnets and gizmos?

And if you thought Bay had forgiven Fox for saying he was "like Hitler," this new April O'Neil role is proof he hasn't. It's a setup. Audiences will ridicule her for stinking it up as an unconvincing journalist, but the script doesn't give her a chance. Despite O'Neil piecing together Shredder's scheme, the film insists she's only there as a piece of ass. She is acknowledged zero times for her smarts and dozens of times for her looks, whether she's derailing a car chase by accidentally distracting the driver (Will Arnett) with her butt, or enduring Michelangelo's lusty pant that she's "so hot I can feel my shell tightening."

As for the turtles, they've now been given super strength and, in Raphael's case, a pandering doo-rag. In their sewer lair, they laugh at YouTube videos of Keyboard Cat without the self-awareness that they aren't much different. Jokes their creator (William Fichtner), "And we were going to use rabbits." Honestly, in a film this generic, a species swap wouldn't make a difference.

 
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33 comments
Aaron S. Zaslow
Aaron S. Zaslow

no offense, but do the new times reviews like anything? even at all? I don't think I've ever seen a good review in the paper ever.

Lex Dillinger
Lex Dillinger

It looks funny and my expectations are so low... There's no way I can be disappointed.

Marlon Sanchez
Marlon Sanchez

For once I totally agree with the reviewer.Guardians Of The Galaxy was 10 fold even better than this crap.Why did they add all this useless armor to a group of fully shelled Turtles and on top of all that useless armor they do not look at all friendly at all.BOO TMNT!!

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

Ps Amy Nicholeson bashes everything. It's obvious she hates action films yet they still send her to review the films. She has to be the only person on the planet that wrote GotG a bad review. 20 bucks she's desperately waiting for 50 shades of grey or the sequel to the Notebook...

Silvio Alexis Morales
Silvio Alexis Morales

After having read the Horrible Guardians of the Galaxy review I will not be valuing The Miami New Times movie critics opinnions

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

You don't say??!! [Nicolas Cage face]

Diego Gonzalez
Diego Gonzalez

This is a stupid article! I grew up watching TMNT and this movie is the PERFECT recreation! I literally felt like a little kid watching an episode of the old cartoons! I found myself rooting cheering and staring in awe during the whole movie, really brought me back to my childhood

Nick Mohammadpour
Nick Mohammadpour

Just go see it with an open ming before you write this crap. These New Times critics completely suck the life out of movies that are ment for fun and pure entertainment..First they bash Guardians Of The Galaxy, which was awesome and fun..Now TMNT..I cant ever take this publication seriously again when it comes to the "talent" they hire to critique movies...These flicks are ment for ENTERTAINMENT.

Rafael Velez Jr
Rafael Velez Jr

Her mindset writing this blog is hating it before the movie even started.

Sergio Alejandro
Sergio Alejandro

Just because a movie belongs to a particular brand doesn't make it impervious to criticism. I couldn't detect any bias in that review, and everyone knew this movie was going to be bad the second Michael Bay was announced as director.

Jorge Castillo
Jorge Castillo

I saw the movie on Wednesday at a private screening... It was great. Loved it all. Complete opposite of what this girl wrote. Enjoy it for what it is people. Its a movie about mutant turtles. The characters of each turtle was spot on. There are moments that if you were a real TMNT fan, you smile and laugh out loud. The nostalgia alone is worth the price of admission.

riddler0812
riddler0812

I saw the movie on Wednesday at a private screening... It was great. Loved it all. Complete opposite of what this girl wrote. Enjoy it for what it is people. Its a movie about mutant turtles.  The characters of each turtle was spot on. There are moments that if you were a real TMNT fan, you smile and laugh out loud. The nostalgia alone is worth the price of admission.

Kris Rodriguez
Kris Rodriguez

I dont care I am still going to watch this movie twice! This is TMNT!!! This is 90's nostalgia from my childhood!! #TurtlePower

Alex Henderson
Alex Henderson

Ah, the judgment of one remembering their youth in the mindset of an adult...hate empty comparison reviews like these...they are a waste of pixels on my screen. He may be right, it may suck...but this review just shows he doesn't know how to review...he walked in with judgement...already hated the movie before he even walked in. Please find more competent non biased writers....if at all possible in this hipster wasteland

 

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