Sunday, September 13, 2015

Give Us Your Worst, Part 27: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually might be the dumbest movie I've seen in my entire life.

I'm going to pause for a moment, because I don't want to understate the significance of what I just said. Think about my credentials for a moment: this is the 27th installment in a series focusing on failed superhero movies. And let's not forget my annual tradition of sitting down with my wife and watching crappy Christmas movies for a month every December. I'm no novice when it comes to bad writing and idiotic plots: I'm a goddamn connoisseur.

But this one's hard to fathom. The film's story fails to coalesce even at the most basic of levels, and there's no logic or rationale to character motivation, background information, story beats, or physics. It's never remotely clear what's going on or why anything is happening.

For example.

Why does April keep trying to get her boss to let her do a story about the Turtles when she knows she doesn't have evidence? Why are the bad guys fixated on getting the Turtles to filter the mutagen from their blood, but they don't really care about Splinter? Why will said mutagen heal Splinter, but not the mutagen that's also flowing through his veins? Why are the villains centering a biological attack around their headquarters, when the plan's success hinges on them not being identified as the ones responsible? Why are the other three Turtles able to casually break through their holding cells a scene after Raphael is physically incapable of freeing them? Why is Raphael able to weaponize his shell without consequences minutes after it was established as a plot point that his shell was cracked? When 5 year-old April rescued the Turtles, why did she toss them into a sewer instead of taking them home?

These are just the items that sprung to mind. These kinds of inconsistencies don't just permeate the movie: in a very real sense, they are the movie. What few shreds of plot form between the non sequiturs are epiphenomena, at best. Compared to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Prometheus starts to make sense.

All that said, this movie did a better job catering to longtime fans than most adaptations. A surprising number of elements were incorporated from the source material, including several of the Turtle's classic vehicles and personality traits. Sure, every version makes Raphael a hothead, but how often have we gotten Donatello's tech skills?

That certainly doesn't mean there weren't changes. The movie redid the origin to include a young April and mangled everyone's backstory. And, of course, they re-imagined Shredder as a cross between Silver Samurai and Bay's Transformers. Oh, and for some reason Michelangelo is constantly sexually harassing April.

Again, this was an astonishingly stupid movie.

But, if you're a big enough Turtles fan and you're willing to watch them screw up the story (again), there's just enough zany 80's nostalgia (plus a few decent fights in between the badly cut CG) to offer a little payoff.

This is typically compared to the Transformers movies, but - despite it's budget - I found it closer in spirit to the unreleased 90's Fantastic Four. The people who made this movie clearly loved the source material and tried to create a loving tribute. It's a pity they were incompetent filmmakers.