Hollywood At It’s Worst – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

When I was a kid I had all things TMNT. I had the ninja turtle blimp, sewer, pizza shooter, parachutes, board game, Nintendo game, all the movies on VHS, movie posters and other TMNT posters taking up every square inch of wall in my room. I had all the toys, the comics, the coloring books, etc. If it was licensed through Playmates Toys, chances are good that I had it.

So, I’m a bit of a fan. When I heard they were making a new live action movie I got excited. Then I heard Michael Bay was producing. And a lot of my friends assumed it would suck. Well, not me. Sure, Michael Bay doesn’t have a perfect track record, but I think movies like Bad Boys and The Rock were fun. I still watch them occasionally and I still love them. And besides, he’s only producing. How much influence would he have?

Then the trailers came out…And they looked awful.

Some people to my surprise felt the trailers were good and changed their minds about the hopefulness of the movie. I felt crazy. Those trailers sucked hard. How could anyone believe any different?

So, on the day I got two of my friends to come with me. I made sure to be all medicated (I live in California) which means that I might enjoy it even if it sucked, because when I’m medicated I can enjoy watching my screen saver some times.

I couldn’t have been a better audience. Life long fan, stoned outta my gourd, and I had low expectations. Surely this will be at least somewhat entertaining, right?

No.

This movie defied expectations. If the bar was set as low as one foot off the ground, the movie itself made it about as high as half an inch. I walked out of that theatre feeling like a piece of my childhood had just been spat on, kicked, and laughed at.

Let’s break it down:

By the way, there will some SPOILERS, but if you’re still wanting to see it do so at your own risk.

Will Arnett – Sometimes we like to see a comedian in a movie who will give us exactly what we expect. Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy – an amazing piece of film – doesn’t go out of his way to be completely different from his character in Parks & Rec. But the movie in no way acknowledges his previous character and Pratt plays the emotional truth of Star Lord so well that we love it. Arnett on the other hand plays Will Arnett. The lines they wrote for him could have been improved by the skilled hand of a twelve year old. And they even made a blatant inside joke to his Arrested Development character GOB. It was done in a way that made it to where I was not watching an actor give a performance, but rather a man playing a hack version of himself. It was off putting, one-dimensional, and distracting.

Megan Fox – Bless her little heart. She tries. She fails. I don’t like to harp on A list celebs, because I know that the vast majority work their ass off to be able to get to where they are, but this girl has to go. Granted, the script would have received a D at a community college writing course, but she brought nothing to the table. I’ve seen good actors work with bad scripts. Denzel Washington made his character in Virtuosity pop despite some ridiculous dialogue. I’m not saying she’s terrible – although I’m not dismissing that – but she’s certainly not competent enough to make a badly written character any better.

Animation – Splinter’s animation was that of most video games. I’m sorry Hollywood, but if you are gonna invest that much money into a movie, get the damn animation right. Your five main characters are animated. Six if you count shredder. It was simply bad.

Art? – In the comic books the turtles are shorter than most people. They are often referred to as four foot tall turtles. I don’t care if you take creative license. But making them massively huge super strong ‘bulletproof’ things was unnecessary and frankly boring.

The Shredder – Couldn’t have been more stupid. Here’s how I assume they conceived of the idea for this shredder suit. A movie exec asked his three year old son what Shredder should look like and his son responded with:

“It’s a million knives.”

Sold. Let’s make The Shredder a comically absurd cartoonish creation capable of firing knives through the air. Sigh.

The Script – “We’re bulletproof,” might be the dumbest line in the film, but it had plenty of competition. It was difficult to tell if the lines written were worse or if the performances of the lines were worse. Either way, it made for a dreadful experience.

So, as you can see I think the movie was bad. However, I feel that there is a potential silver lining. It’s possible (although not bloody likely) that this movie was perfect. And I’ll explain how.

As much as I love the Turtles, I freely admit that they sold out harder than any toy brand before them. There was Ninja Turtle cereal, canned pasta, place mats, car floor mats, Turtle Wax, and even a corporately constructed touring four piece band. And yes I did see the TMNT Coming Out of their Shells Tour when they played Six Flags Over Texas. That was my first concert.

In addition, Michael Bay has a reputation for stuffing the maximum limit of special effects and explosions into his movies while not putting much energy or effort into plot or characters.

Combine those two things and you’ve got the perfect marriage of Hollywood sell outs. Now bare with me. This is gonna get weird.

What if director Jonathan Liebesman is actually a frikkin genius and intentionally made a movie that failed in every possible category as a statement on the status of Hollywood? Still with me? Let me go deeper.

For as long as I’ve been alive I have seen Hollywood take jabs at itself for being too flippant and vacuous with their own filmmaking. There are many examples. I’ll just highlight a few:

Kate & Leopold features a scene from a movie that isn’t real. It’s a romantic comedy that hits all the tired old formulas of romcoms alongside a cheesy love song.

Last Action Hero is all about making fun of action movies and their silly tropes.

Extras does an excellent job of showing a sitcom that started as a writer’s pride and was transformed by ‘suits’ to be a catch phrase based show with no real depth.

What if this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a huge piece of irony. Liebesman simply chose to put all the schlock that Hollywood does badly into one film? And what’s more he knew that making this choice would still likely give the studio exactly what it wanted – a decent box office draw.

Just for the record, I don’t think my cockamamie theory is true. I think Hollywood just outdid itself by doing all the things we make fun of it for doing when they made this movie. But I hold out hope that this is really a big inside joke. A thesis statement if you will that says, ‘This is what happens when we let Hollywood take characters so precious to us and just shit all over them.”
Regardless, I think I’m going to go re-watch the first TMNT movie from 1990 that I still completely love.

Thanks, y’all!
Rich

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