Reboots: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)

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Tony finds a movie in the sewers. Fittingly enough.


There comes a point when you have to ask yourself ‘How many freakin’ re-runs of the exact same origin story does one world need?’

No?

Hollywood? Anybody? OK, fine, clearly there doesn’t come a point when you have to ask that question? After all, we’ve had three entirely different movie Hulks in the last twenty years, and we’re about to have our third entirely different Spiderman. So sure, why not, let Michael ‘what the fuck happened to the Transformers?’ Bay get his hands on a beloved, mad-as-a-box-of-frogs comic-book franchise and suck the joy right out of it.

Oh wait, he already did that? There’s a sequel? Sometimes, there’s just not enough rum and not enough baseball bats in the world, is there?

Yes, Michael Bay took the no-really-I-promise-it-was-funny original idea of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and decided to make a movie of them. What’s more, because the human race won’t stop breeding, and despite having the internet these days, if recent events have taught us anything it’s that some people will do things without the faintest idea of what they are or why they’re doing them, he decided to make another TMNT origin movie.

Cos the world was just crying out for that. Seriously, in 2013, there were hipsters on the street, falling to their knees, beating their scrawny hipster man-breasts and calling to the sky ‘Why, God, why hasn’t Michael Bay made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles origin movie?! We’ve only got two, plus the cartoon series, plus the original cool-as-fuck comic-books in our lives, dammit, it’s just not enough!’

And the Lord, whose name is Bay, did hear the crying of his children, and He got his ass off the throne of money made from the Transformers franchise, and came down unto the sewers to kick some shiny metal Shredder-ass.


To be absolutely fair to the man, the main reasons why the 2014 TMNT movie mostly sucks have little to do with Bay – although his somewhat clinical ‘Insert Joke Here’ style of direction is at odds with the dark madcap of the original concept. No, really the people who most need to be whacked upside the head with a slice of cold pizza are the writers. Step out of the sewers, Josh Appelbaum, purveyor of the least good episodes of several movie franchises, including Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, or Flogging the Guts Out Of A Cool-Looking But Very Dead Vanity-Horse, and Beverley Hill Cop 4, or I’m Just Here For The Money.

Step forward Andre Nemec, also of dazzling productions like – oh well lookee here, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Beverley Hills Cop 4.

Step forward Evan Daugherty, screenwriter of Snow White And The Huntsman. Goody, now we’ve got ourselves a proper quality sandwich.

Oh, did we mention it also stars Megan Fox? Did we cover that? Megan Fox, remember, who worked with Bay on Transformers, and then described him as Adolf Hitler. That bodes well for the revival of another comic-based movie. Do we need to cover the effect of her casting, or can we simply take it as read that the quality index on this thing just did what the pound did the morning after Britain voted to leave the EU? Watch your step, there’s a whacking great new hole in the floor.


To be fair (seriously, yes, we’re striving to be fair to this thing), Fox is by no means the worst thing in this movie. To be honest though, that just tells you exactly how bad the rest of it is. But let’s get analytical – this movie didn’t get nominated for five Razzies for the sake of simple spite. First of all, it’s an origin movie for the turtles, in which, get this, the origin of the turtles is narrated as voice-over by Splinter in the first five minutes of the movie. Before anything else happens, boom, there’s your origin. You really could move the hell on after that but noooo – the whole movie’s tied in with it. Y’know what it’s like? It’s like those novels by Dickens, where before the chapter actually starts, you have a whole ‘In which our hero does, this, that and the goddamned other’ section, so you know absolutely everything that’s coming before you read it, meaning your only reason to actually read the chapter is because the writing’s that good.

Dickens gets away with that, because to give the man his due, he was an unprecedented freakin’ genius and a social justice warrior before the term had earned the contempt of all non-hipsters everywhere.

Appelbaum, Nemec and Daugherty? Not freakin’ geniuses. What we end up with in TMNT is a script that does the absolute minimum it can possibly get away with. It’s like it was written on a beach somewhere, while they laughed, drank sangria and rubbed their bodies with hundred dollar bills. Splinter, Shredder, the turtles, April O’Neil, they’re all there, the story of how the turtles came to be is there, the story of the least surprising bad guy in movie history, played by William Fichtner with everything but the evil eyebrows and the moustache-twirling of Vaudeville. It’s all in there, there’s just an absolute lack of need for any of it, and an absolute lack of joy to boot. It’s like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does The Dark Knight (a comparison explicitly referenced in the movie, just so you know I’m not poisoning myself with my own bile).


Fox may not be the worst thing in the movie (that’d be the writing), but she’s one of the most forgettable screen heroines in the history of celluloid. Seriously, you could sneeze two days from now, and ten years from now it would still be more memorable than Megan Fox’s…well, technically her entire career, but her performance in this movie specifically. The turtles are rendered with that kind of fun-by-numbers dialogue that makes you really believe Michael Bay hates laughter, and thinks it should be whipped through the streets until dead. There are references to the joyful silliness of earlier incarnations – a couple of Cowabungas and a ‘heroes in a half-shell,’ but they’re deployed with the teeth-grinding calculation of someone who’s read the brief and knows the fans will expect them, but who really loathes the necessity of having them in there. One of the Cowabungas is actually delivered like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘I’ll be back,’ or Clint Eastwood’s ‘Go ahead punk…make my day.’ In fact, that’s the directorial vibe of the whole movie. It’s like Michael Bay came to the project with the intention of directing some Kafka and then was handed a script he’d never heard of before and got pissed that his career included yet another goddamned comic-book action-figure teenage piece of crap – and decided to take it out on the movie-going public as a result.

The TMNT 2014 reboot movie is what you get when you beat a good idea to death over the knees of mediocre writers, hand it to a director who clearly doesn’t want to do it, hire mostly uninspiring actors (Fichtner’s a notable exception – he’s a damn fine actor, but recently, he seems to have an over-active crap-attractor), underlight and overdramatise the whole wretched thing, and try to pass it off as the renaissance of a beloved franchise, rather than the raping of everything that was good about any of the original ideas, and any of the subsequent interpretations to boot.

This is what you need to do to win five Razzie nominations – it’s rather unfair that, of them all, it was Fox who went home with the Golden Raspberry in 2015 for Worst Supporting Actress. Not to be picky, Razzie judges, but she was actually the leading female in the thing. Granted, her role was to support four six foot talking reptiles, but still… Given the choice of its many Razzie nominations, surely there was more scope in Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay than there was in Fox’s blink-and-you-won’t-give-a-fuck performance. At least she was forgettable. The screenplay stays with you, like trapped wind.


It should be inconceivable that there’s a sequel to this movie heading to screens and eyeballs as we speak.

It isn’t inconceivable though. Like the production of this 2014 movie, it’s a testament to the blitheness with which Hollywood will scrape the bottom of any barrel it can get its hands on. Please, please, please don’t go and see the sequel. For the sake of your eyeballs, and your heart, and your faith in human and turtlekind, don’t go to see it. Spend the money you would have used to reward the makers of this dross on some of the original comic-books instead, and revel. Revel in the darkness, the fun, the originality and invention of the idea of four mutant, teenage, ninja, pizza-loving turtle-brothers and their fight for justice. That, my friends, will be money well spent.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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