'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Is a Sloppy, Unholy Mess
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If You Get Drunk and Mock One Movie With Your Asshole Friends This Year, Make It 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

By Rebecca Pahle | Film Reviews | August 8, 2014 | Comments ()

tmnt raphael.jpg

Let me preface this review by saying I was not expecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be good. It wasn’t like The Amazing Spider-Man, where there are great casting choices at play and you know it could be worth your time and money, only it wasn’t. I was angry watching The Amazing Spider-Man. I was not angry at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead, I was staring at the screen in complete and utter shock. It’s almost impressive how bad this movie manages to be.

What’s wrong with it? Where to start? What it all boils down to is this—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has no idea what it is or who it’s for. The original premise of the turtles mythos, the one you’re probably familiar with from the cartoon or the ’90s movies, is fairly simple: Turtles get oozed. Turtles are raised and taught martial arts by a rat named Splinter, whose own master was killed by Shredder. Shit happens. I don’t need anything more complicated than that—it’s a movie about ninja turtles, for Chrissakes. I don’t need story complexity. I need charming, goofy fun.

But instead of charming, goofy fun, director Jonathan Liebesman tried to make a bombastic action movie with a needlessly intricate plot involving the stupidest plan to take over New York City ever and a turtle backstory that hinges on a coincidence that’s so mindbogglingly huge I’m not sure the people who wrote it are human and not howler monkeys. I won’t spoil the specifics for you, because you probably won’t believe me if I tell them to you, but I will say this: April. O’Neil’s. Father.

I would have preferred aliens.

Nothing about this movie makes any sense. It took everything that made the original story work and stripped it away in favor of generic Michael Bay blockbuster schlock. If you’ve seen a trailer or any pictures, you know about the turtles being giant scary bodybuilder types. Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) barely gets any screentime before he’s slapped into a suit that basically turns him into a personality-deficient robot. I wanted so badly for him to turn around, slap William Fichtner’s character, and remind him who the real Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bad guy is. “Who the fuck is ‘Eric Sacks?’ I’m the goddamned Shredder.

But no. It never happened. Fichtner’s our main bad guy. I’m not spoiling anything for you there, because the trailer straight up tells us that he is, even though the movie itself whiles away a good few scenes on “Good guy sci/tech developer who only wants to help the city” before the reveal that he’s secretly evil, which of course we already knew.

That’s a prime example of the fact that every single thing about this movie—every dramatic moment, every bit of attempted character development—is unearned. There are a few things that work. The personalities of the turtles are mostly right (even though Michelangelo being a blatant horn dog was supremely uncomfortable—more on that later). But that’s not all too impressive considering that’s the easiest thing to get. You have the goofball, the nerd, the rebel, and the boring one leader. Congrats on not screwing that up. And for the first 30 minutes or so of the movie, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) actually showed some reporterly gumption, which I was impressed with.

CASEY “Sir Not Appearing In This Film” JONES BREAK:

casey jones.gif

But then. In keeping with the “Is this movie for kids? For adults? For half-blind iguanas?” theme, this movie is weirdly sexualized in a way I’d hoped a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie would never be. Vernon (Will Arnett) and Michelangelo (voiced by Shameless’ Noel Fisher, and why, Mickey, why?!) are constantly hitting on April. And no shit. It’s a Michael Bay-produced movie where the Megan Fox character is objectified. I’d be shocked if there weren’t a scene where Vernon blatantly ogles her ass. The part where one of the first things Mikey tells April is that she gives him a boner… yeah, I could have lived without that. If you see this movie (don’t see this movie), please report back and tell me whether that line is a thing that actually happens, because by the time that scene rolled around my brain was already halfway glazed over.

What’s really fucked up about Vernon and Michelangelo’s behavior, though, is that April never responds to it. Not once. At first I thought it was cool, like “Oh, April has more important things to do than respond to juvenile flirting.” But then it keeps happening. And April keeps ignoring it. Never an eye roll, never an impatient sigh, never a “Stop it. I don’t want to date you. You are a teenager and also a turtle.” It’s like she doesn’t even notice it. As the movie goes on, April’s role in the story becomes more and more one of following the turtles around and being a passive object for a frankly creepy level of sexual obsession. The writers don’t have her respond to the constant come-ons because, to them, what she thinks about them doesn’t matter: She’s there as eye candy.

I have nothing bad to say about Megan Fox. Was she good in this movie? No. She delivers shit lines with breathy woodenness. But you could’ve gotten Meryl Streep to play April O’Neil, and it still would have been embarrassingly awful. The screenwriters took an awesome character, someone a lot of people grew up admiring, and turned her into sexy cardboard. It’s gross. And in a kid’s movie, no less.

I could go on and on about other little details that made me think I might be hallucinating the 101 minutes (oh, it felt longer) I spent in the theater. The way part of Sacks’ backstory involves being a poor little bullied white kid in Japan. The way I’m not entirely sure Shredder wasn’t written in at the last minute after the studio realized “Shit, this character’s Japanese—we can’t have William Fichtner take his role!” (On the one hand, the Shredder shit was absolutely tacked on. On the other, Hollywood realizing they’re whitewashing a character and then deciding not to? That doesn’t happen, right?) The way even the action sequences were boring and poorly shot. The way nods to the original movies and cartoon were shoehorned in and incredibly awkward. The way a flashback to the ’90s featured a camera with the Bluetooth logo on it. The Victoria’s Secret product placement.

But you get it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a sloppy, unholy mess. It is a blight, not only upon the art of cinema, but upon humanity itself.

To cleanse yourself of what you have just been vicariously exposed to, here’s another Casey Jones gif:

Babe. You got out. You are so lucky. No one mention the word “sequel” to me.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • L. Sammondson

    there's actually five major product placement points in the movie - the Nokia product placement, the Pizza Hut product placement, the movie billboard placement (some film with the word 'anorak' in the title, perhaps) and the final, crushing, creepy Victorias Secret ad. (oh, and the Turtles themselves. . .) There's a scene in this movie where the turtles are shown as 'sewer dwelling' hip hop kids (its racist in a way that makes you feel bad for watching the movie), and, yes, April both can't act and is constantly hit on by, um, everyone, in a way that isn't flattering and does resemble sexual harassment. She doesn't even respond though, really, because her characters pretty thin, as with the other two guys in the scene. TMNT is actually just a case of hiring a high end VFX company to produce some big monster/action sequences, but still - ANYBODY on earth could've done a better film than that Hollywood brat Michael Bay and that talentless b-movie director from Wrath of the Titans. Personally, I recommend audience members to poop into a plastic pottle that you got from the cinema for your drinks or snack, wrap it in bubble wrap three or four times and then mail the contents of your newly created 'surprise package' to Platinum Dunes studio. Ciao.

  • Andy Teal

    You know, I'd be right there with you if you hadn't been so careful to use the word "objectified." Even if it's technically accurate, which it sounds like it is, it's just too much of a buzzword.

  • William Fichtner would've been a perfect Rat King in a better TMNT movie.

  • Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo are the Turtles. Who the hell is Vernon?

  • Haughie

    You would think jumping face first off something might be a good time to actually use the sunglasses on his head. Perhaps I'm overthinking it.

  • Jifaner

    My husband and I took our 6 year old to see it today. I was not looking forward to it. The movie, as expected, was not good. However, it also wasn't as awful as I expected it to be. Megan Fox was truly terrible (holy crap is she a bad actress) and the ogling was gross, but I thought the turtle animation was neat and they kept a lot of the spirit of their personalities from what I remember as a kid. The 3D effects were fun. I never, ever would have seen it if that sweet little face hadn't asked me to take him, but it could have been so much worse.

  • Maddy

    Yeah please just tell me everything because I am never ever seeng this

  • googergieger

    I don't know...

    Just how many beer bottles am I allowed chuck at the screen?

  • Another Kate

    William Fichtner's in this thing?

    Well, my day's just been ruined.

  • DarthCorleone

    When I Googled Casey Jones, the TMNT character came up before the historical person.

  • John W

    Alright but if Megan Fox gives me any trouble I'm blaming you.

  • BlackRabbit

    Gonna be a bitch tying this into Daredevil now..

  • ZombieNurse

    I expected that review to end with "and may God have mercy on your souls."

  • Not surprised. I've come to accept that Michael Bay has just 3-4 basic story ideas rattling about in his brain and that, as long as the plot can fit them in, he thinks that's all anyone needs.

    Which speaks to what he's done with now 2 different cartoon series from the 80s. He's somehow managed to excise any and all humor, fun, originality or charm they had in favor of loud, flashy, IN-YOUR-FACE!!! attitude aimed at no one really. I mean, who are these movies for? Not the people who grew up with them. Not the kids, obviously. Are teens/tweens responding to them?

    They make money. So he's obviously going to keep going. I just don't get it.

  • foolsage

    I've come to believe that Bay doesn't think in terms of stories, but rather explosions, toys, and female objectification. He's essentially a monster truck beer commercial brought to life on July 4th, as far as I can tell.

  • There'll Be Pancakes

    What the fuck?! No Casey Jones? The dude is a vigilante that uses hockey equipment as his weapon for fuck's sake, if anything could've given this howling shitshow some cred, it would've been that. I wish everyone else was dead

  • I'm almost glad they didn't, I don't think my poor heart could have taken what they would have done to Casey. He probably would have been turned into a colossal creep.

  • There'll Be Pancakes

    Very true but you know what's even more horrifying to think? Who would've this dickcheese hired to PLAY him?

  • Also considering Arnett is 44, it's really creepy that his character is ogling an woman who is my age. I mean I know it's super common in movies and real life for older men to do that, but it still makes me feel all squicky, even moreso than if the cameraman was someone around April's age.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    And she's clearly not into him at all, but he JUST KEEPS DOING IT.

  • stardust

    It ain't a Michael Bay joint without a healthy dose of rape culture thrown in.

  • Uggggh. So gross. I hate that screenwriters can still get away with that crap.

  • kushiro -

    Completely unsurprising. And of course my brother will take his 8-year-old to see it this weekend (and not on cheap Tuesday).

  • Dove of Doom

    So with that level of sexualization, it sounds like they should have just cast April O'Neil as April O'Neil.

  • Here you go. April O'Neil as April O'Neil.

    Brain may have just hurt itself.

  • Dove of Doom

    She's no Judith Hoag.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I'm not going to Google this.

  • April O'Neil is the name of a porn actress. There, I saved you some googling, Rebecca.

  • Adam Blackhat

    I'm Googling it at work to make sure you're not lying.

  • Adam Blackhat
  • Rebecca Pahle

    Eh, I always shipped April and Donnie.

  • Actually in the most recent cartoon, Donnie's has a crush on April. He doesn't hit on her though. And it certainly doesn't carry pseudo-incestuous overtones like THIS abomination.

  • Adam Blackhat

    I can remember wanting to be Raphael, but I don't remember my fantasy version of April looking like Megan Fox got punched in the eye. Still...

  • Why? Why did you do that? Ad why share it with us?

  • Adam Blackhat

    His teeth are so very, very white.

  • That they are.

  • Dove of Doom

    You definitely don't want to Bing it.

  • Guest


  • Very good idea.

  • I GET IT.

    Wait, probably shouldn't admit that.

  • Hugh Jass

    It's OK, we are all adults here.

  • BlackRabbit

    I'm not!

  • stardust

    I haven't considered firing up the Murder Tank in a long time, but for this I believe I will take off the protective tarp, change the oil, sharpen the chainsaws, and roll on Michael Bay's mansion.

  • DeaconG

    I've got a couple of Metal Storm pods in the garage. Swing by, we'll get them mounted and take a trip.

  • Adam Blackhat

    If you add boobs to the front of it, he'll let you in the front gate.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Hell, if the driver has boobs, she'll be shown to his "office."

  • el_mediocre

    Yeah... think I'll just re-watch the original.

    Shit, that makes me feel old.

  • pissants_doppelganger

    What do I do?! I want to see this because I love TMNT...which is also why I don't want to see it. But, I wasn't into Transformers as much as my brothers were, so I've never had the experience of something so beloved from my childhood being shit on...and I want to truly know Bay. I want to know how terrible he is. I want to go down there just so I know what it feels like. But I also don't want to suffer through trailers for the next 5 of these god damn movies.

    OK. I think the solution is to buy a ticket to another movie (an older one so the theater gets more o' that ticket money) and sneak in.

  • Watch the Nickelodeon show instead. It's adorable and Beast Boy voices Mikey.

  • pissants_doppelganger

    Ya know, I wonder how super fucking pissed off a lot of parents are right now. Judging from my nephews, TMNT is experiencing a resurgence, and now all the parents of the really young kids are gonna have to explain to them why the turtles look so god damned weird and why they can't see it because this movie is too adult for them. Then again, I remember a kid in the 2nd grade who couldn't see the first TMNT movie because Raphael said "damn" a few times...chump...

  • JenVegas

    I'm glad my kid is too young to connect the trailers for this movie with the cartoon we love. Whew. I'm going to try and convince him that the only TMNT movie is the old one if this interest in turtles lasts.

  • Although it's not like Guardians of the Galaxy is particularly nun-like in the swearing department.

  • Adam Blackhat

    Well, nobody can be 100% a nun.

  • Did you see Lucy? Because the Shredder thing is just reminding me about how they clearly added the shot taxi driver shouting "My leg!" in Chinese in post so that it wouldn't seem super racist that Lucy murdered a person in cold blood for the crime of not knowing English in his own country.

  • BendinIntheWind

    Oh thank god, that moment in the trailers was SO weird to me. I get it, you need to get to the hospital, but maybe not shooting innocent people on the way there?

  • Oh man, but then when she gets to the surgeons to take the bag out they're performing a tumor removal on a patient and she just shoots him dead so they'll work on her instead. But DON'T WORRY, she tells them she looked at his file and he wasn't going to survive anyway. HAhahaha.... how nice of her.

  • BendinIntheWind

    Holy shit that is hilarious.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Seriously, spoil the everloving fuck out of this because I will never, ever, ever watch this.

  • hammad khan

    Why not

  • Classic


  • Rebecca Pahle

    SPOILERS, then:

    Part of the turtles' backstory is that they were basically April's childhood pets. They and Splinter were subjects in Papa O'Neil's lab, and she'd go in and feed them pizza, despite the fact that that must be HORRIBLE lab procedure. And the she's just COINCIDENTALLY the one to find them years later.

    Also, Splinter learns marital arts when he finds a god damned HOW TO BE A NINJA book just LYING THERE IN THE SEWER. So he's like "Damn, I'll just train myself to be a ninja and then train my sons. FROM A RANDOM SEWER BOOK." THAT'S THERE. IN PERFECT CONDITION. LYING IN THE SEWER.


  • Ozioma


  • Sarah

    I'm not even familiar with the TMNT mythology and this is the greatest thing I've read on this movie.

  • Wrestling Fan

    just..... no

  • kinoumenthe

    The Book of Ninja Marital Arts, with luscious woodblock prints explaining the moves, the positions, the…
    Sorry. That's one glorious typo, Rebecca.
    Please. Don't correct it. :D

  • BlackRabbit

    Chapter Headings: Of Bondage and Belts, Sexy Judo, Breaking Wood....

  • kinoumenthe

    Nobody "breaks wood" in the Ninja Marital Arts Encyclopedia.
    … Or only in the Appendixes.

  • BlackRabbit

    Advanced technique.

  • Classic

    LMAO. You are making this up. I can't breathe right now. WTF? So they changed the entire backstory? Why would they do this?

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Thank you.

    Now all that's missing is knowing whether the plan to destroy New York City somehow hinges on the turtles' mutant blood.

    It's a Kurtzman/Orci joint after all, they're basically required to write the magic blood MacGuffin into any script of theirs.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    It does, actually.


    Splinter and Fitchner's plan is to destroy NYC using an airborne toxin, then heal everyone with this special "mutagen" (basically the ooze) that Fitchner and April's father were working on decades ago, thus making Fitchner super-rich and powerful. Only the mutagen only exists in the turtles' blood now, so Fitchner and Shredder have to kidnap them and bleed them dry.

    It is not best plan there ever was.

  • stryker1121

    I'll take it Splinter and Fitchner succeed in their plan and end up killing the turtles and destroying the city?

  • stardust

    *bashes head against desk over and over and over and over*

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Holy moley are those hacks devolving into self-parody already.

    That's the evil third-act plan from the "The Amazing Spider-Man" verbatim. I wouldn't even be surprised to know if this new TMNT flick reused similar assets from Sony's VFX department.

    And I now hate myself for failing to suppress any memories of that movie to this day. That's it, off to watch GoTG for a third time then. Thank you.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    YES! IT'S AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. You're gonna duplicate a movie, and you choose THAT ONE.

  • Classic

    ...that's it I'm out. I was thinking of seeing this for shits and giggles but no. I will start baying for blood at the movie. Go see GOTG. Chris Pratt will cheer you up.

  • kdm

    Thank you for the spoilers. Just READING that made me stabby, so now I know that this sh*t isn't even worth hatewatching at home.

    But, wait. So there's no Hamato Yoshi at all?? Either you go with the cartoon, where Yoshi becomes Splinter, or with the movie, where Splinter is his pet rat who learned martial arts by watching his master.

    But if there is no Yoshi, and therefore no feud with Oroku Saki, THEN WHY THE HELL DOES SHREDDER WANT TO KILL THEM???

  • Rebecca Pahle


  • I bet it was in that "How to Be a Ninja" book.

  • Uriah_Creep

    It's a shame the writers couldn't stumble on a "How To Write a Decent Screenplay" book.

  • BlackRabbit

    In the Footnotes.

  • opiejuankenopie

    That is probably the best thing to come out of this movie. Thank you.

  • /slow clap

  • kdm

    Oh, well played.

  • lowercase_ryan

    thank you, I truly feel like I owe you Jimmy John's or something. You took a hell of a shot for the team.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    You can pay for my therapy.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Bourbon it is.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I knew it was something like that, and yet I am still SO ANGRY that this happened!
    I know the original movie isn't as good/dark as the comics, but at least the turtles aren't horrifying to look at and they weren't April's fucking pets.

  • Wait, so they thought THAT made more sense than the rat mimicking his ninja master owner or having the ninja master turning into the rat. And wait...does this mean that Mikey was probably remembering April from when she was a kid? Aw, man now the implied beastiality is getting creepier.

  • Classic

    I never understood why they didn't keep with the cartoon backstory? I hated that in the movie version too. The hell? A rat just doing martial arts moves?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Not gonna lie, I dug the HELL out of a plain rat doing martial arts moves.

  • And it was such a silly, ratty (heh) looking puppet, too.

    STILL better than apparently learning from Real Ultimate Power.

    Wait, this sounds familiar....holy crap. It the twist/joke from Kung Fu Hustle. When Stephen Chow's character buys the martial arts book from the bum, only for him to fail at any martial arts, until later when gets his ass whooped and finally unlocks his mastery?


  • Rebecca Pahle


    And yeah, the rat ninja master thing was never particularly realistic, but at least it was logically consistent with the rest of the universe! The reboot backstory... eurgh.

  • stardust


  • hammad khan

    Why he's the strongest guy in the movie of teenage mutant

    ninja turtles 2014 but think not only Raphael.I Think it is Leonardo and Raphael

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I was trying to be little even-minded and figure out, if I were a KID watching this movie, if I weren't judging it against what I grew up with, would I still hate it? Because I don't like it when people get overly possessive about stuff they loved as kids. I'm 29. The turtles aren't FOR me anymore.

    And I tried. I swear to God, I tried. But this movie is just so stupid.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    See, this is my fear, that my little cousins will love this stupid movie, just like they loved JarJar and Episode I and I will have to refrain from shouting at them for their horrible taste.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Don't refrain. In the long run, being yelled at will be good for them. Being yelled at and made fun of by my older brothers is what helped me to become the embittered lonely adult with good taste in movies that I am. Without that formative teasing, I am not sure I would be the socially misadjusted, and hence cool person that I am today.

  • Sounds like the people who try to tell me the Willie Wonka remake was da best.

  • BlackRabbit

    And then the M. Night Shyamalan twist that all of the turtles are just her alternate personalities. And I know it was a typo but it makes me giggle: they learned "marital arts"? That IS a different movie.

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