Sunday, 10 August 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Previous Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Next Review: Break Up 100

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a modern reboot of the 30-year-old popular franchise of the same name. This film is directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay. For those who are not familiar with the franchise, it's basically a story about four mutated turtles who grow up in the sewers, raised and trained by a mutated rat who knows the art of Ninjutsu to fight against the evil Foot Clan led by Ninja Master Oroku Saki, also known as The Shredder.

First and foremost, I have to say that there are some new changes to the origins and designs of the turtles in the film which might upset a lot of fans of the franchise. I'm probably one of the few who are fine with most of the changes. Honestly speaking, the original storyline is quite ridiculous: Splinter was originally the Ninja Master Hamato Yoshi's rat and he was smart enough to imitate his fighting moves to become a master without the mutagen (although the best storyline would be the current depiction of Splinter in the 2012 ongoing TV series, who is actually Hamato Yoshi himself). The four Turtles were accidentally exposed to the mutagen after a traffic accident with their young owner as a bystander...So you can't really say the film actually wrecked your childhood, TMNT fans.

Moreover, I find the new designs of the turtles to be quite realistic, modern, very distinctive looking and look cool. The CGI renders of the turtles look great on screen. However, my biggest gripe is the depiction of their size and strength in the film. Sure, they act like teenagers, but they don't look like teenagers. Their larger physique show that they're much too powerful compared with the villains (except Shredder with his suit) in the film. They even look stronger compared to their previous live-action or animation counterparts. These turtles are not to be messed with...they can crush vehicles easily, deliver punches and kicks strong enough to send you flying.

The best thing about the film is that it did a great job in portraying the turtles on screen, retaining the distinctive personalities of the turtles we've known for years:
  • Leonardo - the eldest, most disciplined tactical leader of the turtles who fights with two katanas, 
  • Donatello - the nerdy and geeky turtle with a bo staff, who's the brains of the group, 
  • Raphael - the hot-tempered, strong, aggressive and tough turtle who uses a pair of sai, 
  • Michelangelo - the wisecracking, easygoing, goofy but lovable turtle who uses a pair of nunchaku, who's essentially the provider of comic relief among the turtles.
Among the turtles, Raphael and Michelangelo are the ones that stand out in this film. The family dynamic between the turtles and Splinter was really good. The film shows the camaraderie of the turtles and how they interact with each other throughout the film...from the usual brotherly in-fighting between Raphael and Leonardo, with Raphael often challenges Leonardo's leadership, the mutual love, fear and respect for Splinter to the brotherly banter between Michelangelo and the turtles. Despite the fighting and arguments, they're still brothers and they really do love each other.

There's a few good character moments especially Mikey's crush on April, Raph's touching confession near the end of the film, the amusing turtles elevator scene, Mikey losing himself when Splinter tempting him with pizza, Mikey and Raph Victoria Secret ad. The film also delivers some great action scenes, notably the awesome Splinter VS Shredder fight, the spectacular, fast-paced, exciting snowy mountain action sequence and the climactic Turtles VS Shredder battle.

There's a lot more fun when the Turtles finally appear on screen. It's such a shame and rather unfortunate that the film gave too much screen time to April and her cameraman, Vernon. (It's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, so give them more screen time!) The human characters in the film are dull and forgettable and they're just sort of there to serve the plot. Not to mention, the film’s storyline has some noticeable flaws. It has numerous plot logic issues, plot contrivances, bad dialogues and some unnecessary human scenes. Occasionally, it also feels like there's some gaps between scenes throughout the film. Some of the character lines are poorly written as well.

Furthermore, the film lacks a memorable and compelling villain for the story, just like many of recent blockbuster films. There's a lack of character development for Shredder and Karai. Karai is merely a subordinate of Shredder, nothing more. Shredder is a strong villain for the turtles mostly because of the giant mechanical suit and there's not much depth in him. His character motivations were unclear. I'm also not quite happy with the portrayal of Foot Clan as a local crime syndicate...who are no longer the highly trained ninja/assassins like they used to be, but soldiers with guns instead.

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't great, but it's still a fun and entertaining sci-fi action comedy film, mainly because of the turtles, just don't expect a great story with meaningful catchy dialogues. In my opinion, it's still a far better film compared with the previous TMNT trilogy despite its apparent flaws. There have been many versions of TMNT throughout the years, but the ongoing 2012 TV series is still the best one so far.

Rating: 6/10

2012 TV series ninja turtles

SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read the following if you haven't watched the film.

Questions regarding the plot:

  • Why didn't April show her boss the photo of the turtles jumping off the roof to convince her that they're real, but she showed to Sacks instead?
          Couldn't answer this. Script issue.
  • By the end of the film, the turtles thank April for not revealing their existence to the public. But wouldn't it be true that there's at least someone who have seen them during the climactic battle and start asking questions? 
         Couldn't answer this. Script issue. Probably no one actually seen the turtles...who knows?
  • April’s dad, after knowing his scientific research will be put to evil use by Shredder and Sacks, he burns his lab to destroy all the research files...with himself and his daughter in it? If her dad's intention is to destroy his work and if Sacks mentioned that everything was lost in the fire, why April still have copies of his father's research in her house? Why Sacks never approach her to find the copies after all this time? If April’s dad really died in the fire, why later on Sacks mentioned that he shot her dad to death...Huh? 
         Major script issue.
  • Why the lab became empty and it was so easy for April and Vernon to inject high dosage of adrenaline to allow the turtles to have strength to escape? Where are the Foot soldiers?
Raphael probably had taken out all the Foot soldiers near the lab to allow April and Vernon to enter. He was also shown holding off the Shredder while April and Vernon releasing the other turtles. Minor Plot convenience. 
  • Splinter has mutagen blood. Why Sacks only interested in capturing the four turtles but not Splinter as well?
          Couldn't answer this. Script issue.
  • How did Splinter knows about Shredder's existence and his prowess if he was only a rat?
 Splinter spends most of his time in the lab. He becomes intelligent and capable of understanding human speech due to the mutagen. Most likely that Splinter heard Sacks mentioned about the Shredder and his plans in the lab or perhaps even brought the Shredder to the lab at one point to examine his work progress. I don't have an answer regarding how Splinter knows that Shredder is a formidable foe. It's a script issue. The film suppose to show us these things, instead of letting us thinking by ourselves.
  • The enemy's big plan: What's the point of releasing the poison gas in such a large scale? Although Sacks have the antidote, would it be enough for everyone in the city? What's the point of controlling a city if all its inhabitants are dead?
          Script issue.
  • What was Shredder's or Sacks' plan of escape after releasing the poison gas? 
          Should have explain or show this in the film. Script issue.
  • In the beginning, April wants to become a professional investigative reporter. What happens in the end after she got fired? No mention of it whatsoever. The film doesn't even have a scene that shows her hesitating for a moment before making the decision to keep the turtles' existence a secret. 
          Script issue.

Previous Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Next Review: Break Up 100

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