Peter Suderman Reviews the New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


I've had the theme song to the 80s cartoon stuck in my head all week. That didn't make this clunky live-action reboot any better: 

If anything was proved in last week's release of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" — which broke box office records and is also one of the best-reviewed movies of the year — it is that silly pop-culture curiosities, dreamed up decades ago for the amusement of little kids, can be hugely satisfying successes if given sufficiently imaginative treatment.

What this week's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" — based on an '80s and '90s-era toy, movie and cartoon line that drew from a sardonic comic-book series of the same name — proves is how wrong such projects can go when the wrong creative talent is at the helm.

To describe the principals behind the movie as creative talent, however, is probably too generous. Director Jonathan Liebesman, working under the supervision of "Transformers"-guru Michael Bay and from a screenplay by three different writers, has crafted a bland, wannabe-blockbuster that is not only incoherent but indifferent. It's less a movie and more of a crassly produced product, one that doesn't care about its audience, its characters or itself.

The apathy is particularly evident in the script's near-refusal to engage with the absurdity of its premise. 

Read the whole thing at The Washington Times

Something that stuck with me about the movie is how unrelentingly mediocre the computer effects work is. Particularly after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which featured incredibly rich and detailed motion capture work (humans acting in special suits that allow effects artists to "capture" the contours of their performances and turn it into a form of acted animated), it just seemed shoddy, like something that would have been fine but not amazing a decade ago.The all-turtle scenes, in particular, look like a more detailed, more chaotically shot version of something that might appear on a kids' cartoon series. Which I suppose says something about the increasing quality of the computer animation on a lot of kids shows. 

Regular moviegoers have become quite accustomed to really impressive, immersive CG work in the last few years, and TMNT, despite its $125 million budget* stood out for how unimpressive it was. 

*Almost 10 times (not adjusted for inflation) what was spent on the 1990 live action film that used much more effective Jim Henson animatronics/puppets for the turtles