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

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  1. I generally enjoy Michael Bay movies (yeah, I said it), but this looks incredibly awful.

    1. Remember: It’s Bay-produced, not Bay-directed.

      1. Remember: It’s Bay-produced, not Bay-directed.

        And that makes all the difference. Without the steady, nuanced directorship of Michael Bay to wring every last ounce of drama, emotion, and soul from the source material, a live-action movie based on an ’80s cartoon is going to fail miserably.

      2. So your saying the only thing missing was a panoramic shot and some Aerosmith?

        1. So your saying the only thing missing was a panoramic shot and some Aerosmith?

          And maybe a slow-motion hero walk with a background explosion.

    2. Even Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?

  2. I never had any affinity for the cartoon, so this disinterests me as it is. In fact, we should all shun it as the very idea of talking animals is blasphemy.

    1. I never had any affinity for the cartoon–

      Me either. I grew up in the ’80s, and I never once watched it. ThunderCats, on the other hand . . .

      1. Michael Bay’s ThunderCats Summer…2017…

        1. Michael Bay’s ThunderCats Summer…2017

          I would actually want to see that, I think.

        2. Just, whatever you do, don’t let him get his hands on Star Blazers (the American dubbing of Space Battleship Yamato)!

          1. I’m waiting for Thundarr

        3. He waited too long, Will Smith’s awful son and daughter will be too old to play Wily Kit and Kat by then. But my suggestion of Michelle Jenneke as Cheetara could still work.

    2. So I’m guessing you are were not a fan Howard the Duck?

      1. Hey Howard the Duck did have Lea Thompson in it, so it wasn’t a total loss

      2. Even George Lucas is not a fan of Howard the Duck.

        1. George Lucas doesn’t acknowledge that Han shot first so I don’t see how that comment is relevant. In fact it negates your overall point that Howard the Duck isn’t an american classic.

    3. I liked the cartoon, but that wouldn’t cause me to go see it.

      However, a girl saying she really wants to see it when I was suggested going on another date does seem to have done the trick.

      1. I still expect this to be horrible though.

        1. Maybe you can get her to console you as your mourn the raping of your childhood.

          1. I’ll allow it.

            I’d try the yawn technique but I might actually fall asleep.

  3. A friend reviewed this for the SF Chron and noted it was the “3rd least realistic depiction of journalism in recent memory – behind ‘Never Been Kissed,’ ‘The Newsroom’ “

    1. You’re talking about Suderman’s review?

  4. For me, I love the first feature film and the first 2 or 3 seasons of the cartoon.

    For me, that movie was so awesome because of the violence and PG language. Also, the score is underrated.

    1. Yeah, I pretty much agree with you. I was a TMNT fanatic growing up in the 80s.

    2. …Also, the first movie was more faithful to the comic book than the cartoon.

      Not to say that the cartoon was bad, but the origin story of Splinter just didn’t make any sense.

  5. Why?

  6. eh I liked the original Turtles before MB bought the rights and turned them into kids toys. That said I did like the original TMNT movie from the 80’s as it had just the right amount of self awareness and camp to be a really good bad movie.

    This however looks like a disaster, it’ll probably go over well enough with 8 – 12 year old boys to at least break even and sell a ton of merchandise in the process, which unfortunately means there will probably be a sequel.

  7. Daughter #1 watched this as a kid – “It’s ‘Injun Turtles’!!”

    She’s 26 now and has expressed no interest in it now.

    The End

    *HUGE explosion over ‘Walk This Way’*

  8. A friend of mine was over at my house last night with her 6-year-old son, who’s a huge fan of the cartoon. I showed him the trailer for the new film, and his reaction was, “I do not want to see that!”

    Now if that’s not a damning indictment, I don’t know what is.

    1. I showed him the trailer for the new film, and his reaction was, “I do not want to see that!”

      The two broodlings old enough to enjoy the cartoon had the same reaction.

      I would’ve sat through two hours of the current Nickelodeon TV series. I mean, *another* two hours, as a movie, in the theater.

  9. The exposition-heavy story begins by following April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a New York City TV reporter who wants to break out of doing fluff stories.

    “The journalist who wants that one big story” – is that as overused as “the criminal planning one last job”?

    Whatever. I suppose it’s good that Megan Fox and Michael Bay have repaired their relationship. Didn’t she call him Hitler, and that’s why she wasn’t in Transformers 3?

  10. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with the punches. Wow.

  11. I’ll watch it with the kid if they stream it on Netflix, but that’s about it.

  12. I got tricked into seeing ‘Lucy’ the other night. Holy fuck that was a hot mess of shitty movie.
    I lust for miss Johansen but my brain is still is shock of how truely bad that movie was. Now my Scarlett lust feels dirty. So, so dirty.

    1. Is this the Lucy that everyone keeps telling me not to talk about?

      1. Is this the Lucy that everyone keeps telling me not to talk about?


    2. My sister’s boyfriend and I saw the trailer for it and we both agreed we would have given the movie a chance if they didn’t base it off of her using “more than 10% of her brain”. Just handwave away what they did to her, and we’d buy in.

  13. The TMNT theme song is probably the best thing Chuck Lorre has done.

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