Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Belongs In The Sewers: A Review
I’m a pretty big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The trailer for the reboot was enough for me to just say, “yeah no thanks” and move right along. The sequel, Out of the Shadows, which hit theaters on June 3rd and with its introduction of Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman AND Krang, seemingly tricked me into thinking that maybe the first film was decent enough to watch.
It was not.
We’re gonna do a play-by-play of this film so you can truly see just what it is. And it is a mess. I present to you a review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), a reboot, like many others, so uninspired that is just took the original title and is only differentiated by the year in which it came out.
The film opens with a comic book style presentation of Splinter explaining everything because writing plot is hard. “A dark force is growing. A criminal organization known as the Foot Clan, so named because they step over the good people of this city with no regard.” There is also a picture of a foot during this sequence, in case you were unsure of the comparisons being made. “You’re p strong and shit, but don’t go above ground yet, you’re totally not ready,” says Splinter to his Turtle sons, spelling out the entire plot for everyone.
We go from this slog of an into to, you guessed it, April O’Neil. She’s definitely who we came to see. Played by Megan Fox, she does her best to save whatever shit was written for her. She’s asking questions at a harbor about stolen chemicals by the Foot and she’s bad at it. Her partner, Vern, played by Will Arnett, also thinks she’s bad at it and they go do a stupid live story about exercising on a trampoline. “Four years of journalism school so I can do that,” April says, as though anyone cares. She’s also wearing a yellow coat because FAN SERVICE. Vern makes poor flirting attempts and we all know this will go nowhere.
April goes back to the docks at like, midnight, to talk to more people for info or something. She starts the trend of breathing heavily throughout the entire film here. Unsurprisingly, the Foot are there stealing more shit. You’d think they’d tighten security or that maybe the people working at the docks are in on the take, but neither of these pesky plot details can be bothered with. It rains for a total of 37 seconds while April gets VERY close to a criminal organization, all of whom have guns. A Turtle appear, albeit in shadow, and disposes of them. The leader, Karai, actually says “Retreat!” out loud. April tries to get photos but she’s slow as fuck and the Turtle is gone. Somehow she isn’t seen or heard at all. She breathes a lot.
April tells what happened to her roommate and it doesn’t matter.
For some reason, there’s another scene involving April talking to her boss, Whoopi Goldberg. Her coworkers make fun of her to her face and Whoopi Goldberg outright laughs at her for bringing a story about the Foot Clan being stopped by a vigilante. The movie continues to make sense.
Finally, scenes without April begin to happen. A TV report talks about the police working with Eric Sacks, played by William Fichtner for some reason, and his manufacturing company to “take down the Foot” more effectively. God knows what that means, but we certainly don’t figure it out. We cut over to a man tied up who magically beats two members of the “elite” Foot Clan effortlessly. The man is revealed to be FUCKIN’ SHREDDER only he’s not cool or intimidating and cast in a shadow the entire time. He talks to Karai, in both Japanese and English for some reason, about the Foot being weak and the vigilantes being strong. “The Foot Clan will rise again…” Rise from what? We’re they beaten before? Fuck you, you’ll never know! “Capture the vigilantes however you can. Use innocent people as bait! No one will stop us in our quest to reclaim victory. We will OWN this city.” Wow man, I SUPPOSE you must be the BAD GUY of this film! I certainly wasn’t sure before, but now that you’ve spelled it ALL out for me, there is NO confusion OR fun to be had!
Eric Sacks gives a speech to random people about working on “cutting edge research” and “keeping the city safe though all my cool Sacks things” and it isn’t well written or powerful. April breathes heavily and we learn her father died in a lab robbery/fire while working with Sacks on said “cutting edge research.” Who cares. The subway is attacked by Foot Clan members and April decides to just run INTO the thing that everyone is running out of. She is of course captured in 10 seconds and continues to breathe loudly. “We know you’re out there!” yells Karai to no one. “If you don’t surrender, we start executing hostages.” Oh good, just right to killing then? The Foot’s plan hinges on the Turtles actually being in the subway, which seems pretty fucking stupid, but hey, we’re only 15 minutes in! April tries to take a photo of the Foot, as any journalist would, and is almost killed for doing so. The Turtles finally show up, but all the lights go out and the cinematographer suddenly gets Parkinson’s, so you can’t see them fighting. Wonderful. Anyway, they win and leave. April follows the extremely loud Turtles to the top of a building and decides now would be a good time to take a photo, with the flash. Breathing continues to cut into the scene.
It’s here that we finally see the main characters in a closer view. They are hideous. There’s a Batman voice joke and Michelangelo actually says “Ooo she’s so hot I can feel my shell tightening.” I’m not sure what to make of this very off-putting statement, but before I can process that, Leonardo speaks in a full sentence, clearly, for the first time in the film. It’s Johnny Knoxville. It does not work. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did, and we have to live with it for another hour and a half.
Anyway, she passes out, they wipe her phone, make creepy threats about “finding her” and then leave, very fucking loudly, into the oddly empty streets of New York City and then the sewers. April takes another photo so nothing matters. The scene is capped off with a fart joke. Great, perfect. It should be noted here that, to make sure the audience knows Raphael is cool BUT rude, he wears sunglasses on top of his head. Donnie also has nerd glasses because he DOES MACHINES and is a loser.
At April’s pointless apartment, she watches a bunch of old tapes and OH SHIT her DEAD DAD worked with ERIC SACKS on these EXACT SAME TURTLES when she was a KID. April then says this: “I knew it. The vigilante. I saw him, I saw THEM. I saw them and I’ve KNOWN them since I was a little girl. They were my pets! They were my childhood pets! And they were named after Italian Renaissance painters.” It takes longer than it should to get through this bullshit because of the insane amount of exhaling she’s doing. Her roommate makes a stupid joke, god, fuck this movie.
The Turtles return home, apparently trying to avoid being seen by Splinter because he’ll send them to a torture chamber thing. Splinter is obviously there, knocks them all over with his tail, and then sends them to said torture chamber. April explains her batshit insane story to Whoopi Goldberg again and is promptly fired, along with Whoopi Goldberg’s exit from this pointless film. Vern the Creeper is standing by to creepily console her and they’re off to see Eric Sacks.
Back in the torture chamber, 11 hours have passed. Splinter is a brutal taskmaster. Michelangelo eventually caves due to pizza and reveals that they talked to April and beat up some Foot members. The exchange that follows is…odd.
Splinter: Oh no…my worst fears have been realized…
Leonardo: Don’t worry about it, Donnie erased the picture, we’re not in danger!
Splinter: No, it’s April O’Neil who is in danger! Find the girl, bring her here!
Donatello: But Sensei, you said not go above-
Splinter: FIND THE GIRL!
Michelangelo: Find the girl…
First off, Splinter is AWFUL persistent about bringing her there and he’s kinda creepy about it. Second, after Michelangelo pointlessly says “find the girl” a second time, the shot lingers on him standing there. Splinter looks over at him and…nothing happens. It just ends. Why did that fucking occur? The entire scene is CGI, why didn’t you just cut that off? I fucking…ugh, continuing on.
Back to April. Vern makes more terrible jokes and poorly flirts. She arrives at Eric Sacks’ place and he opens the door to say “April’s arrived early this year.” The groans are never ending. She shows him the blurry photos of Turtles and he explains some long-winded thing about “being born in Japan and was originally going to be the Shredder in this movie but whitewashing yada yada your Dad and I were working on mutagen that can self-repair the human body, maybe, who knows, it can do other things too probably blah blah let’s work together so we can save New York City from a potential chemical attack that I may or may not do later in this film. Lemme show you out.”
April meets with the Turtles, completely out of breath of course, who literally cover her head in a bag and bring her to the sewers. Michelangelo makes more sexually charged jokes, no one laughs. Splinter explains how April’s father and Sacks got into a yelling match about the mutagen in the lab and April’s father decided it was a good idea to set the building on fire and destroy everything. The scene implies, heavily I might add, that he was an idiot and the fire he fucking started consumed him. April appears after his death to retrieve the Turtles and Splinter and then promptly throws them into the nearest sewer. Remember this story, as it will change drastically later. Then, as though that wasn’t bad enough, the dumbest thing in the film happens. Splinter explains that he taught the Turtles ninjutsu from a book. A fucking book he found in the sewers.
He read the book, mastered everything, and then taught them ninjutsu from a book. A fucking book he found in the goddamn sewers.
Splinter calls April a Hogosha, she replies with a confused “What?” and the audience is equally as pissed and bewildered. Sacks meets with Shredder and, big fucking surprise, he’s a bad guy. His entire character is whittled down to “I want money” and Shredder continues to want power by whatever means. They want to take the mutagen from the Turtles’ blood for something, we don’t find out really. We see Shredder’s armor, it looks like a fucking Transformer. Shredder says “Tonight I dine on Turtle soup” in Japanese, everyone wishes the movie would just mercifully end.
Splinter somehow knows Sacks’ entire background with the Shredder and also knows they will be coming to take the mutagen from his son’s bodies, somehow, as well. Five seconds later, the Foot arrive. They are also horribly trained and get their shit destroyed by everyone. Michelangelo makes “pah-pow!” noises the entire fight and it’s pretty unforgivable. Johnny Knoxville speaks again and you cringe. Robo-Shredder appears and looks dumb. Splinter, without ever seeing him, knows exactly who it is and they fight. It’s surprisingly violent and, for a moment, almost makes you care for the Turtles and their master as Splinter is beaten to a pulp. It’s immediately undercut by over-the-top music and the fact that this film has no stakes at all.
Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo are suddenly overpowered by the people they were just kicking ass against and Raphael is caught under falling debris. Instead of checking if he’s alive, Shredder just commands the lair be destroyed, which it isn’t because the only thing that happens is some sort of very light explosions that don’t appear to do anything. Splinter is also left there for no reason, proving Shredder is kinda awful at being a villain. April is fine and everyone forgot she was a character. The scene essentially says Splinter is going to die, and then he doesn’t. He just instructs Raphael, who is also fine by the way, to go get his brothers. Okay, whatever.
They team up with Vern because he has a van and this movie needs to speed the fuck up. Sacks has the Turtles restrained and begins draining their blood for the mutagen. When asked why by Leonardo, poorly delivered by Johnny Knoxville yet again, Sacks gives a jumbled answer involving poisoning the entire city with a toxin so he can then sell the “antidote” for money and he can be “stupid rich.” That’s his entire plan. Somehow, this also means Shredder will rule the city. How? Fuck you, plot is for idiots. He shows what the toxin will do by just killing a Foot member with it because he’s EVIL. Also, how is the mutagen an antidote again? It creates humanoid creatures but is also a catchall healing medicine? Oh, no explanation on that either? Cool, cool, no worries.
Vern busts the van into the complex holding the Turtles. They are shot at A LOT and no one gets hit. Raphael fights Shredder alone and gets fucking wrecked, after which Shredder just leaves. Doesn’t deal with the other Turtles or April or Vern. He just walk out. April injects the Turtles, who are now very low on blood, with dangerous levels of adrenaline and, for once, a joke actually lands. After breaking out of their cages with newfound energy, they talk non-stop about wanting to clean and staying calm, fall off a second story, re-explain the horrible mutagen plot to Raphael, and leave. Excellent job, 1 for 88.
They hijack a semi truck and drive it down a mountain side to get back to New York City or something before Sacks can release the whatever. Karai reappears and it doesn’t change anything. Michelangelo makes more “April is my girlfriend” jokes and they’re still uncomfortable. Each Turtle gets a moment to shine and although the scene makes absolutely no sense, it’s somewhat fun to watch. Karai crashes her car and we don’t really care.
Back in New York City, Shredder is on top of Sacks Tower and starts the complicated process of pushing a lot of buttons so he can release the toxin into the air. Where he is also standing. Not sure what his plan is here, but then I guess the writers didn’t have a plan for this entire movie either. Sacks begins changing the Turtle’s blood he stole back into mutagen via a convenient machine that does it all for him and it makes a lot of sense. He tells Shredder he’s making the antidote and–
Wait, sorry, hold on. Did they even set this whole “release the toxin” thing up? Like, was it just there the entire time? April’s father died probably 15 years ago. Did Sacks just leave the toxin shit ready to go on his tower for over a decade? You know what, fine, it’s fine. It’s fine.
The Turtles arrive and get into an elevator going to the top of the tower because they just know Shredder will be there. Surprisingly, a wonderful scene actually happens. I don’t know how this found its way into such a mess, but miraculously, it did. I smiled for the first and only time.
They get to the top of the building and it appears as though a good fight will occur. “Hey Mikey, you remember that thing you used to say when we were kids?” says Raphael. “You made me promise never to say it again!” replies Michelangelo. “Forget about that! You still got one in the tank?” Michelangelo smirks. “I’ve been holdin’ it for years. COWABUNGA!” And then they are summarily defeated by Shredder. It’s marginally fun to watch, but it’s just the Turtles not winning for five minutes until they get lucky and do a stupid move/trick that was barely touched on in a flashback from when they were young and it’s beyond unsatisfying. Raphael says Cowabunga, while putting a toothpick his mouth, and it doesn’t land.
April and Vern decide it’s a good idea to go try and get the magic mutagen from Sacks. He now has a gun and fires it wildly at them, but doesn’t actually, you know, walk over and kill them. Remember that time I told you the story of April’s father’s death? Sacks doesn’t. “I understand a girl with dead daddy issues, I do, but you’re not gonna stop me. This is history repeating itself. Your father walked in on me April. Just like you did. Took a few less bullets to take him down though.” BANG BANG BANG FIRE MORE BULLETS WILDLY AT NOTHING. So, either Splinter just made shit up, Sacks is making shit up, or something else happened entirely to April’s father. How was the fire actually started? Does it matter? Ultimately, no. Mostly because nothing in this plot matters. April breathes heavily, a lot. They eventually knock Sacks out with something and take the mutagen. He doesn’t come back and you forget him the moment the scene ends.
Donatello does something kind of useful and stops the toxin from being released. Shredder just decides it would be easier to break the ENTIRE TOWER so it falls on everyone below. April shows up and yells at Shredder while holding the mutagen. Shredder just takes it, easily, and knocks her and himself off the building AS THE ENTIRE TOWER ALSO FALLS. Everyone in New York City is a master at dodging falling debris and no one dies. The Turtles all jump after April, chaining together on the tower to save her. They then SWING HER AT THE MASTER OF MARTIAL ARTS and knock him off. He hits the pavement very hard.
The entire tower falls to the ground and the Turtles all cry and say their last goodbyes as they rapidly descend to their apparent deaths. Raphael does a clichéd “I love you guys” moment and it’s cut off by, and I’m not joking here, an actual record scratch. In 2014, someone thought a record scratch would be considered comedy and/or in good taste. Also, they’re fine. Nothing happens, they just land, somehow, and don’t die and it’s completely unexplained. The toxin isn’t released, and they get away into the sewers unseen. Also Shredder touches the mutagen to ensure a sequel that I have no intention of seeing but will likely change my mind since I need things to write about.
They give Splinter the mutagen, who they left for dead in the sewers, alone, for several hours, and it magically heals him. The same mutagen that is already in his blood. So he just puts shit that’s already in him back inside him and it makes everything better. Because science. He tells the Turtles something and it isn’t important.
Vern meets April in a creepy, abandoned underpass for what is assumed an attempt at sex, but is interrupted by the Turtles arriving in a fucking van that has never been in the film or mentioned before. The horn plays part of the ’80s cartoon theme and it’s pandering as shit. Michelangelo accidentally blows up Vern’s new car. It’s both pointless and not funny. He then makes one final rapey joke towards April and plays “Happy Together” by THE TURTLES. HAHAHAHA FUCKING SO WITTY. That’s the end, it ends after that. A song called “Shell Shocked” follows it as I stared blankly into the void. I assume Wiz Khalifa got paid a lot of money for this monstrosity. Then again, the new Ghostbuster’s theme song makes this look like The Beatles.
There, you’ve seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now, essentially. Sorry. Sorry. Guess I’ll load up my flask and go see Out of the Shadows. See ya in Hell.