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REVIEW: New Turtles Movie Delivers Big Action and Funny Moments

by Justin Bozung


If you stand by the 1990 live action TMNT movie as the definitive representation of the Turtles on the big screen then you should hold onto your seats because Michael Bay's NINJA TURTLES will change that idea for you.   Bay's TURTLES delivers the goods in a major way, and after you see TMNT (2014) you'll be wishing that everything that has come before it would just disappear off the face of the earth.  


That's not to say that the new NINJA TURTLES movie is perfect.  It's not, but damn, it is pretty close.   TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) is high energy, and it's funny too.     But it has some flaws in its screenplay.   You can time the jokes out on your watch, and 'Vern' played by Will Arnett is there for comic relief only.   In fact, we don't really even need him in the storyline when it comes down to it because he really has nothing to do in the story except  deliver one-liners.   Some audiences might have problems with the lightweight storyline of the film too, but one must remember that we're entering into a comic book world when we enter the movie theater, and once we're inside villians don't always need to have motiviation for their actions or a conflicting moral center.


The Turtles steal the show here as one would imagine, and the performances by Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner almost aren't worth mentioning. Bay could've brought in non-actors for the roles and it wouldn't have mattered as the Turtles are so magnetic visually, electric in their personalities, and so well fleshed out that one almost ignores anything else on the screen over the course of the films running time .


If you've ever had any problems with CGI, let Bay's TMNT put that to rest forever.   If nothing else, the new TMNT is proof that when CGI is done right, it can make for one of the best movie going experiences one can have.  These Turtles don't feel like computer generated characters and these aren't actors in foam rubber suits, these Turtles, in how they are brought in front of the camera in the film often times feel like real beings.  


TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES is really fun.   The 3-D that one may experience the film in is the best 3-D experience of 2014.  Yet, there is so much action and things moving at such a fast pace, that when combined with the gritty and dark feelings of the New York landscape, at times you will have a difficult time keeping up with the movie visually.   There are a lot of highs in the new Turtles film, but there are also many lows that are used to present exposition, backstory and comic relief.    Here is where the film has its only problems.   The low points, and not all of them, come through somewhat clunky at times.   In particular a scene with Fichtner and Fox at the 'Eric Sacks' mansion is especially difficult to swallow in the second act.    Screenwriters Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daughterty, didn't set out to re-invent the wheel with TMNT, and while the script is filled with big action setpieces and timed out one-liners, it is also updated with a really smart and clever pop culture asethetic as well.   The 2014 Ninja Turtles have embraced hip-hop and technology while still managing to relish in their pizza and skateboarding.


Don't go into the 2014 NINJA TURTLES expecting the same experience one gets from the '90s live action movies.  TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES  is new and different.  It comes to the big screen as a perfect amalgamation of all of the Turtles that have been created before it.  It has the darkness of the early Eastman/Laird comic books, the sense of humor of the '90s live action movies and the over-the-top comic-book action of the animated series.    It's filled with emotion too.  There are some big and emotional moments in the first half of the movie that might be too much for young kids even.  


Director Jonathan Liebesman has done an outstanding job here with the new Ninja Turtles movie.  He brings the Turtles to the big screen with such finesse visually.   One could debate that Liebesman is a sort of Michael Bay protégé as they both share a similar visual style that features lighting fast cutting on big action sequences and sweeping 360 camera movements that capture that action and the emotional moments of the characters.  There is even a shot in the new TURTLES movie where the camera descends from high up above a NYC alley, goes down through the buildings and continues to go even farther downward into a manhole as the Foot Clan gather below for an attack.  This shot directly echoes the unforgettable shot of a bomb launching from the belly of the airplane which eventually falls through the clouds and onto a battleship destroyer in Bay's 2001 film, PEARL HARBOR.     Then, the design of the metal mush-faced 'Shredder' is all too remiscient of the facial design for 'Megatron' in Bay's TRANSFORMERS films as well.  


But with the action sequences in TURTLES, Liebesman "Out-Bays" Michael Bay.   The action sequences in TURTLES are unforgettable and wonderfully frenetic.   Watch for the full length sequence from the film's trailer of the semi-truck sliding down the snowy hillside with the Turtles and Foot Clan in chase.  It might be the best action sequence of the last 10 or 20 years in the CGI era.  


The finale of the new Turtles movie which features a battle with Shredder and the Turtles will also leave your jaw stuck on the floor after the film is over .   Liebesman really dazzles in the finale with his use of Sergio Leone like visuals and symmetrical framing of Shredder as he walks across a rooftop through the fumes of a fire for a final showdown.  For some strange reason, the final moments of TURTLES too feel like they were inspired in some way by KING KONG (1933), but you don't know why.  Maybe it's because of the Fay Wray like close-ups on Megan Fox in peril.  It's weird, but this certainly isn't a bad thing.   TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES just might be the best comic book film of 2014.


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RedRocBoy August 7, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Great review. So amped to see it tomorrow. Gonna see Saturday morning as well. Been waiting so long for this movie kinda hard to believe it’s I’ll be seeing it tomorrow.

Brandon August 7, 2014 - 2:29 pm

Im definitely with you RedRocBoy I can’t believe I’m seeing this awesome movie tomorrow. i waited so long for this movie and now its finally here im so hyped CANT WAIT!!!!!!

Andrew August 7, 2014 - 6:42 pm

I haven’t been this excited about a movie ever, not even as a child. I feel so giddy!

hawk August 7, 2014 - 10:40 pm

Finally a good review! This is probably the 3rd positive review I’ve read. The rest have been pretty negative. But whatever. I’m still gonna see this & decide for myself. I have a feeling this movie will please most hardcore tmnt fan’s. Kevin Eastman called it fantastic & that’s good enough for me.

TurtlesAdmin August 8, 2014 - 11:24 am

We call it like we see it Hawk. This movie is good enough for TMNT fans. Let us know your thoughts.

Kip Krueger August 8, 2014 - 5:24 am

Awesome review. I unfortunately have to wait another month to see it (I’m in Australia) and it’s KILLING ME!! I have to say that I’m disappointed that so many “true TURTLE fans” have already made judgement on this movie without even seeing it. I’ve waited 30 years for this movie and as a “true TURTLE fan” I’m so sure I’m gonna love it that I’ve bought tickets to 3 screenings on opening day.

TurtlesAdmin August 8, 2014 - 11:23 am

You are a true turtle fan Kip! Enjoy your time in Australia and please tell us how you like it, once back.

Denver August 8, 2014 - 11:09 am

Movie was great!

TurtlesAdmin August 8, 2014 - 11:21 am

So happy you like it Denver 🙂

Denver August 9, 2014 - 7:52 pm

Saw it again today – better the second time around (!). Missed the alien reference to the mutagen the first time. Shredder was a total bad ass. Gonna see it again before it’s run is up – only beef is they cut the scene of raph in his trench coat for some reason.

Derrick Arthur August 8, 2014 - 12:09 pm

Wrote and starred in a comedy sketch about the casting of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film! Check it out on YouTube! http://youtu.be/C-C00cnZAuo

Big Red August 8, 2014 - 1:18 pm

I was born in 1982 and I’ve seen all the other TMNT movies but this one by far was the best. This version of Michelangelo makes the others look like high school principals. Gonna see it again before it leaves, this time in 3D cuz it was sold out

tlr August 8, 2014 - 1:33 pm

I respectfully submit some of my thoughts/opinions on the film in the context of a response to this review. Obviously, TurtlesAdmin and I had very different reactions to the film and my intention is not to take away anyone’s enjoyment of it (my wife actually really liked it and I’m glad she had a good time).

“…you’ll be wishing that everything that has come before it would just disappear off the face of the earth. ”

The current Nick series is far superior to this movie and is my favorite incarnation of the turtles. Runner up would be the cgi TMNT movie. If I could wish any turtles movie into oblivion, it would be difficult to choose between movie #3 and this new one.

“…villians [sic] don’t always need to have motiviation [sic] for their actions”

But it would sure help! Shredder was reduced to a Darth Maul-esque side character who only showed up to fight. No connection to the turtles or Splinter in his back story which creates no sense of purpose or tension to his appearances. We are told he is bad and that the turtles and Splinter are good, so… that’s enough reason for them to fight a bunch, right? Speaking of back story… Splinter learned martial arts from a beginner’s manual he found in the sewer?? This film is rife with lazy writing.

“…the performances by Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner almost aren’t worth mentioning.”

Totally agree! I would also add Whoopi Goldberg to that list. On a related note, I thought Johnny Knoxville did fine as Leo, but Tony Shaloub was a poor choice for Splinter’s voice. Just didn’t fit.

“…the Turtles are so magnetic visually […] and so well fleshed out…”

I don’t hate their look as much as some do, but I do think the character design was poor. They had way too many accessories and junk on them, and I’m not just talking about Donnie. As for being “well fleshed out,” I disagree. Like most reboots/remakes, the movie relied on viewers coming in already knowing the characters. The movie spent way too much time on April and Vernon and not enough on the turtles, who should have been the focus.

“If you’ve ever had any problems with CGI, let Bay’s TMNT put that to rest forever.”

This film exemplifies why many, including myself, are sick of CGI-heavy films. It looks sloppy and cartoon-y most of the time, this movie included. If you want to see some impressive CGI, go see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which raises the bar for CGI sophistication and realness. TMNT looks “good,” and occasionally fairly realistic, but it rarely looks *real*.

“…but there are also many lows that are used to present exposition, backstory and comic relief.”

Indeed. There are many lows. I’m glad you acknowledged this, though it does seem contrary to the movie being “pretty close” to “perfect.” Exposition and back story are essential parts of this movie (or any movie) and the writers did the movie a disservice by executing them so poorly.

“[Liebesman] brings the Turtles to the big screen with such finesse visually.”

I like how the camera kept spinning around April and Vern when she was telling him about how she got fired. Camerawork was obnoxious, just like a Bay movie. If there’s one thing Liebseman is good at, it’s cramming as many product placements as he can into a movie. There’s even a whole scene that comes off as a Pizza Hut commercial. Also look out for multiple Microsoft/Windows 8 plugs, Skype, Toshiba, MetLife, Samsung, Victoria’s Secret… I know, I know — gotta pay the bills, right?

“It might be the best action sequence of the last 10 or 20 years in the CGI era.”

It was one of the better scenes in the movie, but will quickly be forgotten. There have already been many other better action sequences *this year* (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain American: WS, Dawn…of Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, off the top of my head) let alone the last 10 or 20 years.

“Maybe it’s because of the Fay Wray like close-ups on Megan Fox in peril.”

I wish I had counted how many of these shots there were throughout the movie. “Ok, Megan — gasp at the camera again!”

“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES just might be the best comic book film of 2014.”

I think Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were *far* better films and I’m inclined to think many will agree.

Although I didn’t find the movie un-watchable, it felt like a missed opportunity to do something special — to finally get a TMNT movie “right.” There were some good laughs and a few sequences that got my feet tapping on the floor, but with such a poor script this movie had no chance of achieving the greatness that the turtles deserve.

DOShow August 10, 2014 - 11:36 pm

Thank you! Somebody on here who saw it for what it really was…a mess. I went into it already accepting their new look and ignored any pre-concieved backlash. I was very optimistic going in to the movie and came out of the movie…disappointed to say the least. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with your summary. I’m glad the movie is doing well because I love TMNT. Just wish the movie it self was better.

Jon Richter August 8, 2014 - 3:28 pm

GO see this movie!!! Turtles is an awesome movie with great action and excellent visuals, comedy, fun and full of heart! You might actually tear up in a couple of scenes…LOVE this movie!!! I’ve been holding this in for awhile…COWABUNGA!!!

TigerClaw August 8, 2014 - 9:54 pm

I finally saw the movie today in the 1st showing, And I loved it, It made me feel like a kid again. The film is definitely a Kids movie despite the PG-13 rating.

RedRocBoy August 8, 2014 - 11:05 pm

Movie was awesome. Going in the morning to see it again. I had to literally stop my self from grining the entire time. I still couldn’t believe I was finally sitting down watching this film. They really did a good job with this film. Hope makes at least 500 million world.

Marty Jimmy August 10, 2014 - 5:06 pm

I seen the movie and it was amazing! Everyone(including myself) was wrapped up in the look and how much it was changed, but it still had that TMNT feel! I was one of the ticket winners and I couldn’t be more grateful! I would have seen it regardless if i won or not. I loved the movie from beginning to end! The fighting was intense and the humor was great everything you could expect from a TMNT movie. I will definitely be going again and probably again! I would like to say Thanks again for choosing me for the tickets and know that they weren’t wasted I have and always will be a huge TMNT fan. I am looking forward to the 2016 sequel! It will not come fast enough! Until then i will thoroughly enjoy this movie. Also Raph’s Speech at the end got me a little choked up! But great job and if you haven’t already SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!

Matty September 15, 2014 - 4:45 am


Johnny Bigtoe November 5, 2014 - 11:52 am

Pretty good movie. Not up there with the first one though!

SKR Imaging November 7, 2014 - 11:43 pm

Fun movie but the first 1990 movie was the definitive TMNT movie for me.. In the new one, Splinter spits Japanese like he was from Japan but he says he learned ninjitsu by reading a book he found.. they should have used the origin story from the new IDW comics.. And the Shredder in new movie was laughable at best.. if the origin story was more interesting, shredder would have been more compelling.. now he’s just a metal armour that wants to fight..no more Hamato Yoshi means Oroku Saki don’t matter in the storyline.. Karai just popped up out of nowhere in this movie.. it’s a reboot so why no backstory on her. Maybe they are saving it for the sequel? Here’s hoping for Casey Jones, Krang, Beebop and Rocksteady to be included and no more Eric Sacks in the sequel… The director and producers should look at Marvel movies and try to emulate the source material better.. stop “Hollywooding” everything.

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