Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub

When reporter April O’Neil (Fox) investigates crimes being carried out by the sinister Foot Clan, she catches sight of a mysterious vigilante. Her colleagues at the news refuse to believe her, but with the aid of cameraman Vern (Arnett), she continues to follow the story. Eventually, the vigilante contacts April and is revealed to be not one but four crimefighters — the titular turtles. Hearing their names, April realises that Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo (sic) and Raphael are the products of Project Renaissance, her late father’s experiment. She reaches out to dad’s former partner, Eric Sacks (Fichtner), but — surprise — he turns out to be the villain. April and the turtles race against time to foil the evil plot of Sacks and his evil ninja master, the Shredder. They succeed.

What’s wrong with it?

On paper, the movie makes sense as a superhero story, but the handling is clunky and joyless, with lots of pointless Michael-Bay-isms. Megan Fox is not completely convincing as a driven, motivated reporter, although to be fair to her they don’t exactly give her a lot to work with. The plot barely merits the name; it’s just a mess of contrivances and coincidences.

What’s right with it?

The character redesigns, for the turtles at least, are over-busy but at least give them a distinct visual identity. The various chases and fights and so on are pretty fast-paced and exciting, I guess.

How bad is it really?

It’s just content-free and unnecessary. It doesn’t embrace the goofiness of the earlier films, and doing a darker reboot would be impossible. It’s too slick and garish to have the DIY charm of the comics, and it isn’t clever or sincere enough to be a genuinely good superhero flick.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Um … I guess the big chase/fight on a snowy road is kinetic and exciting? It doesn’t really matter. Oh! OK, there’s a good little bit of business when Splinter is disciplining the turtles; he’s tempting them with pizza, and the dialogue is funny and over-the-top.

What’s up with…? 

  • The Shredder redesign? He’s in a giant mech suit, but it just looks bulky and ridiculous.
  • April being the turtles’ childhood caretaker? It gives her some kind of connection to them, I guess, but she only discovers the fact after meeting them through a total coincidence.
  • Splinter being the master? He learned ninjitsu through a book he found in the sewer, then taught it to the turtles. But in this version of the story, they’re all from the same lab, so why is he a wise old master? (The comic version is no more plausible, but this one really hangs a lampshade on it.)
  • The turtles (our supposed heroes) blow up Vern’s car with a rocket launcher, then just leave him in the lurch. I guess they are teenagers.
  • “So you’re … Mutant … Ninja Teenage Turtles?” I see what you did there.


Production values It is pretty slick. Honestly, it’s a little too slick. 8.

Dialogue and performances Not really. Tony Shalhoub is pretty funny, but overall there’s not a lot going on. 17.

Plot and execution Derivative when it’s not being contrived. 16.

Randomness Moderate. The basic premise contains the randomness, and the film makes some token efforts to streamline that. 14.

Waste of potential Previous turtle movies have not been superb, but the idea could work for a filmmaker willing to go completely nutso. 15.

Overall 70%


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