Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn.
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman; Screenplay by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Evan Daugherty. Characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. Produced by Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Scott Mednick, and Galen Walker. Executive Produced by Eric J. Crown, Jason T. Reed, Napoleon Smith III, and Denis L. Stewart.
Starring: Megan Fox (as TV-reporter April O'Neil), Will Arnett (as O'Neil's videographer, Vernon Fenwick), William Fichtner (as the double-crossing, Eric Sacks), Alan Ritchson (as TMNT Raphael), Noel Fisher (as TMNT Michelangelo), Pete Ploszek (as TMNT Leonardo); Johnny Knoxville (as the voice of TMNT Leonardo), Jeremy Howard (as TMNT Donatello), Danny Woodburn (as Splinter), Tony Shalhoub (as the voice of Splinter), Tohoru Masamune (as the evil, Shredder), Whoopi Goldberg (as TV new director/manager, Bernadette Thompson), Minae Noji (as Shredder's evil accomplice, Karai), Malina Weissman (as the pre-teen April O'Neil), and a host of others.
The good thing: Michael Bay produced this film. He has a flare for action, explosions, great production values, etc.
The bad thing: Michael Bay produced this film! He doesn't know how to convey anything other than action, explosions, etc.
Film is a pseudo-remake of the 1990 film of the same title. The story? Four turtles and one rat are mutated in a research lab, they escape, and eventually become experts in martial arts and act as teenage vigilantes against criminal forces in New York. Megan Fox, former "eye candy" of the "Transformer" film franchise finally completed her penance and is cast again in a Michael Bay film. Fox, as April O'Neil, sincerely does her best to give meaning to her character and this film, but the script is not written to prompt any of her co-stars to take her character seriously. Likewise, the scripted and constant juvenille banter between the TMNT often appeared forced, unnatural and not at all serious, which is contrary to the serious life and death themes proposed in the film. Not all teenagers engage in pseudo-hip talk and slang references, and film could have been much better by evolving the teenage mutant ninja turtles (TMNT) into adult mutant ninja turtles (AMNT). For example, if you didn't know, as resported by the Turtle Conservation Society, the lifespan of a "real" unmutated turtle is 10-80 years or so while larger species can easily live over 100 years. Given that we're talking about mutated turtles, script could have been more imaginative and pushed the envelop to make these mutated turtles older and a lot wiser in this re-boot.
The bulk of the story involves martial arts-guns-swordplay-explosions-and-derring-do, which is supplemented, of course, by more martial arts-guns-swordplay-explosions-and-derring-do. I saw this film with an audience that included pre-teen kids who seemed thrilled with the action for the first 45 minutes, but they began to fidget in their seats and talk to each other as the film progressed. Perhaps, they were bored. Action for the sake of action becomes very boring especially for young minds with a short attention span.
Film hints and teases at a possible relationship between Fox's April O'Neil and Will Arnett's Vernon Fenwick, but the existence of a serious on-screen love interest is not possible in a Bay film. For example, the intensely serious relationship between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) in the "Matrix" film franchise (1999 to 2003) is beyond the cinematec skills of a film written, directed or produced by Michael Bay. In this regard, just like pornography, no matter how "good" the film or someone in the film looks, eventually, even the sexist woman or man becomes, well, boring, and the film audience will yawn, fall asleep, send text messages during the movie, etc. Here's a great idea, perhaps Michael Bay should produce and direct adult/pornographic films! Just imagine, under Bay's elite direction, porno stars would be filmed having robust sex surrounded and engulfed in unnecessarily long sex-based action scenes, which are also unnecessarily graphic, and he could throw in some explosions just for the hell of it. Yep, this could be "Film School Class: 101" for Michael Bay. And maybe, just maybe, he'd finally learn the value of having a decent script.
Surprisingly, the camaraderie between the four turtle-brothers in TMNT is much better than the camaraderie presented between the good-natured Autobots or the evil Decepticons in Bay's recent "Transformers 4: Age of Extinction." William Fichtner ("Drive Angry" from 2011, and "Elysium" 2013), an accomplished and very talented actor, was predictable as the double-crossing, Eric Sacks. Given the very clichéd "life and death" scenario that's pushed down your throat and thrown at you constantly in a Bay film, for a change, it would have been far more interesting if Fichtner's Sacks had double-crossed the evil Shredder.
Director Jonathan Liebesman kept the film moving, which is necessary because film only functions as a flashy and nicely produced re-boot of the 1990 film. Joel Negron and Glen Scantlebury, who edited TMNT, are alumni of previous films produced and directed by Michael Bay, so they know how to color within Bay's predictive lines. By the way, the 1990 film was executive produced by legendary Hong Kong kung-fu producer Raymond Chow, and it ran only 93 minutes (and even it should have been trimmed); but of course, Bay's version is even longer at 101 minutes.
Recommendation: Rent or buy the 1939 classic, "Gone with the Wind." It has a much better story, better action, better acting, no teenage mutant ninja turtles, and it wasn't directed or produced by Michael Bay.