Well, you did it, so I did it, so here we are. Charity gets $300 and you get to make me suffer for a little over an hour and a half. There was unfortunately no drinking accomplished during this movie, but that was because I had two tablets of vicodin on board to help defeat the rawness of the healing incision in my foot. This may be why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made not one iota of goddamn sense to me, though my housemate assures me it made no sense to her, either, and she was completely sober at the time.
But I’m going to try to be positive about this.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Lips for the lipless
Remember how, back in the heady days when Transformers didn’t have lips and no one had even conceived of the idea of making a movie out of a fucking board game, the teenage mutant ninja turtles were either animated or played by dudes in costumes obviously made out of rubber, the way god and nature intended?
Now you get this endless protean horror that’s the result of a weird and highly illegal genetic experiment that involved Shrek, college frat boys who just desperately needed some beer money, and something unidentifiable, perhaps the last shreds of Michael Bay’s conscience which had until now been kept preserved in a jar of pickled eggs in the recess of some broom closet. It looks something like this.
Which is a fucking cruel thing to do to someone who is one prescription pain medication, let me tell you. There is shot after shot of all four of these horrors grouped around and staring down on an unconscious or confused character, and every time it felt like I’d been caught in the kind of bad trip I could expect if the drugs I was on weren’t legal and had potentially been cut with some kind of weed killer. I’d experience this full body twitch of terrified revulsion while I waited for a set of those rubbery CGI-lips to press against the screen and begin to siphon my soul from my body while another chanted Y’ai’ng’ngah / Yog-Sothoth / H’ee-L’geb / F’ai Throdog / Uaaah.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A significantly shorter movie than Transformers 4
Pretty much all of the fighting takes place between rendered characters. And while there’s more visual coherence than you get in the average Transformers movie, where it looks like bundles of scrap recycling getting battered together over and over, this made up for being able to tell what was happening by bring incredibly fucking boring.
What I can’t blame on the vicodin is the bit where they felt the need to make Shredder’s suit sort of… transformer-ish? Partially mechanized? Come on, guys, Shredder was badass enough on his own, making him half swiss-army-knife is really not the way to impress. I think at one point he might have wielded a corkscrew or the wine bottle opener.
Apparently the hellturtles learned their techniques from Splinter, who literally taught it to himself from a book that he found discarded in the sewer, which thankfully was a pictorial instruction manual in the way of ninjutsu. I wish I was making that up. I wish I was making any of this up. I wish this had just been some sort of anesthesia-induced fever dream, and I’d soon wake up to find it was still actually Thursday and I’ve just fallen asleep with a copy of The Mountains of Madness over my face, then I’d think about the horrifying turtle-lips and vomit a lot.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: If you like exposition, then have I got a movie for you
Because there’s a lot of it. Exposition, I mean. Really meaningless exposition. I never thought I’d accuse old-school TMNT of being sort of intellectual, but in comparison, yes? Because at least the old ninja turtle writers seemed to realize that certain things could be left unsaid, and that certain bits of exposition didn’t need to be repeated over and over again. It strikes me that in a movie that barely made it to 100 minutes, maybe the director could have gone out on a limb and, I don’t know, shown us a few things instead of telling.
When Sacks gets mentioned to Splinter, he takes the opportunity to explain why Sacks is evil and in league with Shredder (which he knows because…reasons?) instead of the movie having a couple of scenes to say develop Sacks as a character, have him betray April and the turtles, and show he’s evil. Why make this decision? It wasn’t in the interest of running time.
And if you like background info dumps, this is a wonderful movie. Want to hear several times about April and her dad and her connection to the turtles? Got you covered. What about the foot clan? There is like a foot clan forecast in every scene in which they tell you what activity level to expect! Useful! (They are also apparently the only evil ninja clan in the history of ever to be so terrible at ninjutsu that they use guns, but then have worse aim than the average Stormtrooper.)
I don’t know, maybe the turtle lip budget was running severely over at that point. If there had been less exposition, there would have been more scenes with the turtles, and more souls would have needed to be harvested for Shub-Niggurath the Black Goat of the Woods With A Thousand Young.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: One third the female characters, slightly less sexism.
So the movie is about April, a lady reporter who, as far as I can tell, suffers from severe, untreated exercise-induced asthma, because she’s always short of breath in every scene no matter what she’s been doing. And Vernon, her camera guy, with whom she has a pretty awesome kind of bro-ish friendship except at incredibly random and awkward intervals the script has this hiccup and decides that oh yeah April is a girl so Vernon should hit on her. Because that’s what boys do. Like the time Vernon drops April off at Sacks’s house and literally says, “Nothing better than dropping off a pretty girl at a rich guy’s house.” He was randomly neckbeard fedora-y, except he has no neckbeard, but at one point he literally does wear a fedora. A fedora that he immediately disavows in apparent confusion when called on it.
It’s almost like there was this script for a boring but fairly normal movie, and then someone realized Michael Bay was involved and thus ran it through a random creepy sexist comment generator. Or maybe there was a whole subplot with Vernon that got left on the cutting room floor, in which Vernon has at times been replaced by a terrifying clone made from mutated white bread, and the only way you can tell them apart is that the real Vernon is just sort of doofy and doesn’t creep on his coworker.
But anyway, Vernon and April team up with the four ninja turtles who are, if I recall correctly, named Nerdy Turtle, Manpain Turtle, Generic Turtle, and Creepy Turtle. Or if you believe the script, Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michaelangelo, but I think my names are much more accurate. There are sad attempts at witty banter. The only turtle who is even slightly likable any more is Nerdy Turtle, but he still looks like he’s going to eat your soul from within the film so that doesn’t help at all.
I found Creepy Turtle personally upsetting, because Mikey was actually my favorite from when I was a kid. And yet the moment he shows up on screen he starts hitting on April, including uttering the immortal line: “She’s hot. I can feel my shell tightening.”
Back in the day, Mikey was a kind of free-spirited party turtle. Apparently in the year 2014 that translates to “let’s party like it’s Steubenville.” It’s gross. And every time Creepy Turtle said something fucking creepy, you know who I heard laugh? Not the kids in the theater. The dads. And that made it approximately a million times creepier.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: It could always be worse
There were actually two scenes in the entire movie that I really liked… because they were the ones that reminded me most of the turtles I grew up watching. Early on, there’s a scene where Splinter is trying to get the boys to admit where they went, and he finally breaks their silence by tempting them with the mystical “99 cheese pizza.” That was cute. And then toward the end, all four of the turtles are in an elevator going up a long way, and then they start beat boxing using the beeps from the elevator. That, too, was cute.
Maybe all you need to know is that the word Cowabunga is uttered only twice in the entire movie, right at the end. First, with appropriate enthusiasm. Then again with the sort of “gritty grimdark I’m about to walk away from an explosion while putting on my sunglasses” tone that made me want to weep in despair.
But fear not. The turtles have a new catchphrase: Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!