Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 movie posterParamount

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with their fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.

This was a movie I was looking forward to never watching, ever. It was the principle of the whole thing: Executive Producer Michael Bay–effectively this generation’s Ronald Emerich–when talking about this particular reboot of the beloved 80s pop culture icons, essentially boasted that “you may hate it, but you’ll go see it anyway.” That was the general gist of it. So, I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to watch this latest kick in the childhood, even for free. Ever. Screw you, Bay, this is $10 you’ll never see added to the several millions of dollars this movie has made you thus far! Feel the fluoride sting of my protest! GOONGALA!

Aaaaaaaand that lasted about a week before my 16-year-old nephew wanted to participate in some end-of-summer-break “bonding time”. Of course, this was the movie he wanted to see. Under protest, I agreed. I still didn’t have to pay for the movie (and no, I didn’t make the nephew pay for it all), and it was one of those posh movie theaters that had recliner seats. And retractable snack trays. And where the ushers come over to take your snack item orders. Listen, I went in not wanting to like this movie whatsoever, but the environment we were going to watch this in was not making this easy. It’s hard to brood in a Laz-E-Boy while college-aged employees bring you Milk Duds and popcorn, knowing you didn’t have to spend a dime for any of this. I still was daring the movie to entertain me, though.

First of all, I want to point out that I realize that Michael Bay was the Executive Producer on this movie, and not the director. I still hold him responsible, though. Now, with that aside, what did I think of the movie?

Well…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And considering the original idea for this movie–where they were space aliens and not turtles (nerd rage rising, RISING)–that’s saying a lot. Still, this is very much Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; which means it’s a big, dub and serviceable action flick that’s just interesting enough where you can almost look past the glaringly obvious fact that the script was written by a room full of dude-bros. Beyond the obvious utilization of on-screen eye candy non-actor Megan Fox as April O’Neal, just the designs of the Turtles themselves makes me morbidly curious as to the thought process behind the writers of this thing: “Hey, Donatello is a smart inventor genius type? Let’s give him a pair of thick-lensed nerd glasses and an awkward Poindexter type mannerisms! Raphael is a hothead, so…gruff, brooding and always talking like Batman! Michelangelo is so totally a stoner dude! Conch shell neclace, hoverboard and creepy surfer persona! Shredder needs a big honkin’ Mecha battlesuit! And can we try and shoehorn Will Arnett in there, somewhere? I totes loved him in Arrested Development, brah.”

Sorry. I’m afraid my sarcasm ran away with me, there. What I’m trying to say is they decided it was easier to go for exaggerated stereotypes rather than actual character development.

Mind you, I understand that this is a movie about human-sized mutated turtles that learned martial arts from an equally human-sized mutated rat and fight crime as ninjas on the streets of New York. And that it’s based on a comic book. That still doesn’t mean that you can half-arse it. One of the first things you hear the turtles say when April first runs into them on a rooftop was “I feel my shell tightening.” Yeah. Classy, there. And speaking of April…gads. She had to be the actress? We couldn’t find anyone competent? Someone less vapid eye candy, someone more…I don’t know, better?

Look, I’m going to try and wrap this up before it becomes yet another in a long line of whiny rants from a 40-something pseudo-journalist critic. The bottom line is, this reboot of a long running franchise that started life as a satire of violent comic books of the time to begin with…isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s a really slick, effects-laden action wank-fest big on ‘splosions and whatnot, with some canon tweaks that made me go “wha?” a few times, and a rather thin script as far as character development is concerned. But then, let’s realize what it’s supposed to be, here: a summer blockbuster popcorn movie that’s big on effects and ‘splosions while thin on plot and character development. Not the best Turtles movie, but then again, it’s not Turtles In Time either. It hovers somewhere between TMNT and that third live-action atrocity, methinks.

And hey, at least Bay managed to take enough Ritalin to realize that the whole “Turtles are Space Aliens” idea was probably not a good one.