Attaching your brand/name to a movie project will almost certainly lead to its amazing success or spectacular downfall. This is true of the Marvel brand name on top of any movie title. The Marvel stamp is as strong as Pixar’s was back in their heyday. Meanwhile, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot has been heavily advertising its attachment to Michael Bay. That name alone warrants a groan from anyone that cares about film. Everyone I’ve talked to thinks that Ninja Turtles was directed by Bay. Yet, he only produces it. Based on the trailers, Bay’s fingerprints are all over it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In this version, they’ve more or less kept the origin story. In fact, they’ve probably improved on it. In case you forgot, the original Turtles movie showed that Splinter was trained in martial arts by a sensai, who was later killed by Shredder. In this version, the turtles and Splinter the rat were all animals in a testing lab that were saved after a fire broke out.
April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is the center of the movie. She has high aspirations to become a respected journalist for Channel 6 news, but is only relegated to fluff news pieces. She and her cameraman (Will Arnett) have been trying to find out more about the recent Foot Clan heists. These investigations lead April to be the first one to actually see the giant vigilantes that prevent the heists. She eventually meets the turtles. However, no one at the news desk believes her and she keeps investigating on her own.
April seeks the help of wealthy capitalist, Eric Sacks, who once worked with O’Neil’s dad before his mysterious death. Cue daunting music. Once April shares the secret of the turtles, she puts herself and the turtles at risk. The leader of the
league of shadows Foot Clan is a large man only known as Shredder, and he’s out to rule the city…
Really, that’s all we every find out about him. His name is Shredder and he wears a metal suit that is made out of chainsaws and helicopter blades. Of course, if you were a fan of the original cartoon, you don’t really care about character motivations. You just know that he wears a suit made out of Cutco knives and he hates the turtles.
There just wasn’t a clear motivation for the villains besides the greedy capitalist. They wanted to spread a disease to the city and then conveniently provide a cure, assuring the government would happily pay for…. Then Shredder would be able rule the city by martial law? I guess.
Oh wait, I’m watching a movie about giant mutated turtles who are trained in Ninjutsu and fight crime. I’ll give the story a pass.
What saves this movie from being below-average are the action scenes. Yes, you may hate the new look of the Ninja Turtles, but when they are spinning around, drop-kicking the foot clan, you forget about how grotesque they look and it becomes a fun movie. There are two particular scenes, the ice cliff scenes shown in the trailers and the rooftop fight at the end that salvage the movie. Had there been more of these sequences, I may have been kinder to it. Alas, there is nearly 30 minutes of bland exposition early on. Kids, who are definitely the target market, may get bored.
People may hate, but Megan Fox is adequate as April O’Neil. She won’t win any awards for the role, but the role isn’t written in a way that requires much talent. I’d go so far as to say she held her own against CG turtles.
The problem of likability, or lack thereof, may actually be the fault of the turtles. You never grow to like them. Yes, Michelangelo is still a party dude, but they wrote his character as a Mexican stereotype. Raphael, everyone’s favorite, is more angsty than ever, and it’s kind of off-putting. Donatello is apparently the brains, as evidenced by his bifocals. Leonardo is still the same old bland leader. The turtles were written more as types, than characters.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not as bad as you think it’s going to be. It just manages to be very average. The problem with me reviewing this movie, is that I’m not a 10-year old. Mentally, I’m 14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t try to go over kids’ heads in an attempt to reach adults. It knows what it is and revels in it. If I was their demographic, I would have loved this movie. Even if it is a little violent (especially because it’s a little violent). If we’re comparing it to actual Michael Bay titles, TMNT is a much better movie than any of the Transformers sequels. It’s nearly on par with the first Transformers movie. Not a lofty bar, I know. But, admit it, it’s still probably better than you were expecting.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles captures the fun, ridiculous spirit of the cartoon but ups the ante of the violence. Keep in mind, the old cartoon was full of ridiculous plots and you’ll be just fine with this version. Overall, it’s not a bad movie to take your preteen to, but in terms of quality, it’s a rental.
Into The Storm
It’s hard to believe that Twister was released 18 years ago. It existed in the innocent days of summer blockbusters. Those were the times when a movie about a natural disaster could overtake everything at the box office. Back then, tornadoes were visually fantastic, especially when cows flew through them. Now, tornadoes have been ruined by the SyFy channel. I have seen both Sharknado movies because I hate myself. Into the Storm tries to erase your memory of any Shark-infested funnel clouds.
Into the Storm stars Richard Armitage (Thorin from The Hobbit) as a vice principal and father of two teenagers. His sons, Donnie and Trey have been filming clips for the High School time capsule when the storms start. Cut to the group of storm chasers, led by Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Pete (Matt Walsh). Following a string of failures, this team guesses where the latest tornado might make landfall. Obviously, this movie would be boring if they didn’t. So the tornadoes drop frequently and conveniently wherever our main characters happen to be.
I went into this movie expecting a rehash of Roland Emmerich’s 2012. I thought it would be little more than an overwhelming collage of destruction that threw so much at your eyeballs, that you stopped caring altogether. Into the Storm does deliver a barrage of twisters leading to desolation, but it never feels gratuitous. Seeing tornadoes tear up the countryside is exactly what you’re paying to see, and Into the Storm knows it.
Unfortunately, to get to the tornadoes, this movie attempts to give us characters that we are meant to care about. Richard Armitage is a fine actor typically, but it seemed that he was concentrating more on his American accent than about his performance. He was serviceable in a movie like this, but I couldn’t help but feel that he only got the role because Gerard Butler passed on it. It was nice to see Sarah Wayne Callies in a role that didn’t require me to hate her (see also: The Walking Dead).
Nearly everyone in this movie is equipped with a camera. So what does that mean for the movie? This becomes a found footage hybrid. The shaky camera perspective is merely just a crutch here, trying to instill the jaw-dropping sights from each characters’ view. The logic of the found footage in this movie is thrown to the the wind as every shot of the tornadoes is clearly from an omniscient HD camera.
If you can get past the lousy writing, the lack of story and characters you feel only apathy for, this movie is actually intense. The audience I sat with was clearly holding their collective breath for minutes at a time as tornadoes passed over the characters. I’m not sure what production cost, but they used every penny well. The effects were incredible. Into the Storm makes the action in Twister seem like it was about a small wind storm. Even without the money shot of the giant tornado ripping apart an airport, the action could stand well on its own.
For teenagers who have little experience with disaster movies, this will be a great thrill ride. Sadly, I just can’t look past the lazy writing to give this movie a better grade. It does lend itself well to a giant screen. In fact, if you are going to see this movie, pay more for Imax. Much like last year’s Gravity, this movie will not work unless it is all-immersive.