Michael Bay's rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened August 7, 2014, and is expected to earn $50 million this weekend. And the Los Angeles Times reports the CGIed heroes on the half shell are looking to win the battle of the blockbuster against Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Bay's Turtles have faced a lot of criticism from fans, especially after the initial artwork was released, but will the nostalgia factor bring the audience in regardless?
Early reviews say villainous Shredder's Foot Clan have been in New York City and establishing a stronghold. And for a city crying out for a new set of heroes, mutated turtles are the best chose--along with April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett).
Rentrak's Paul Dergarabedian describes August as "the 'Grindhouse' of months because of the diverse and sometimes edgy, offbeat content." Rentrak is an entertainment data firm, so Dergarabedian has a pretty good idea of what to expect.
"This is a typical August weekend, loaded with titles trying to get in on the summer movie season in the home stretch before Labor Day."
Maybe it's just me, but I miss when teenage mutant ninja turtles weren't creepy and they were friendly cartoons. pic.twitter.com/FEGzXD9GKc— Cain Lanker (@caincpip) August 9, 2014
Apparently, 93% of Rotten Tomatoes audience's on board with seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but with only considered good in 20% of the reviews, the final product might not be what people expect. That may not be good for Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies's $125 million production cost.
Io9's Charlie Jane Anders definitely falls on the side of critic and non-fan. Anders opens with the fact the film has "some good ambitions" with a strong cast, decent concept for motion-capture turtles, and James Liebesman as a director. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough to make a really good film.
The reviewer notices that the overly convoluted need to incorporate all origin stories, instead of sticking to one, offers a muddle plot and little emotional connection. "This movie goes out of its way to shoehorn in all of the trappings (pizza, ninjitsu, 'heroes on the half shell,' etc.) but misses the core of what made people love the Ninja Turtles back in the day — their basic weirdness and silliness."
One of the most popular sayings for the 1980s cartoon was "Cowabunga," but apparently that's a taboo word that requires an apology. This breaks the fourth wall for the audience, without offering any satirical Deadpool wit.
Of course, the turtles are not the only ones with a muddled message.
In a bid to connect multiple origin stories, O'Neill (Fox) has a backstory "from two different incarnations of TMNT, and smushes them together to make a character whose motivations and shorelines" make no logical sense. Considering she's hit on pretty aggressively through the two hours straight, this is definitely not the April O'Neill of the '80s.
Add in the fact Fox's casting was a complete surprise. Bay and Fox worked on the first two Transformers films before they parted ways. The actress had no problem highlighting the problems working with Bay.
And unsurprisingly, in the third Transformers film, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Carly replaced Fox’s Mikaela Banes with some director snark via his blog. Be it his words or not, putting something on your blog is condoning actions.
Never mind when Shia LaBeouf pointed out the treatment of female characters may have been a crux. And given the treatment, maybe she was better off leaving the franchise. So Fox's return to Bay's adaptation of the half-shelled heroes was surprising.
And that mentions nothing of the camera work and CGI, which can only be described as shaky and uninspired. The shaky cam works in a non-CGI setting because it's easier to transport yourself into the situation. The CGI felt clunky and unfinished at times.
Looking at the film as a whole, it’s easy to say Bay didn't follow the route of del Toro's Pacific Rim.
The CGI doesn't enhance the heart of the film; unlike the previously goofy, young turtles who were a little too human, but not exactly John McClane. They no longer maintain that level of immaturity any teenager learns from without turning into gigantic monster that leaves most humans in the shadows.
Finally, how do you make New York City generic and uninspired? There's nothing to define the city as a separate character, which is a shame. New York City offers a lot of opportunities in creating a different world from other films set in same location because of the changes.
The live-actions films used places like the harbor, or a local pizza joint. Liebesman's NYC features a sewer entrance in "an empty field surrounded by miles and miles of snowy hills." Because space isn't a premium in the city that never sleeps, ever, right?
But IGN's Eric Goldman finds the film to be a pretty good, empty popcorn flick.
”The core traits of the characters are retained, and there are some appreciated nods to the history of TMNT across various media, including funny asides to some less than proud moments."
Just don't expect a lot of things outside the brotherly affection. In fact, that seems to be a major highlight since "the film does a nice job of capturing their brotherly in-fighting, camaraderie and rapport."
Good Morning America's review conceded the movie would do well with kids, but really, the execution was terrible. The fact the whole premise of the turtles is a cliché is the point of the series, really. And the reviewer plainly states the set up is still "no excuse for creating a poorly-written, clichéd, over-the-top action film that can’t get out of its own way." Ouch.
Will the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles conquer the Guardians of the Galaxy It's only the first couple of days, and reviews will be sliding in all weekend-so the perception may change as critic opinion gives way to fan and audience reviews across social media.