Remember "fun"? You know, that thing you used to have while attending a mainstream popcorn movie that offered some goofy entertainment? When you were invited into an escapist world full of wonder, excitement and action so you could forget about your earthly problems for a mere couple of hours while appreciating the expensive, infectious silliness of it all?
We’re not allowed to have fun at movies anymore. Sure, it sneaks up on us every now and then like a childhood diary you come across while cleaning your attic. In fact, if you jog your memory, you’ll realize that the last time you had some genuine fun wasn’t really that long ago.
It was only last week when Guardians of the Galaxy delighted us all with its wanton folly while reminding us that one doesn’t have to treat the audience like a bunch of buffoons who need to be condescended to in order to snatch some of that sweet cash out of their wallets with as little effort as possible.
Of course nothing lasts forever, so it took only a week for the new, Michael Bay-pumped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to come along and ruin all of the goodwill set forth by Marvel’s delightful surprise.
I remember fun. It was 1990, I was barely eleven. I had to wait four hours at the multiplex with practically nothing to do just to see the "new" Ninja Turtles movie. The previous showings were sold out, but I wasn’t about to give up.
When the cheesy but inviting synth score kicked up, my heart soared because I knew I was encouraged to spend the following 90 minutes with a movie that truly understood how dumb its concept really was and at least tried to have a blast exploring it.
After the great Roger Ebert gave it a lackluster recommendation and wrote that it was probably the best movie that could possibly have been produced from an idea as silly as mutated ninja turtles, who knew how prophetic his words were going to be?
Officially, the director of such masterpieces like Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans helmed this pile of turtle turd, but producer Bay’s sexist, racist, xenophobic, juvenile, "screen-screwing" (His own words when describing how he frames his shots, although he uses a cruder word than "screwing") fingerprints are all over it.
Remember the turtles? Those colorful, harebrained cartoon characters or the impressively built yet appropriately unrealistic Jim Henson puppets, depending on your preference between TV and feature film? Well, now they are a grotesque bunch of racial stereotypes that look like they were pulled out of Guillermo Del Toro’s rejected background monsters pile, animated with CGI that looks more plastic than the movie tie-in toys they’ll surely try to peddle to a new generation of hapless kids.
Remember Splinter? The mild-mannered stereotypical sensei found in every piece of Hollywood martial arts entertainment? We can’t have a single pacifist character In Michael Bay’s world of gratuitous giddy violence, so have fun watching your precious Zen master rat repeatedly pound some bad guy’s head into concrete until it pops in perfectly acceptable PG-13 fashion during one of the many endless, headache-inducing, indecipherable action sequences.
Remember April O’Neill? The plucky reporter that turtles happened to meet and invite to join the crew as their human counterpart? Guess what, we’re not allowed to have any amusing coincidences in movies anymore so she has to rip a page out of the equally mind-numbing Spider-Man reboot. Not only does her back story haphazardly showed into the screenplay has to have her directly contribute to the turtles’ creation, but she also has to uncover a family conspiracy that’s directly linked to the bad guys’ evil plot.
Of course it doesn’t help that she’s played this time by Megan Fox, a humanoid creature lacking all feeling and emotion. Like Robert Shaw would say, "She has dead eyes, like a doll’s eyes." In between all of the lame pop-culture jokes the movie desperately threw at me to get a laugh, the only times I chuckled were at moments of Fox’s horrendous performance.
Over and over again I amusingly asked myself, "Was THAT really the best take they could get out of her!?" Then I felt a pang of sadness as the truth finally dawned on me: "It was, it really was the best take they could get."
Speaking of bad guys, remember Shredder? The turtles’ Darth Vader-knockoff arch-nemesis? We can’t have him be a simple expert martial artist in a silly costume anymore, so he has to turn into a roided-up amalgamation of Iron Man and a door-to-door knife salesman. Don’t worry Shredder, if taking over New York via the most overused bad guy cliché of poisoning the entire city doesn’t pan out, I hear Ginsu is always hiring.
At least you’re not as dumb as the second-banana villain (William Fichtner) who not only hilariously indulges in the “Bad guy explains his plans to the heroes for absolutely no reason” trope, but also goes so far as to pointlessly kill one of his own men so that the dummies in the audience get the point.
There’s a lot of blatant condescension here, as each piece of information is repeated three times for the lowest common denominator, the third time being the most obvious. A character says, “These are the same bullets I used on your father.” Just in case you didn’t get it, the other character says “You killed my father!?” You don’t say?
Remember the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie? I sure as hell won’t in less than a week.