In this eye-popping reimagining of the legendary heroes in a half shell, New York is under attack by the sinister Shredder, but fearless leader Leonardo, brilliant and brainy Donatello, rough and rebellious Raphael and wild and crazy Michelangelo take to the streets to defend their home with the help of intrepid reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and their brilliant sensei, Splinter. Packed with jaw-dropping action and special effects and loaded with the franchise's signature humor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is "fun for the whole family" (Joel Amos, Movie Fanatic). The film also stars Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg, and William Fichtner and features Johnny Knoxville as the voice of Leonardo and Tony Shalhoub as the voice of Splinter.
Portions of this review also appear in our review of the 2D Blu-ray release of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'.
Portions of this review also appear in our review of the 2D Blu-ray release of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'.
Critics were frothing at the mouth waiting to pan the Michael Bay-produced/Megan Fox-featured 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' reboot when it was released in theaters earlier this year. After all, this was one of the most disliked (at least as far as his movies are concerned) directors in Hollywood (even though he didn't direct this movie) along with one of the most maligned actresses (at least as far as her acting is concerned). It was the perfect storm for film bashing, and sure enough, most reviewers had a field day commenting about how Bay had been responsible for launching another mindless movie franchise and/or how Fox's performance was wooden and lifeless.
I have two responses to the above. The first being what exactly did critics expect from a movie about talking turtles who live in a sewer, eat pizza, and fight crime? This wasn't exactly a project that was going to find Martin Scorsese and/or Tom Hanks attached to it, was it? But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this movie isn't as bad as you've been led to believe. In fact, for a film of this nature, it's about as good as we could have hoped for. And for a film with the names Michael Bay and Megan Fox in the credits, it's right near the top of their resumes.
Almost from the first frame, it's obvious that Director Jonathan Liebesman wants to give fans a more 'realistic' version of the Turtles, who are no longer the cute, kid-friendly foursome they were in the films from the 1990s. Well, at least not physically, as these CGI renderings (which were created with help from live actors using motion-capture technology) are much more dangerous looking…not to mention larger, each standing over six feet in height. But rest assured that much of the humor is still present, and the movie does a remarkable job of creating distinct and identifiable personalities for the four Turtles, even though (minus the different colored masks and weapons of choice) they're pretty much identical to one another in appearance.
The actual plot of the movie is really the weakest part here, as the Turtles have to take on an evil group of ninjas called 'The Foot Clan' along with their leader, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), who fans of the comic books, cartoons, and previous movies already know to be the Turtles' primary baddie (he's kind of the Darth Vader of this universe). In addition to Shredder and his ninjas, there's an evil industrialist, Eric Sachs (played by William Fichtner), who is both working for Shredder and is partially responsible for the actual creation of the Turtles into their teenage mutant ninja selves.
In between the action sequences (most of them about 90 percent CGI, but unlike most we see in films these days, actually well-storyboarded so we're never confused about who's doing what to whom), much of the story deals with the origin of the Turtles and their rodent teacher, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub). In a little revisionist history that may or may not upset loyal fans, it is revealed that April's father (now deceased) was working with Sachs and responsible for the transformation of the Turtles, whom we learn were actually pets of April's when she was a little girl. While some fans may be up in arms about that change in backstory, I personally thought it added an interesting level to the relationship between the foursome and Ms. O'Neil.
While we're on the subject of April O'Neil, it's impressive how much of this movie Megan Fox has been asked to carry. She's far and away the lead role here, and considering her history of less-than-impressive performances, you actually have to give kudos to both Paramount Pictures and Jonathan Liebesman for trusting her to headline what was one of the studio's big tentpole movies of 2014. Now, I'm not going to tell you that Fox gives a performance for the ages, or that all her scenes are great – but she does hold her own, and certainly doesn't do anything to embarrass herself. It's far from one of the best performances of the year, but it's certainly one of her best performances, and I give her credit for that.
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' still has a lot of problems, the biggest of which is that it doesn't give us nearly an interesting enough story to allow for much emotional attachment to what's transpiring on the screen. There's a lot of 'going through the motions' here, as basically the plot just serves to introduce us to the various characters and their backgrounds. Still, I've seen a lot worse origin movies in the history of superhero flicks, and while I may not be re-watching 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' anytime soon, I can't say that I wouldn't want to see these characters on screen again in the near future. In short, this movie does exactly what it sets out to do…no more – but no less, either.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' fights its way onto home video in a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The three discs are housed inside an Elite keepcase, with the two 50 GB Blu-rays held on a plastic hub, while the dual-layer DVD is placed on the inside right of the case. There are also two inserts inside, one containing the code for an UltraViolet and iTunes digital copy of the movie (with an advertisement for a Nintendo 3DS game on the reverse side), and the other containing advertisements (one on each side) for a downloadable app game and T-machine toys. A lenticular 3D slipcover slides overtop of the keepcase.
While neither the 3D Blu-ray nor the 2D Blu-ray are front-loaded with anything aside from the Paramount logo, the DVD is front-loaded with trailers for Transformers: Age of Extinction, Hercules, and 'Interstellar'. The main menus of all three discs have the same appearance, with comic-book panel-like images of the main characters, much in the same way the movie itself does them in both the opening and closing credits.
In addition to this Blu-ray 3D combo pack, there are a number of different versions of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' hitting store shelves. Of course, there's the standard 2D-only Blu-ray release of the movie (which also comes with the DVD and HD code), as well as a standard DVD release. There's also a more expensive Amazon exclusive that packs this 3D combo set with a statue of Raphael. Target is offering the 2D Blu-ray combo release with four alternate slipcovers, one for each of the turtles, plus a bonus Blu-ray disc (at the time of this writing, I was unable to uncover what exactly is on that disc). Toys-R-Us offers the 2D Blu-ray with a pair of exclusive TMNT earbuds. Wal-Mart's 2D Blu-ray comes with a set of four figurines and two reversible eye masks. Best Buy is offering a limited-edition steelbook, which also includes eye masks. And these are just the exclusives within the United States – other countries and regions seem to be offering similar deals, so there's a lot out there to choose from where this release is concerned.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' was shot digitally with 3D in mind, although what we get here is a post-conversion. With that noted, the picture is incredibly sharp and full of color and detail (which is even more evident when watching the standard 2D Blu-ray version). Black levels are inky deep, skin tones are properly balanced throughout, and there's a lot of high-def 'pop' to the imagery. In fact, the image is so sharp, that one can really appreciate the work that went into the creation of the turtles themselves, as they actually look like high-end puppets or well-detailed costumes rather that full-CGI creations.
Of course, with the 3D version, much of the brightness of the 2D version is lost, although this still turns out to be one of the better post-conversion 3D efforts I've viewed on home video. There's a wonderful depth to almost every scene, and a couple of 3D 'gimmicks' have been thrown in as well, including an instance where one of the turtle's weapons seems to break free of the movie's aspect ratio (thanks to slightly thinning the ratio of the shot) and another playful scene where Splinter is tempting Michelangelo with a slice of pizza.
About the only real complaint I have has nothing to do with the actual transfer itself (which is reference-quality), but the cinematography of the movie. There are a lot of lens flares in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'. So much, that if I didn't know any better, I'd have thought J.J. Abrams directed this movie instead of Jonathan Liebesman. This is a distraction in the 2D version, but even more of a hindrance in the 3D version, as it often blocks out depth and details that otherwise could have been seen.
Overall, however, this is a great transfer that can be enjoyed in both 3D and 2D, with no obvious glitches or problems with the image, and nothing in terms of banding, aliasing, or the like.
The featured audio track here is a English Dolby Atmos one, which will down-covert to a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track for those of us who don't yet have an Atmos set-up. I actually only have 5.1 capability in my home theater right now, so it's even more of a down-convert for me, so my impressions of the track are going to be limited to what my home theater can output.
With that in mind, this is simply an outstanding piece of work, with a completely immersive feel throughout, distinct sounds and clear separation in every scene, and an incredibly well-balanced mix that never allows dialogue to be drowned out by all the other activity and action going on. This track does a great job with LFE effects as well as more distinct ambient sounds occurring throughout the soundtrack - meaning both the most action-packed and the quietest sequences in the movie provide an enjoyable listen. The clarity here is just great, and really adds to one's enjoyment of the movie. I can only imagine what this track sounds like with a full Atmos set-up in one's home, but for my equipment, it certainly came across as reference-quality stuff.
In addition to the Atmos lossless track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. An English Audio Description track is also available, as are subtitles in English SDH, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The same audio and subtitle options are available on both the 3D and 2D Blu-rays.
All of the bonus materials on the Blu-ray are exclusive to this 3D combo pack and the 2D combo pack, as Paramount's DVD-only release is bare-bones.
No one is going to mistake 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' for a great superhero movie. Heck, maybe it's not even a good one – but regardless of all the negative reviews that have been lumped on it by critics and fans alike, I found it to be enjoyable enough, and certainly more enjoyable than I expected going in. The movie does a good job in introducing its four pizza-eating, ninja-fighting heroes, and while the plot is very by-the-numbers and lacks originality, it contains enough well-designed action pieces to keep one's attention throughout. Despite what you've heard, this one is worth a look.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.