EDITOR’S NOTE: Summer is a crazy time for movies, ESPECIALLY comic book movies, and our man The Credible Hulk cranks out movie reviews like nobody’s business! Enjoy this double-shot of Nerd at the Movies reviews, featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES:
The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is by no means terrible, or even bad. There’s plenty it does right, like showcasing aspects neglected or bungled in previous iterations. The execution, however, ranges wildly from success to utter failure. Despite several initial hurdles — most noticeably the design — there’s a passable experience beneath the surface.
First, what was wrong: The Turtles, when juxtaposed with the environment, looked unrealistic. Considering the stellar competition from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy, both prominently featuring CG characters, anything sub-par is a let down. Yes, the noses and lips were off-putting, but by the end they were hardly noticeable. While some of their designs worked (more on that in a minute), a few didn’t. Specifically, Donatello. The need for uniqueness is understandable, it’s a feature of the Nick cartoon and one of its highlights. But here, it’s a step too far. Donnie’s glasses and weird backpack didn’t fit and were distracting. His voice over, provided by motion capture actor Jeremy Howard, was atrocious. Every time he spoke it was grating.
Continuing with the design, the other three weren’t as bad, though each had one or two things that pushed them over the top. Raph’s sunglasses, Mike’s sunglasses and necklaces all made them a bit too noisy. Splinter and Shredder looked hideous. Splinter look like a rubber doll with dead eyes, and his voice work from Tony Shalhoub was awful. He didn’t fit the character, and his grunts and battle cries were cringe-worthy. Shredder made no sense. His suit, along with its magnetic (?) ability was dumb. I understand the need for it: If the turtles are over 6 feet tall and can lift a building, they need a villain who can balance against them. Still, there are better ways.
This is very much a Nickelodeon production. From the loose script to the general execution, it had the same low quality that’s generally associated with their movies. Logic errors and clichés abound, but at least they were ones that didn’t break the movie … for once.
What did work? Quite a few things, actually. Leo and Raph had a few solid bits to their design. With both of them being more warrior-like than the other two, their accessories (Raph’s full bandanna, Leo’s chest-plate) were nice additions. Mike, though … I’m ambivalent. Aside from Donnie, their voices fit the characters well enough. None was grating, though they did seem like they were trying to hard.
The Turtles’ origin was once again modified, though perhaps for the better. They were given a stronger connection to April (Megan Fox) from the onset, which was a nice addition, making her acceptance of them more natural. This did cause a few other issues though. This gave them no connection with Shredder, or the Foot Clan. Speaking of which, mercenaries was a better choice than a city full of runaway teenage karate champs. Splinter learning ninjitsu from a book? Fine.
Karai’s (Minae Noji) presence was nice, though problematic. She’s the daughter of Hamato Yoshi (Splinter), kidnapped and raised by Oroku Saki (Shredder). Without Splinter’s human connection, she’s little more than a henchman. Again, it was nice seeing her, as this was her first live-action appearance and she was actually given something to do. Why a 40-year-old woman was cast as her though, I have no idea.
The fight scenes were amazingly choreographed. The battle between Shredder and Splinter was fun, as was Splinter smartly using his tail. This was akin to finally seeing Yoda fight in Episode II. The snow scene, briefly glimpsed in the trailer, was easily the best scene in the movie. The final battle wasn’t a let down, either. Most of the humor, such as the elevator or the adrenaline scenes, hit the mark, while others, like keyboard cat, missed completely. More hits than misses, though. The pizza on Splinter’s head, Baxter, and the Krang were nice Easter eggs and call backs.
I love the Turtles. I ran around my neighborhood pretending to be Leonardo, daily. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger turtle fan than me. I went into this expecting it to be an utter disaster, but walked away pleasantly surprised. While there were plenty of fumbles, they still averaged more hits than misses. If you have any affinity for the Turtles, you’ll at least be moderately entertained. Even with its eccentricities, there’s still plenty to enjoy with this new installment. Kids will love it. Longtime fans will at least mildly enjoy it. Curmudgeons who can’t be pleased need not apply.
Who’s your favorite Turtle? Excited for the 2016 sequel (yes, it’s happening)? Comment below!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY:
Spoiler free! Despite pushing Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Avengers into the mainstream, Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel Studios’ biggest gamble to date. Aside from introducing a completely new cast of characters, including a talking raccoon and giant tree, this featured none of the mainstays established in any previous films. Guardians unabashedly succeeds on every level. This tells a well-rounded story that’s not only funny and compelling, but gives each character equal time, allowing the audience to fall in love with all five. There are no more gambles for Marvel to take, they have officially earned carte blanch.
After a tearful cold open, writer and director James Gunn quickly shows exactly what Guardians is, with Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) dancing on screen to old 1970s music. It was perfect. The cast was introduced via one of the smartest exposition scenes yet, the line up, as seen in the trailer, though slightly modified in the film. After all, these were characters that even a well-informed comic fan would be hard-pressed to name. Now, every child knows Rocket, guaranteed.
Despite the solid script, the movie could have failed if poorly cast, or if the group lacked chemistry. Pratt was perfect as the roguish Quill, striking the delicate balance between adventurer and swindler. There was no question that Zoe Saldana would be at home here, given sci-fi pedigree (Avatar and Star Trek). The rest of the cast had plenty to prove, though. Dave Batista was worrisome, only because most pro-wrestlers can’t act, save for the Rock. Fear not, Batista was flawless as Drax the Destroyer. The role nearly went to Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones). Thankfully, it didn’t.
The two biggest questions were the CG characters, Rocket and Groot, a talking raccoon and giant tree creature — the latter only capable of only saying “I am Groot.” While the rest of the team was astounding, these two shined. I believed they were real, thanks in no small part to their voice actors. Bradley Cooper, a divisive choice to say the least, brought his typical brand of sarcasm to Rocket, stealing the show. Rocket didn’t shut up for the entire movie, and I didn’t want him to. Anyone who’d seen The Iron Giant knew Vin Diesel was perfect for Groot. Much like Giant, Diesel was given a “Superman” type line that was just as tearful. Despite his limited “vocabulistics,” Groot was just as funny as the rest. If Marvel made a three-hour movie of Groot and Rocket flying a ship and talking for three hours, I’d be there, day one.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect movie. Marvel completely surpassed every expectation. Like The Avengers before them, Guardians is now a household name, and it’s easy to see why. A lovable cast, amazing soundtrack, well told story, and instantly quotable lines, this has it all. Honestly, now I hope Marvel becomes drunk with power, reaching as deep into their catalog as they can. Squirrel Girl the movie? After this, I’d definitely be there.
Who’s your favorite Guardian? What’s your favorite line? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
Holy product placement.
“Just like Kevin Bacon.”