Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
The movie attempts to use elements from both the original TMNT comics and the 80s cartoon, having the movie feel slightly darker, but still maintain a relatively child-friendly sense of humor. This is basically the only element that works to the film's advantage, as the action in the film is much grittier than one might expect. The action is interesting and fun to watch, similar to many action scenes of the day that involved little CGI and a lot of great choreography. The costumes that the Ninja Turtles wear are actually really good, at least for the time. I’m sure seeing the movie in the early 90s, with its grittier atmosphere and great costuming, would have been wonderful for a child who loved the show.
But, it is no longer 1990. And this movie has lost a lot of its charm and wit with the times. The movie feels heavily dated, with the turtles speaking in late 80s and early 90s lingo. The comedy is as childish as the original cartoons was, but that hasn't aged very well either. And that’s basically how the entire film feels: dated, but with hints of quality. I’m sure in 1990 this movie was good, but there are some things that don’t maintain their quality. When the movie was made, I’m sure the idea of having Shredder force children to steal for him was interesting, but, like a lot of other elements, it just ends up feeling corny.
What you will be immediately struck by if you choose to watch this movie is how terrible the modeling and animation is, especially on the film’s human characters. When compared to other animated films that came out in the same year, like Pixar’s Ratatouille, this movie looks abysmal. It doesn’t help that the film has severely washed-out colors, making every shot look uninspired and bland. When the turtles move or, even worse, fight, they look like a pile of loose polygons rather than a group of living characters.
What doesn’t help is that the characters lack any discernable motivations or depth, making everything that happens in the movie feel like it doesn’t matter. The feud between Leo and Raph, which is present in literally every TMNT film, is at its worst here. They have virtually no reason to be mad at each other, arguing over nothing of consequence until they finally realize that they are brothers who should be on the same side. The villain’s plan at no point seems to endanger anyone in the city of New York, making all of the action feel inconsequential. What audiences are left with was is hollow shell (no pun intended) of a ninja turtle story.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
The movie follows what I have now realized is the formula for all TMNT films, with the turtles emerging from the shadows to take down a crime syndicate that threatens New York City. There is virtually no difference in plot between this film and the 1990 release of the same name, except that the crime syndicate in this movie isn’t made up of children.
This movie contains, by far, the most annoying interpretation of the TMNT brothers that I have ever seen. Not only do they never shut up, spouting terrible jokes and speaking the way I’m sure the writer thinks “kids these days” talk, but they also look genuinely unsettling. Their gross CGI bodies don’t look natural on-screen, making every scene with them in it look fake. However, many of the movie's scenes do not contain the turtles, focusing on April O’Neal as she tries to figure out what the villains are up to. Unfortunately, in true Michael Bay style, April’s character is not a character, but a sexual object for the film to drool over like a pervert with a Playboy magazine. Megan Fox’s body is the only defining trait that the writers think April needs, making her scenes bland pieces of film which must have been humiliating for Fox to be subjected to.
The action is also insanely sloppy, looking like a CGI artist wasn’t given much direction and was just told to make the scene look “really cool”. Unidentifiable objects fly across the screen, the turtles jump around in ways that don’t look physically conceivable (let alone possible) and bad guys fall over in an effort to make it look like they got hit by a real thing. The final climatic fight with the Shredder isn’t remotely interesting, and I found myself rooting for Shredder so I’d never have to hear the turtles speak again. Shredder lost and I felt like I did to.