Quick Impressions: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) for 3DS

Last year I did a rather scathing review of Activision’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Videogame released on the Xbox 360, Wii, and 3DS.  Sometime later, I concluded what may have actually occurred.  My assertion was that developer Magic Pockets were initially vetted to create a 3DS Ninja Turtle game, but during development the scope changed.  The game was then ported to the 360 and Wii, and had to be modified to accommodate the local multi-player functionality.  This lead a game which may have been passable on the 3DS to become a nightmare on all three consoles.  The emphasis on things flying at the screen, and the camera’s fascination with moving through tunnels, supports that this was intended for the 3DS at least originally.  Had the game been a single-player experience on the 3DS only, I likely would have been more forgiving of it’s other short falls.

Well, either someone was listening, or had a similar thought, because this year we saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) release for the 3DS.  Based off the movie license, this game was made exclusively for the 3DS by the same developer, Magic Pockets.  Do I smell a challenge?

 

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Street Fighter Legacy: Charlie

During Capcom Cup 2014, Capcom revealed Charlie (a.k.a. Nash) would be returning to Street Fighter 5 with a teaser trailer.  Being one of my all-time favorite characters from Street Fighter history, it felt appropriate to do a piece on him.

 

I spoke briefly on the setting of Street Fighter V before, but Charlie’s reveal makes it far more likely to be a sequel to Street Fighter 4 and a prequel to Street Fighter 3, just based on how the story has unfolded so far.  What story?  Well, allow me to elaborate:

 

Street Fighter 2

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Charlie was first mentioned in Street Fighter 2 as part of Guile’s background and ending.  Charlie was a friend that Guile had lost to the hands of M. Bison (the dictator) in some vague way.  Guile had entered the Street Fighter 2 tournament to avenge him.  Guile’s ending has his wife and child encouraging him to give up his quest for vengeance and return home.  He does so after visiting Charlie’s grave.

Fun fact: Charlie was originally known as Nash in the Japanese game, but was changed to Charlie in the Western release.  As such, Charlie is a character with two names depending where you are from, much like M.Bison, Vega, and Balrog; unlike those examples though, calling him Charlie or Nash shouldn’t present any confusion, as he doesn’t share these names with anyone.

 

At this early point, Charlie was simply a supporting character, and a dead one at that.  His significance to Street Fighter lore, however, would soon dwarf the character he was meant to support.

 

Street Fighter Alpha, Alpha 2

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The mysterious background of Charlie had been brought up in several anime, cartoons, and other extraneous material following Street Figher 2’s release.  Thereby, it was appropriate that the prequel series, Street Fighter Alpha (also known as Street Fighter Zero), attempt to tell the story of Guile’s lost friend and partner Charlie.

Unfortunately, despite being a hallmark Alpha character, Charlie was did not really get much development or story out of the first two installments.  Both Alpha and Alpha 2 end in Charlie’s death at the hands of Bison, but neither seem to be canon.  Admittedly, however, very few storylines from Alpha and Alpha 2 were part of the canonical story anyway.

 

Street Fighter Alpha 3

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Alpha 3 shows the culmination of many character arcs, the height of Shadowloo’s power, and the resolution of most of the developments necessary to lead into Street Fighter 2.  This is also where we get the bulk of Charlie’s actual background.

Charlie is an American Air Force pilot who befriended and trained Guile.  In Alpha 3, he undertook a dangerous mission in cooperation with Chun-Li and Interpol.  The goal of the mission was to eliminate Bison’s Shadowloo organization once and for all.

Guile’s ending on the home versions of Alpha 3 is where most of the rest of the story is revealed.  Guile followed Charlie on his expedition (against Charlie’s wishes), and helped complete the mission.  After the bombs are set in the Shadowloo base, Bison ambushes Charlie, Guile, and Chun Li.  Charlie holds Bison off while the other two escape, only for the base to explode before Bison or Charlie are seen leaving the area.  Afterwards, Guile and Chun-Li both contemplate the loss of their comrade.

However, Charlie’s ending doesn’t depict any of this.  Ironically, Charlie’s Alpha 3 ending is the only ending for Charlie where he doesn’t die.  Instead, Charlie is shown flying off into the sunset, his mission completed.

Discrepancies like this are rampant in the Street Fighter series, but could this be something more?

Street Fighter 4

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Street Fighter 4 shows Guile getting right back in the saddle of trying to find and stop Shadowloo, despite presumably being over his vengeance streak in Street Fighter 2.  Guile meets Abel, who reveals that he has seen Guile’s fighting style before.  Guile immediately assumes Abel knows something about Charlie, but Abel doesn’t really give up much information on that front.  Guile is left with just an inkling of hope that Charlie is still out there somewhere.

Which brings us to a surprising twist in our search for the truth about Charlie, however, as we now have to follow a whole other character, Abel.  Does Abel hold the secrets to Charlie’s true fate, or is he a coincidental distraction?

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Abel’s backstory is that he is an amnesiac who was found and nursed back to health by a military man of some fashion.  Through his story, we learn that he was a prototype for the body doubles that Bison uses (referred to as dolls).  Abel was the first of his kind; thus the biblical name Abel.  However, he was considered defective and discarded at some point

Superficially, this seems to add up — Abel knows someone who can do a Sonic Boom, was nursed to health by a military vet, and could have been around when the Shadowloo doll program went kablooey in Alpha 3.  However, we need to fast-forward a little bit to the future we know exists in order to track down this thread…

Street Fighter 3

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Street Fighter 3 takes place sometime after 4, despite having released well before it.  It featured a number of characters, many of which designed to be the heirs to the throne of characters from previous games.  As such, the vast majority of the cast were new characters.

The signature character of this series was Alex.  Alex was a headstrong youth with a plethora of wrestling moves.  While his style is very much his own, Alex and Abel do share a few standing and crouching attacks, as well as a similar stance — the basics of their moveset if you will.

We learn through Alex’s endings in Street Fighter 3 that Alex was trained by an ex-military vet named Tom.

If Alex and Abel have similar stances and attacks, and Alex learned from Tom, could Tom have been the military vet that saved Abel?  This means that Abel was simply a red herring for the Charlie hints in Street Fighter 4.  However, that may not be all we can glean from Street Fighter 3.

 

Street Fighter 5

We know from the trailer that Charlie will sport a gem on his forehead.  That’s about the extent we know of his costume, but we need to go back to Street Fighter 3 for it’s significance.

 

Street Fighter 3 Second Impact

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Street Fighter 3 also introduced the boss character Gill, as well as his brother Urien in the second update, subtitled Second Impact and usually (incorrectly) referred to as Double Impact.  Gill and Urien are brothers who fought untold scores of enemies (as they tell it anyway) to reach the position they have in the Illuminati.  Urien was at one point defeated by Gill, and thus is only second in command.  Both of them wear a gem on their forehead.  Though it’s actual meaning is unknown, since they are the only Illuminati in the games so far, we can only assume Charlie was inducted into or is the fore-bearer of the Illuminati some how.  So, what is Charlie’s connection with Gill and Urien… well let’s rewind again.

Street Fighter 4 (cont..)

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Street Fighter 4’s main boss is Seth.  Seth was also a part of Bison’s doll program, but was a robot body built upon Abel’s standards.  Seth somehow became damaged, and thus sentient, taking control of Shadowloo’s weapons division, known as S.I.N.  He uses the information from the S.I.N. databases to compile fighters’ movesets, and copied many of them for his own attacks.

At first, Seth doesn’t seem to have much connection here.  However, similar to Alex and Abel, he has some attacks worth noting.  Most noteworthy is his focus attack, which is a shoulder charge that Urien used in Street Fighter 3, and of which Gill had a variant of as well.  Many of Seth’s other attacks that aren’t directly taken from other fighters are similar to Urien or Seth as well.  This means that either a) Gill and Urien’s moves were included in Seth’s database somehow, or b) Gill and Urien learned these from Seth or Seth’s line of dolls.

Another point of interest is the Sonic Boom in Seth’s arsenal.  If Abel and Seth were active at the same time, this could explain how Abel saw a Sonic Boom before meeting Guile.  More importantly, though, Seth can perform his single handed, unlike Guile who typically uses both hands.  Perhaps Guile’s Sonic Boom isn’t the one Seth was programmed with…

Street Fighter 5 (cont..)

So where does this leave us?  We can assume Charlie in Street Fighter 5 is connected to the Illuminati, and the Illuminati may be somehow connected to S.I.N.  How is still unknown.  Based on what we know of Charlie, there are a few possibilities.

Charlie could have infiltrated S.I.N. and is building the Illuminati out of it’s remnants.  This would explain Gill and Urien’s resemblance to Seth. This could make sense, since the origins of Seth’s cognizance are vague and ill-defined.  Seth could have been put in place by the Illuminati, and thus by Charlie.  Charlie could have been behind Abel’s freedom as well.  What doesn’t quite make sense, is why would he work within S.I.N. instead of destroy it outright?  And what would be the contingency when Seth’s lust for power becomes overwrought?  The other big problem is that this sets up Charlie to be a mastermind behind all these events, which would be a better setup for a boss character, not a standard member of the cast.

It’s also possible that Charlie did die and was resurrected by the Illuminati who are in the process of eliminating S.I.N., likely in similar fashion as above.  This could mean Charlie is unaware of his past, and/or is a vessel for whoever is head of the Illuminati currently.  This doesn’t really tie into the story as it stands currently, but provides better explanation to Charlie’s absence.  A Charlie unaware of his past also is a better setup for a regular character for the cast.

 

Regardless, however, we know for certain Charlie’s legacy will go beyond just Street Fighter 5…

Street Fighter 3 Third Strike

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In Street Fighter 3’s third update, subtitled Third Strike, we are introduced to the French street fighter Remy.  Remy is very interesting, not just for his devilish looks, but because of his fighting style.  Remy can use moves that are extremely similar to the Sonic Boom and Somersault Kick Guile and Charlie use.  What’s more, Remy comes from a broken family, whose father left them to become a ‘warrior,’  leaving himself to care for their mother and a sister who was now comatose and in stasis.  Remy has a vendetta against other warrior types, which is why he sets his sights on Street Fighter 3 tournament champion Alex.

Remy could be part of the family that was left behind when Abel was inducted into the dolls.  This isn’t uncommon, as T.Hawk’s family was a victim of this as well — his wife Julia was taken into the program and brainwashed too.  It’s unclear whether or not Remy ever found Abel, or learned of his fate.  I would suspect he may have though, given his primary target was Alex.

What does he have to do with Charlie?  Presumably, Remy can only learn the Sonic Boom from 3 people — Guile, Charlie, or Seth.  If Seth’s is not original, and Guile’s is a two-handed Sonic Boom, the number of possibilities is very limited…

 

 

Rumor Mill: Street Fighter 5 setting

To much fanfare for some, and chagrin of others, Capcom announced Street Fighter 5 in development for PS4 and PC last week.  It was an interesting set of trailers that launched, giving us just a glimpse of what the new Street Fighter may have in store.

While Maximilian breaks down some of the mechanics, I’m much more fascinated by the story and character possibilities this brings.  So then, from a story perspective what do we know about this?

Denjin Hadouken

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While Capcom hasn’t stated anything specifically about the story in Street Fighter 3, we already know quite a bit by Ryu calling out “Denjin” near the end of the trailer.  The Denjin Hadouken is a move Ryu first used in Street Fighter 3, and is also an attack Gouken used in Street Fighter 4.   One may recall Street Fighter 4’s story was supposed to be a bridge between Street Fighter 2 and 3.  Thus, Ryu likely learned this technique from Gouken.

The other possible reference is the stage, which appears to be in a neon-lit China street and diner (which Chun Li knocks Ryu into).  While Chun Li is known for being Chinese, Chinese neon signs are typical of Yun and Yang, the Hong Kong twins who are both Street Fighter 3 characters as well (credit to Shoryuken.com on that one).

This still only verifies one of two potential scenarios:

5 takes place between 4 and 3

This scenario would add to the confusion of inbetwe-quals, but it would make some sense.  Very few of the endings in Street Fighter 4 really resolved anything, or set up a state from which Gil and Urien (the main villians from 3) would be setup and established.  Some characters from 3 show up, and some events of 3 are alluded to, but none of them really come to fruition in Street Fighter 4.

Thusly, another game taking place between these two would smooth the transition more.  Street Fighter 2 veterans could return to finally pass the torch to the variety of characters in the Street Fighter 3series, as well as offer closure to those characters.

Unfortunately, the trailer doesn’t really lend any further evidence for or against this.

5 takes place after 3

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Street Fighter 5 taking place after Street Fighter 3 could mean just about anything.  By placing it after those events, the developers would be far less constrained by the time frame it takes place in.  This setting would allow for more Street Fighter 3 characters, and grants more opportunities for new fighters.  The drawback could be the threads from Street Fighter 4 likely would not be directly addressed, and the game may be missing several classic characters.

In other words, under these conditions Street Fighter 5’s cast would be similar to Mortal Kombat X’s cast — a few familiar characters interspersed between the brand new ones.  Killer Instinct for the Xbox One had a similar strategy as well.  For Capcom, it makes some sense to try and match their competition at this point.

Oddly enough, I believe the trailer supports this though.  The trailer and teaser only showed off two characters — Ryu and Chun Li.  Now, it’s obvious that these were the only two characters close enough to finished to show off because it’s likely a very early build.  Ryu being close to finished makes sense, since he plays very similarly from one game to the next.  It’s the other character that is far more telling however…

Chun Li was in the trailer and shown off.  However, if Ryu is finished enough to use in a trailer, wouldn’t Ken be just as close to finished as well?  Why finish Chun Li first? Chun Li offers more visual variety for the trailer perhaps, but that can’t be the only reason.  I propose that this indicates that either Ken is being heavily reworked to something resembling the changes made in the upcoming Omega version of Ultra Street Fighter 4 (where he has fireball kicks), or is not in the cast of 5 at all — replaced instead by Sean.

In the case of Omega version Ken, taking place after 3 makes more sense, since Ken still relied on his traditional moveset in that game, and didn’t feature kicks as prominently as the SF4 Omega version will.  In case of being replaced by Sean, taking place after 3 makes more sense, as Ken’s story is very well resolved by Street Fighter 3 Third Strike — having his hands full training Sean and raising Mel.  While losing Ken in this installment would be a disappointment, I believe it’s a proper sacrifice if it allows for greater variety in the cast.

 

But that’s just a few thoughts about the upcoming Street Fighter 5.  Are you excited, or are you going to wait til the inevitable Hyper Mega-Fighting edition?  What Street Fighter character do you want to see in Street Fighter 5?

Back to the Sewers: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

 


Our series draws to a close with the final and most recent Ninja Turtles movie released just this year.  As the turtles’ popularity peaked again last year with the new cartoon series, it made sense to try and reboot the movie franchise once more.  Unlike before, the producers did not try to directly tie it into previous turtle movies or shows, but they also took that as a cue to approach it in their own way.  That would not sound so ominous if the name Micheal Bay wasn’t attached to the title.

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The Turtles

We’ll start with the elephants in the room first.  The Turtles themselves were given heavy make-overs for the new movie.  To start with, they are significantly larger.  In the eighties, the Turtles were either shorter than or approximately the same height as April O’Neil depending on what material you were looking at.  That has been mostly the case in each subsequent entry to the franchise.  In the new movie, the Turtles are far more massive, towering over April and Vernon.  However, the movie does provide explanation, as the mutagen in this universe is a sort of super-soldier-serum.  The size is an odd choice, but an understandable one.

What isn’t quite as understandable is the turtles new flair, which I will discuss individually, as well as their realization in this movie.

Raphael

Raphael is easily the best looking of the four, as he is the one with the least amount of swag dangling off him.  The worst he gets is a doo-rag which is similar to the bandanna style they all wore in the Next Mutation series.  Otherwise he looks fine, which is good since he easily has the most screen time, yet again.

Raphael is the only turtle crucial to the story, as well as the only one with an arc of any kind.  However, his arc is implied and mentioned, but not really well developed at all.  He expresses wanting to strike out on his own early in the movie, but ironically is put in the position where his brothers are captured and Splinter incapacitated.  This leaves Raph to save his brothers, with some help from April and Vernon.  This is a slightly different approach to developing Raphael, but unfortunately it isn’t developed enough to feel impactful… or at least not as much as the movie wants it to be.

Leonardo

Leonardo’s look is probably the most positive change.  Leo wears reeds arranged across the front of his shell to resemble armor.  Being a shell, it’s doubtful it has any practical use as such, but it channels the samurai look that Leonardo’s personality usually reflects.  Perhaps due to him still being a teenager, he does offset this look with an obvious NYC button on his belt, but I’m willing to let that slide given how the rest of his design was handled.

Unfortunately, despite scoring well on his design, the script doesn’t give Leo much to do.  Leonardo is voiced by Johnny Knoxville who does a good job with what he is given.  As such, Leonardo is easily the most memorable character in any scene he’s in, but almost none of his scenes involve significant character or story revelations.

Donatello

The winner of the “what-the-heck-were-they-thinking” award goes to Donatello’s design.  Donatello is wearing more technology than he apparently knows what to do with, as it is almost never is used in the course of the movie.  His ability to use his goggles is also impeded by the overly large eyeglasses that have been taped together — because every geek has to wear glasses right?

I’d comment about the Jeremy Howard’s performance, or Donatello’s story significance, but honestly there isn’t really anything to comment on.  Donatello serves very little to the plot except providing possible answers to questions every now and again.  His only starring scene is an action scene that was mostly CG eye-candy.  I can’t say Jeremy Howard did a bad job, as Donatello is just far more ancillary to the plot than most of the other turtles.

Michealangelo

Michealangelo’s look was what threw most fans off, namely that he wears pants.  I never felt this was necessarily out of character for Mikey, considering he is the most human-empathetic of the four, and because he wore pants in Turtles 3 as well.  The sunglasses also aren’t really out of place either, since I could see Mikey liking them and choosing to hang on to them, much like a young kid or teenager might.

What I don’t like is how Michaelangelo is portrayed in this one.  Mikey is usually the goofball, and that is somewhat the case here.  The difference is much of Mikey’s comedy this time comes from him trying to seduce April.  Again, if we’re interpreting him as a teenager, most of his lines make sense, as he’s likely very unfamiliar with how relationships work.  Also, Mikey having these types of feeling makes sense, since he is the heart of the team most of the time.

The issue I have is Michealangelo’s “moves” are all very inappropriate and at times kind of disturbing, especially if you take a moment to think about them.  The fact that this is a would-be an inter-species relationship does not help any.

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However, while how the Turtles look and act are one thing, how they interact with each other is easily the foremost concern, and on that end this movie hits it out of the park.  The Turtles’ banter is refreshing and shows their comradery and companionship is still intact.  This is what holds all the changes together to ensure to the audience that these are the same turtles we know and love.  It’s only a shame that aren’t very well developed individually, but what can you expect when we only spend about two-thirds of the movie with them.

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April O’Neil

April is the other elephant in the room when it comes to this film, because she is being portrayed by the much-maligned Megan Fox.  This is where I have to give some kudos, as April is well written for the most part during the first act.  In this universe, April is a news reporter who is given public relations and other “fluff” stories rather than actual news.  Meanwhile, she is slowly piecing together how her past, the turtles’ origin, Eric Sacks, and the foot clan are intertwined.  Her goal is to pursue this hot story to prove her worth, and the viewer wants to see how she tries to achieve that goal.  However, her pursuit inevitably gets her fired, and which belies the issue with April.

April O’Neil is important in the first act, but when everything is revealed as the second act begins, April’s story is pretty much over.  She doesn’t try to get the big scoop on this story to get her job back; she doesn’t start uploading video to youtube to show the truth or warn the public. She is just there.  She’s not even the turtles’ driver, a role given to Vernon instead.

April’s story is a huge missed opportunity, as she has absolutely no development.  It hurts worse when we’ve spent a whole third of the movie with her with absolutely no pay off at the end.

Meagan Fox wasn’t the problem with April O’Neil, in fact she has a few good scenes that sell her in the role.  The script, however, heavily mars this character.

The Plot and Script

Unlike some turtles films, this one has a very clear 3 act structure.  Act 1 follows April O’Neil as she seeks out the connections between the turtles, the Foot, and herself.  Act 2 is the capture and recovery of Leo, Mike, and Don as well as the Shredder’s plot being revealed.  Act 3 involves the Turtles chasing down the Shredder to put a stop to his plan.  It’s very simple, straight-forward, and doesn’t get too bogged down with extra side-plots.  All the major players being interconnected in this way makes the Turtles’ world seem kinda small, but when the alternative is having several smaller plots that go nowhere, this would be an improvement.

The script is where I think most of the fault actually lies with the film, as it is all over the place.  There are parts that are quite clever, such as Fox’s April being tired of being treated like a piece of meat, or the Turtles using a variant of a game they played as kids to defeat the Shredder.  Other parts, though are particularly blunt.  For instance, the audience at one point is treated to a montage as April O’Neil goes through her father’s notes and an old video she made as a girl, showing that these are the same turtles and rat that were in her father’s research facility.  Once the montage is over, we move to April O’ Neil explaining all this to a character who only seems to exist for April to exposit to.  It’s one thing to do this once, but it happens again at the end of the film too.  When the Turtles are falling to their possible doom, Raphael explains every nuance of his implied character arc as well.  Apparently, someone involved in this film heard the phrase “show don’t tell,” and decided he’d do both just to make sure the audience “gets it,” which is rather insulting.

Because of these issues, the movie does not seem to know what exactly it wants to be.  Is it a story of great personal discovery, a science-fiction super-hero movie, an action film, or all of the above?  It’s worth noting this movie is the first Turtles film to be rated PG-13 upon it’s release, due mostly to scene of intense action, as well as some rather dark elements when the three brothers are captured.  These moments hint at something that may have lied underneath this film.

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Rewrites

Rumor going around is this movie experienced a plethora of rewrites, to the point where some scenes had to be reshot in post-production.  This means that the script most of the actors were working with may not have been the same product that we experienced.  There appears to be some evidence to support this.

While the turtles’ banter helps keep the mood light-hearted, most of the time they are either off-screen while the banter is happening, or in a scene with no physical actors present.  Eric Sacks’s presence adds little more than a public face for the Foot Clan to manipulate, and serves little other purpose in the movie.  The Shredder’s motivations make much more sense if Sacks himself is the Shredder, rather than just his puppet.  We also never see the shredder without his mask except in small interior shots with other villains.  Also, the special focus on April in the early part of the movie is odd considering she has little to do in the rest of the movie.

While it’s not clear exactly where the changes took place, it seems the original script may have been quite a bit darker, but also far more stream-lined.

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The Cast (or what’s left of it)

It’s worth mentioning that while Danny Woodburn and Pete Ploszek did motion capture work for Splinter and Leonardo respectively, but they were dubbed over in post by Tony Shaloub and Johnny Knoxville.  Shaloub/Woodburn’s Splinter is very interesting.  Splinter is much harder on the Turtles than in other movies, though this would match his modern cartoon persona a bit more.  Nevertheless, he’s far more interesting in fight scenes than previous films, as his tail does some unexpected things.

William Fitchner’s Eric Sacks chews only the appropriate amount of scenery — as in enough to make us believe he’s crazy.  Whoopi Goldberg gets one scene where she gets to look at a crazy white girl.  Minae Noji and Tohuro Masamune were wasted with the roles of Karai and Shredder since we barely see them do much of anything in the movie.

However, I found myself in a conundrum as the character most useless to the script happens to be the biggest saving grace of the film.  Vernon Fenwick is completely devoid of purpose to the point that forcing his presence throughout the film gives April’s character even less to do.  However, Will Arnett’s performance is easily one of the best in the movie.  He’s rather crude, but in a charming way that carries the first act.  Because he has no actual significance to the plot, he doesn’t get the chance to be irritating either.

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Rating – 3

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) is a movie with many problems.  Unlike most other Turtles excursions though, it has a distinct story progression that concludes without too many unanswered questions.  It falls short of the original, because it still doesn’t have the charm or depth of character to the turtles, likely because it spends too little time with them.  I also rank it below TMNT (2007), as the new film lacks any deep emotional core that it’s precursor had.

In conclusion, this is not a Turtles’ film I would watch all the time, but it’s good for every now and then.

 

This film is getting a sequel sometime in the near future as well.  I’m not holding my breath for it to be any better, but perhaps we’ll see that one when we go back to the Sewers.

Unlock Run: Subspace Emmissary Unlock Toon Link

The Grand Finale as we unlock the final illusive character…

Unlock Run: Subspace Emissary Unlock Jigglypuff

Who knew getting a pink puff-ball would be so hard!

Unlock Run: Subspace Emissary Unlock Wolf

Subspace Emissary initial run was completed but we still have characters missing.  Time to go get Wolf!