New York City has been terrorised for years by the ‘Foot Clan’, a gang of criminals led by the evil Shredder. When reporter, April O’Neil, witnesses some Foot Clan activity, she sees a group of vigilantes making a stand against them. After investigating, she discovers that these fighters are giant mutated turtles, led by their master, a mutated rat called Splinter. With the Foot Clan plotting to release a deadly virus throughout the city, April and the turtles race to stop them but their inexperience threatens to be their downfall – can they realise their potential or will Shredder prove to be too powerful for them to defeat?       

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) – Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 101 mins

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner

Genre: Action/Adventure

REVIEW

Produced by Michael Bay, the man who brought the Transformer’s movies back to the big screen for modern audiences, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is based on the 1980’s children’s cartoon series of the same name. The eponymous heroes are four young mutant turtles, named after Renaissance painters (Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael) who fight crime with the help of reporter, April O’Neil. Perhaps as a reflection of the movie’s perception of its target audience it is disappointing that what was fine for children of the 80s is here shortened throughout the movie (Leo, Raph, Donny and Mikey) and their full names are only used a few times as a token gesture. We could argue that this is symptomatic of the movie itself!

With the success of the Transformers franchise, especially as the fourth instalment has been released in the same year, expectations have been high for this reboot which may lead into a franchise for the wise cracking reptiles. The humour may not be to everybody’s taste but it is by no means a bad movie especially as it seems to know its target audience of teenage boys. The plot is let down by some weak characterisation (it is a shame that the intelligent member of the group, Donatello, is specifically portrayed as a nerd – as opposed to the tinkering inventor characterisation in the original series – with taped up spectacles to complete his look) and rather large leaps of logic. It is far-fetched that Splinter has become a martial arts master from reading a short magazine with pictures of a few moves! But these are details that can easily be overlooked for the sheer spectacle of all the fights and explosions.

The pacing is a little odd, there are a few plot points that are dropped suddenly and it is sometimes unclear how one scene moves to the next and overall, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is unlikely to be enjoyable to many people outside of the target audience but for a young person’s action movie and possibly for those wanting a nostalgia trip, this is a film that is both funny and exciting in equal measure.

IS ‘TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

At the headquarters of the Foot Clan, a man is kneeling on the floor and has his hands tied behind his back. One of the Foot Clan members approaches him menacingly but the man on the floor frees himself and quickly subdues the other man, beating him badly until he is unconscious.

Reporter, April O’Neil, is desperate to become a serious journalist and this ambition causes her to put herself in danger when lots of people are seen running away from a seemingly dangerous situation. Searching for the reason why these people are fleeing, April goes to an empty subway station and, when attempting to hide, she is suddenly grabbed by a henchman of the Foot Clan. The following scene is very threatening and the Foot Clan place devices on the walls next to the hostages which look like bombs (although what they are is never clearly explained); one character is heard to say that they will ‘start executing hostages’.

April eventually comes face to face with the turtles but they appear to be quite threatening. A couple of them have more friendly natures but Raphael in particular is very menacing which scares April and, as they haven’t been properly introduced to the movie at this point, they could come across as quite frightening for younger children. After the first meeting, April receives a message to meet them alone, when she gets there they tell her that they are going to take her to somewhere else and put a hood over her head to ensure that she doesn’t know where she is going. Although she does not seem overly afraid, some children may be a little distressed by this, especially as there is no lead up to it.

The character of Shredder is likely to be very scary for younger viewers. His face is always partly concealed by shadows so it is impossible to see what he really looks like and he speaks with a deep, booming voice which is very menacing. For the majority of the movie he wears a suit of armour which has several large blades that can fly out; he is a very powerful and aggressive fighter and is much more skilled than any of the turtles who are young and inexperienced in fighting opponents like him. There are many occasions where it is unclear whether the turtles will survive and there is a fight between Shredder and Raphael which becomes very intense and lasts for several minutes.

When at the Foot Clan’s lair, one of the main villains wishes to demonstrate the virus and does so on one of his henchmen. He forces a mask onto the man’s face, he struggles but then collapses onto the floor. There is then a short close up of a small section of his face (most of his face is covered with a balaclava) which is covers in red and bloody sores; he is obviously dead at this point.

Several of the turtles are captured by the Foot Clan and there are several mentions in the dialogue about their blood being drained from their bodies and that it doesn’t matter if this kills them. They are then shown to be in large tanks with tubes connected to their bodies; their blood is being drained and they appear to be very weak and unable to fight when they are needed.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is not a movie that will appeal to the masses however its embrace of the source material (despite a few changes/updates) makes it a perfectly entertaining and watchable film for those who want to see a story about mutant turtles! The majority of the action is child friendly but due to a few stronger moments, we feel that this movie should be appropriate for most kids aged 7 and over.

  • Violence: 2/5
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (There is a situation where it seems that the turtles are going to die and Raphael, who is very hard on the rest of the group most of the time opens up and explains his attitude. This is quite touching and could be a little emotional but shouldn’t be distressing in any way)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (Shredder is very threatening and most scenes that include him could be quite scary for younger children. The turtles could also be a little frightening when they are first introduced to the story, especially as kids are likely to expect them to be more child-friendly from the start)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (April leans out of the window of a truck and a male colleague initially tries to stop her but when he notices that she is bending over and wearing tight jeans (which accentuates her bottom) he encourages her to continue. A very short scene during the end credits shows two of the turtles leaping across buildings. They stop on a billboard of a woman in lingerie so that their shells cover each side of her bra, one of the turtles looks approvingly at the other who scowls before they continue on their way)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (infrequent mild cursing and blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (Shredder tells one of his people to use innocent people as bait, some sexual dialogue including one turtle saying that he can feel his ‘shell tightening’ when he sees April, he constantly calls her ‘hot’ and is convinced that she is his girlfriend despite her showing no interest in him. There is also some violent dialogue including ‘did you see that guy’s jaw connect with the concrete?’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of teamwork, family, believing in oneself, confronting an enemy that is stronger than you, courage and tenacity.

Words by Laura Record

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