Predictably, the Michael Bay-produced new adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled the box office for the weekend it debut and has already been given the greenlight for a sequel set to be released in Summer 2016 despite being panned by critics. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the epitome of a summer blockbuster with its huge budget, gratuitous special effects, and plot that doesn’t ask for much in terms of brain power from its audience. The audience doesn’t seem to mind that, though, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reveals another big trend among summer blockbusters — moviegoers and critics coming away with vastly different opinions.
The new reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stars Megan Fox as the journalist April O’Neil. Her co-stars are giant CGI bipedal turtles named after Renaissance men who use their ninja skills to defend New York City from a villain called Shredder. Critics complained that the movie was overall boring, not entertaining or even terrible enough to be funny, and the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a pitiful 19 percent rating.
“I had to draw on my own ninja training and reflect intensively on the transitory nature of all phenomena, just to fend off the profound yearning for death,” said Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir. “Not out-and-out terrible enough to be completely dismissed, while also not particularly memorable either, perhaps the truest summation of the film is to say simply that the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a movie that exists,” is what The Los Angeles Times writer Mark Olsen had to say.
Moviegoers, however, seemed to enjoy the film. Audiences gave it a 63 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, according to 81,433 reviews from viewers. The film did an effective job of triggering nostalgia among those who grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, as well as making itself appealing to children who may not have been familiar with the characters before. People were excited enough about the movie that it took number one at the box office, raking in an estimated $65 million during its opening weekend for one of the biggest openings in August ever, according to Box Office Mojo. That success can be attributed to the appeal of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for moviegoers of a wide variety of ages.
Michael Bay’s other big blockbuster this summer, the fourth Transformers movie, employed almost the exact same formula and received almost exactly the same results. The Transformers franchise is built on nostalgia for the popular toys and show, adds a heavy dose of action, and is eaten up by audiences while critics get excited for the opportunity to use their wittiest insults. Transformers: Age of Extinction has an 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among critics, but a 55 percent with audiences, who shelled out $100 million during the movie’s opening weekend to go see it.
A notable exception to the critical hatred of summer blockbusters is the movie that came in at number two during TMNT’s opening weekend: the new Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy. That movie opened at number one when it came out, taking in $94 million during its opening weekend, and critics loved it. Guardians has a 92 percent rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, who praised the film’s irreverent humor as well as its stunning visuals. Audiences, too, were impressed, giving the movie a 96 percent approval rating on the site.
Aside from actually being a good movie, Guardians actually has a lot in common with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that helped contribute to its success with moviegoers — aside from its qualities that made critics like it. The film is based on an old Marvel comic, one of the less popular ones, but still a storyline that some may be familiar with. Others have enough love for Marvel as a whole that they were willing to test out a new story as long as it was coming from Marvel. Guardians, too, got early approval for a sequel, which was announced at Comic-Con before the first film even premiered and is set for a summer 2017 release.
Box Office Mojo noted that it was possible the negative critical reception of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could cut into the movie’s profit down the line, but given that Transformers: Age of Extinction went on to make $242 million while it was in theaters, it seems that critical reception really doesn’t play too much into the financial success of a movie. Viewers enjoy movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that provide mindless action and can please the kids while perhaps reminding them a little of their own childhood, even though such films will never be categorized as good art. Critics don’t really need to tell us that.
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