Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a good movie (and I seem to dislike it far less than most, just read Nick’s review here). There are a handful of positive reviews floating around out there, but even those are far from glowing. Still, some movies are critic proof, and it certainly appears that Jonathan Liebesman’s franchise reboot is one of them. The film dominated the box office last night, earning an estimated $25.6 million, which puts it on pace to bring in more than $60 million for the weekend.
Compared to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which earned $94 million last weekend, that may not sound overly impressive, but considering that one film has been almost universally praised, while the other almost universally panned, that’s an accomplishment (Guardians sits at a 92% “Fresh” rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while TMNT sits at 20%.) The Heroes in a Half Shell’s take more than doubled that of Guardians last night—the space adventure added $12.5 million, which puts in on pace for a $45 million weekend, a serious drop off after it’s record-breaking opening.
Given the troubles with the movie, Paramount has to be pleased with these results. Not only did critics brutalize TMNT, but during the build up there was wide public outcry over changes to many elements of the film, especially the appearance of the Turtles themselves (they have more humanoid noses), and their origin story (they were created in a lab, but at least they weren’t aliens, like in one early draft of the script). Up until recently, there were even rumors circulating that the release could be delayed for reshoots, though that situation never materialized. So dethroning a movie that hit as big as Guardians can only be viewed as a significant win.
More than anything, this just seems to prove, once again, that no matter how much hype or ire the Internet produces, nerds like us who read movie websites can’t carry or sink a movie. Movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, another film with dismal reviews, do things like earn a billion dollars worldwide (it’s the first one this year to break that mark), while something like Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, which generated tons of positive buzz building up to the release, totally tanks. Critical response can make or break smaller movies—Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer are examples of good reviews impacting box office returns—but when it comes to big studio tent poles, that’s not necessarily the case. (I don’t care who Johnny Depp blames, everyone knew that The Lone Ranger was a total piece of shit, movie snob or otherwise, and that is why no one went to see it.)
Glass half full, if Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is profitable enough to justify a sequel, we might see Rocksteady and Bebop. And if you want to see the best scene from the movie, without actually having to sit through it, here it is, because the studio released it as a clip.