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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Review
October 17, 2014
Walking into a screening of the latest incarnation of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s creation Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I was preparing myself for absolutely the worst. Whilst I don’t despise Michael Bay with the vehement passion that many seem to, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and this summer’s Transformers: Age of Extinction are absolutely unforgivable sins in filmmaking, most particularly the latter.
Bay has once more turned his attentions to resurrecting a successful kids TV/ film franchise from the 80’s/ 90’s, but stepping out from behind the camera this time around. Surely, handing the reigns over to Jonathan Liebesman is a wise move from the much-maligned money-maker.
Like Transformers, almost all of us know some version of the “heroes in a half-shell”, whether it be from the original comics, the 80’s cartoon series, the 90’s live-action movies or the spectacularly awful Fox Kids show Ninja Turtles: The Next Generation, we have all seen them before and know roughly what to expect.
Not deviating too far from the original mythos, the 2014 reboot tells the story of “fluff” news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) who is desperately trying to move into more serious journalism with her rogue reports on the Foot Clan, an underground group causing havoc on the streets of New York through what mostly seems like rather petty crime.
When chasing down a lead one night, April encounters Foot Clan activity, which is promptly thwarted by some masked vigilantes. April soon discovers the identity of these heroes as…a group of enormous, genetically engineered turtle brothers. With no one believing her story, April and her co-worker Vern (Will Arnett) join up with the turtles to stop the sinister plan of big baddie Shredder and his crop of henchmen.
The basic, and very well-recycled plot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is actually a plus point in its favour. Yes, it bears a very strong resemblance to the plot of 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man (think about it and you’ll spot quite a few more comparisons throughout), but it gives the audience a very clear idea of who is good and who is bad.
There’s no messing around, with tired sub-plots about daddy issues or lost love that seem to continually beleaguer the protagonists of superhero films, and whilst I’m not saying that others in this genre shouldn’t have them, it just wouldn’t suit the childish and more family-friendly tone of the turtles.
Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty’s script (did it really need that many people to write?) isn’t exactly going to win any Oscars, and hits quite a few snags on cliché lines, but it is light-hearted and, at times, really funny. Of course, Mikey will be most people’s favourite turtle, bagging all the best lines, but it is Will Arnett as Vern who is the absolute standout from this film.
The similarities with The Amazing Spider-Man come to a grinding halt at the human lead, Megan Fox. It would be more appropriate to put a cardboard cutout of Megan Fox in front of the camera, with a slightly open-mouthed expression and a light but deep breathing noise box attached, as that appears to be as far as her acting ability can stretch in this film.
Destruction is kept remarkably low for a Michael Bay picture, with plenty of CGI ninja fighting going on which, looking back, now appears as one strange blur and pretty much indiscernible. Like a lot of computer-generated action sequences, it all comes off a little soulless and boring.
The best set-piece is definitely reserved for the snowy mountain sequence which is actually quite a lot of fun with some good quips added to break up the action. The main disappointment character-wise is Shredder. Not developed in any way at all, he’s more just a big CGI suit for the CGI rat and CGI turtles to have showdowns with, and generally plays second fiddle to the adequate William Fitchner.
I’d go as far as to say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is unworthy of the battering it has taken from critics. Sure, Bay never reaches the heights of the first Transformers movie, and most certainly lacks any heart or creativity, but it’s still a pretty fun, action-packed ride that will please the kids and is no worse than quite a few of the other incarnations of the turtles over the years.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is out in UK cinemas on October 17th