Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

teenagemutantninjaturtles*SPOILERS*

Producer Michael Bay and Director Jonathan Liebesman (but really Producer Michael Bay) are proud to present their bold reimagining of…”The Amazing Spider-Man”. No, seriously – it’s the exact same story and pretty much the same set pieces, only this time the mutated reptiles are the good guys.

I’ve no special nostalgic attachment to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” unlike another Michael Bay property I could mention *cough* Transformers *cough*. I remember them exploding into the maintstream in the late eighties, enjoyed the cartoon and saw their first cinematic outing (I’m not sure I ever bothered with the sequels) so I came into this film mildly curious and generally open minded. The creature design of the turtles is okay, but is constantly scrambling not to fall into the uncanny valley while Splinter is a little too realistically rat-like to be sympathetic. Shredder has certainly received an upgrade this time round, and appears to be a joint venture between Stark Enterprises and Edward Scissorhands.

The plot, concerning a blood-borne mutagen which the turtles possess and the Foot clan require to carry out their plan to unleash a deadly toxin across New York by spreading it atmospherically from the top of the villain’s personal skyscraper is so close to the plot of Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” that I suspect nothing more than Ctrl+H was used in the writing of this movie. Even the convenient retconning of the Turtle’s origins to involve April O’Neil and one of the bad guys in their origin is straight from the 2012 Marvel movie’s playbook of having everyone and everything closely connected.

As I said, I’m no expert on the nuances of the Turtle’s characters but I sure don’t remember Michelangelo being such an annoying douchebag in any previous incarnation of the franchise. The rest of the group are essayed with all the subtlety you’d expect from Michael Bay so Donatello is a twice-bespectacled nerd, Raphael is a ‘roid-enraged meathead bully and Leonardo is the leader.

Of the human cast, William Fichtner plays a scientist who might as well be called Dr Exposition as his chief function seems to be explaining to other characters why things are happening and what needs to happen next. Megan Fox brings the same committed, realistic performance to this as she did in her “Transformers” outings and, given the amount of green screen work, may not have realised she wasn’t still making those films. There is a scene right at the end where she has to smile longer than any sane human would under any circumstances for one of those ending shots films are so fond of and while her mouth may be curled up in a smile; her eyes speak of a soul destroyed by the vapid nature of her art. The perennially unlikeable (in person but aces as a voice artist) Will Arnett plays Vernon Fenwick, April’s would-be suitor and rival reporter. The whole thing is overlaid with a veneer of sleaziness and the most middle-aged white man infused hip-hop dialogue you can imagine while all too often it mistakes dumb for funny when it comes to humour.

I know it sounds like I hated it, but there were some decent points. There are some fun sequences and the action is decent and well-choreographed with a snow-based chase sequence particularly well done (although I couldn’t help wondering how effective cold-blooded reptiles would be after prolonged exposure to snow). Overall it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Michael Bay – crunching vehicles and egregious slow mo. It’s a disappointing return to the big screen for the renaissance inspired ninjas. Mertmas enjoyed it, though, and I suspect it will do gangbusters in its target demographic of the 12 and unders but the mums and dads dragged along might just spend more time checking their phone battery’s power than indulging in a bit of nostalgic turtle power.

5/10 Score 5

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This is what I hear in my head every time someone mentions Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

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