Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
UK Release: 17/10/2014
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Johnny Knoxville
It’s perhaps one of the most divisive kids films in recent years, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings those beloved heroes in a half shell back to the big screen. However, if you thought living in the sewers was tough, their biggest battle is yet to come – winning over an audience who grew up watching the Saturday morning cartoons.
It’s an idea that sprang up from a quick doodle by comic creator Kevin Eastman… but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soon became a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, the name is where the similarities end. If you were expecting a wise-cracking, goofy reboot of the much-loved cartoons, you’re going to be sorely mistaken.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles starts out with a rather stylish animated sequence that’s plucked directly from the likes of ‘Kung Fu Panda’. And while it certainly does away with the need to lavish any backstory (handy for the younger audiences who might not be familiar with the Turtles) it’s not particularly original.
Unfortunately, the originality of its opening few moments really sets the tone for the entire film. It’s a disappointing movie to say the least… and whereas director Jonathan Liebesman could have relished the goofy, hammy nature of the cartoons and original movie, it’s his attempt to make the Turtles gritty that really tips the film over the edge.
I mean, let’s face it – they’re giant mutant turtles who practice martial arts. And are also teenagers. And while there are a couple of truly funny jokes, the rest of the movie seems to be struggling with itself. On one hand, it’s desperate to shed the over-the-top nature of the comic books and cartoons.
You only have to look at the more ‘realistic’ CGI to see that. But equally it manages to undermine itself with bad jokes and human characters that are more cartoony than the Turtles themselves.
Now, if you’ve been following the development of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’ll be happy to know that their origin story remains fairly similar to the original. In this incarnation, they’re test subjects in a lab who have been exposed to a mutagen… and then set free into the sewers of New York after a lab fire.
That may not seem particularly important, but after rumours that they would actually be alien in origin, it’s nice to know that the studio didn’t go that far in reimagining the Turtles. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the plot is particularly awful…
Megan Fox stars as plucky reporter April O’Neal, who becomes embroiled in a sort-of-conspiracy after attempting to report gang activity of the Foot Clan – a nefarious clan of evil-doers intent on… well… doing evil stuff. And with a long and convoluted history that ties April to the origin of the Turtles themselves, it’s all just a bit too convenient.
That said, the actual storyline is paper thin at best… and at times, you have to wonder to what extent the plot is simply tacking together various action sequences. And don’t get us started on the villains.
Obviously, Shredder makes an appearance. But this time around, he’s a hulking martial arts master in an over-the-top robotic suit that just so happens to have all the knives from his local steakhouse welded onto the gauntlets. Oh and they can be fired like big, pointy missiles too. And pulled back with some kind of magic magnet. Not that any of this is remotely explained.
Still, the action is explosive and continuous – the kind of thing that often proves to be like catnip to young boys of a certain age. But as for any substance, that’s few and far between.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible film. The action plods along at a pace that feels entirely appropriate, and it doesn’t suffer the recent blockbuster shortcoming of making a three hour movie when an hour and a half will do. But if you were expecting an epic new instalment in the Turtles franchise, you’ll be sorely disappointed.