Director: Jonathan Liebesman Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett & William Fichtner Synopsis: The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Rating: 12A Runtime: 101 minutes
“Mysterious. Dangerous. Reptilious. You’ve never seen heroes like this.”
There is a scene late on in this reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where our heroes discover they are effectively bulletproof. As the villainous foot clan attempt to take them down with machine guns, the Turtles simply deflect their bullets using their shells, even to the extent where one of them turns around and literally fires the bullets back in a scene of pure Hulk like rage. And it was here that I learnt that the film itself is bulletproof, in a critical sense anyway. It’s here that you discover that producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman don’t care what anybody thinks. All the “haters” and all the people who appreciate storytelling and characterisation don’t matter here, as the director and producer set about making a film targeted mostly at young people, with some fan service, for those of us old enough to remember the original films and cartoons, thrown in for good measure.
Therefore, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles becomes an incredibly hard film to review from a critical standpoint. A film featuring four mutant turtles brought up by their adoptive father, who happens to be a rat, and are taught the art of ninjitsu in order to fight crime doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny, and is perhaps better suited to its comic book origins. It’s a concept of the highest order, and is the definition of silly. Not only do we have four turtles who can walk and talk, but they also apparently work out, a lot, eat pizza and make some cute pop culture references. It’s a hard sell, unless you’re a child, or you grew up with the franchise that is.
I am firmly in the latter camp, and I feel I went into this screening purely for nostalgia sake. I did indeed grow up with the Ninja Turtles. I had the toys, I watched the cartoon and the films were high art for me. Would I have seen this film if it weren’t for some mild attempt at reclaiming my youth? Perhaps not. This became something of a problem for me when it came to reviewing the film. I got all the references to the previous films and cartoons, I enjoyed the gags, and, despite the bodybuilder look of the Turtles, I enjoyed the characters and their interplay with each other.
On the other hand, the film is incredibly stupid, like Transformers stupid. April O’Neil (Megan Fox), who is actually not bad for a change, and who, despite being the only reporter in New York who doesn’t sit behind her desk, and actually goes out seeking stories seems to have no credibility in her office. While the villains plan of taking over New York is so convoluted and has been done a million times before, in fact it feels like the same sort of ending they attempted in The Amazing Spider-Man. As with most films that have Michael Bay involved, things happen and go unexplained, characters appear and disappear with no reason and the audience gets the obligatory shot of Megan Fox’s bum.
Jonathan Liebesman seems to have taken his cues from Michael Bay, and it seems as if he is the director to step into projects when Bay is too busy to do so. The action can be very blurry at times. There is one scene taking place in the Turtles home, when it gets invaded by the Foot Clan and Shredder which is edited so quickly that it becomes hard to tell what is really going on. While some of the fights and stunts are so poorly choreographed, that the film would have benefited more from sticking a guy in a rubber suit instead of creating a big cgi blur.
Despite this, I have to admit that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t all that bad. The Turtles, while not entirely fleshed out, feel like they have actual personalities and aren’t restricted to being side shows like the Autobots and Decepticons so often are. There is an exciting chase down a snowy mountainside, and there’s just enough here to make things feel fun, and like you are not completely wasting your time.
In summary: Some people may feel like they’ve been here before, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles attempts to do nothing new, but what it does do, it does moderately well, and that makes for an entertaining ride, if an incredibly stupid one.