Saturday, 28 February 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I grew up watching and loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the original cartoon TV series that started in 1987 and ran for a total of 10 seasons. Alongside Transformers, Thundercats and Return to the Planet of the Apes (I know, I was a boring kid, alright?), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a cartoon I'd watch every Saturday morning with a bowl of Sugar Puffs. Of course, the Turtles didn't originate from this TV show, but rather from the Kevin Eastman and  Peter Laird 1984 comic book of the same name. Since it's creation there have been various incarnations of the Turtles on TV, in movies, games and comics. However, after a trilogy of movies in the 90's and one back in 2007, the series has been reboot once again for the big screen. But with a name like Michael Bay attached to the project, is it any good or does it squander the massive amount of potential the franchise offers up?


Directed by Jonathan Liebesman and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a movie I completely expected to be complete crap, but ended up being, well, just barely OK. Though I forget quite a lot about the Turtles and their origin story, I'm pretty sure most of it remains intact here. The movies main human character is April O'Neil, a spunky news reporter played by Megan Fox, which for anyone who knew the April from the TV show, will see this as the worst casting of all time. Anyway, April is looking into the rise of the Foot Clan; a mysterious gang that are on the rise in New York City, and who are led by Shredder, a badass dude in a giant mechanical samurai suit. On one of her excursions out to find out more about the Foot Clan, April stumbles upon the four Turtles- Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello, who are anthropomorphic mutant vigilantes who kick ass and eat pizza, and not always in that order. The story hits a lot of familiar ground, especially when it comes to the baddies master-plan, which is essentially to release a harmful toxin into the city to in turn sell the cure  at a high price. Been there, done that. 


Like I said, I expected it to be terrible, and it kind of is, but not completely. One thing they pretty much nailed here are the personalities of the Turtles themselves. Though I could go on for a long time about the genuinely hideous designs of the Turtles, they all come across like they should. Leonardo is still the strong, respectful leader type, Raphael is still the rough and tumble brute (well, a little too much here but whatever), Donatello remains the techy nerd of the bunch, while Michelangelo is the funny guy, and the Turtle that's always up for a good time. Their personalities reflect their look too, as instead of the Turtles looking different simply in terms of bandanna colour and weapon, Leonardo has remnants of armour on his body, Raphael has shades and a toothpick, Michelangelo has a hoodie tied around his waist and Donatello has goggles and headphones on his head. They might be overly designed at times, but these are still the Turtles well all know and love.

The problems come about outside of anything that has to do with the Turtles and their fun and cheeky dialogue between each other. Megan Fox drags the movie down as April, as though I'm sure Michael Bay thought she fit perfectly into the world of Transformers, she just seems bizarrely miscast here as the sweet and reliable April. Hell, compared to Fox even Will Arnett's casting as Vern Fenwick seems masterful, who bumbles his way from scene to scene playing the nebbish, snooty and annoying cameraman alongside April. The action falls in line with what Michael Bay set in place for Transformers too, as though he merely produced this movie, his visual style, particularly during the action scenes, stinks its way through the movie. From lens flare, ultra high contrast visuals, cameras that move fast ans shake as if to avoid the action on screen and, of course, slow motion, Bay's fingerprints are all over this shit. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the action for what it was and the fact that it featured Leonardo going toe-to-toe with Shredder himself, but it just came across too glossy, confusing and overcooked.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is fun, but though I'll admit that the makers of the movie did a great job with the Turtles themselves, the movie these characters inhabit is far too mundane, run-of-the-mill and boring to warrant this reboot. I wanted Turtles that looked like the Turtles I loved when I was a kid. I wanted an April O'Neil that wasn't just a botoxed bimbo. I wanted a Shredder that didn't look like a Transformer and was voiced by James Avery. I wanted action that wasn't obscured by crazy camera movements. I got none of this. Instead I got a generic yet watchable take on the franchise.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is recovering from a pizza induced food baby and gets a 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Denis Murphy


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