Seven years ago, the animated and just as creatively titled “TMNT” was released. Since then, the Turtles have laid low (on the big screen). However, when the time came for them to return, it was not without controversy in the chaotic realm people call the “Interwebs”. Apparently, “Producer: Michael Bay” and rumours of a change to the turtles’ origins to what would have been “Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles” can really piss people off. The choice of director, Jonathan Liebesman, who had previously worked on movies such as “Battle: Los Angeles” and “Wrath of The Titans”, didn’t exactly instill confidence in the hearts of half-shell obsessed fanboys either. Whether it’s anger or excitement, there’s simply no changing the fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back and they look more like LL Cool J than ever before.
What’s it all about?:
Shredder’s Foot Clan has exerted an iron grip over the city with intimidation and crime. Megan Fox plays April O’Neil, a budding reporter eager to prove herself to her bosses. Out on a trip to gather more information about the Clan, she witnesses an attack that is halted by a shadowy figure, a vigilante. No prizes for guessing who that is. (Hint: Read the title of the movie.) April and the LL Cool Turtles soon become the city’s only hope against Shredder and his diabolical schemes.
FUN: First things first, “TMNT” is a very fun movie. At the very least, they’ve got the right tone and it’s not an unnecessary “grim and gritty” reboot of yet another 90s cartoon property. Bright, colourful and filled to the brim with jokes, mainly from Michelangelo and April’s cameraman Vern Fenwick, played by Will Arnett… one can’t deny that the movie tries hard to entertain.
CGI: Despite the weird redesigns of the Turtles into six feet tall, Incredible Hulk-like LL Cool J mocapped behemoths… the CGI looks and feels fitting. The live-action mocap integration seems to have worked well as the turtles move naturally, with lots of fluidity in their movements.
Not so cool:
However, that’s about it for the good stuff. Even though it’s not technically a Michael Bay film, a trio of problems associated with his work (especially the Transformer films) rear their ugly head here. Presenting the UNHOLY TRINITY OF MICHAEL BAY(-ESQUE) FILM SINS.
No Turtles in this scene? Yawn…: Firstly, the human characters are kinda “meh”. It’s not that Megan Fox, Will Arnett or William Fitchner give bad performances. And no, they didn’t make me want to jump on screen and kick them in the face like Shia LeBeouf did. They just failed to elicit any reaction from me at all. Fox’s April O’Neil in particular, has her character rewritten from her usual role in the comics and cartoons to form a history and connection with the Turtles, which just makes it feel a little too convenient.
Talk, don’t show. Wait… it’s the other way around?: There is also a drab amount of exposition in this movie. Instead of showing us the interesting bits, Liebsman instead elects to simply tell us. Want to see how the Turtles handle their powers? Nah. They’ll tell you and then show you a short training montage instead. Even the dreaded bad guy “reveal my masterplan” monologue makes an appearance. It’s just bad scripting throughout the entire movie. An ultra convoluted plot that’ll have you shaking your head doesn’t help either, you end up wishing that they had dropped the complicated plot and focused more on the Turtles instead.
ADD Action Sequences: Even though most of the action sequences are great, there are a few sequences in the movie where the camera work just completely overwhelms the viewer. In the sequence where the Turtles are seen for the first time, it’s an explosion of light that almost threatens to give everyone in the theater a seizure, regardless of the fact that you’re not sensitive to light at all. There are also handheld, shaky moments that bring back nightmares of the “Bourne” series. Moving on, Shredder also looks like an even worse version of the Silver Samurai suit from last year’s “The Wolverine” and even the villain’s master plan for domination is reminiscent of that from other movies. It’s almost as if it was a generic parody of “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Batman Begins” put together.
In the end, it’s sadly a bad script and the filmmakers’ lack of integrity with the treatment of the characters in the screenplay that sink this movie. The seemingly casual bending of their characters to fit the needs of mind boggling plot makes the movie feel disposable and that’s something amazing looking shots and characters won’t be able to overcome anytime soon. That being said, your 9-year old kid will probably love it, so ignore whatever you’ve just read.