Genre: Action, Adventure
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Johnny Knoxville
The road has not been easy for everyone’s favourite pizza loving heroes-in-a-half-shell. Every new announcement brought with it a vociferous outrage from purists and fans alike. From Michael Bay’s involvement, to the turtles rumoured re-imagined extra-terrestrial origin, to Megan Fox, to the bulky CGI design of the turtles themselves, it seemed that Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman’s new take on the wildly successful franchise was doomed to fail.
But with over an estimated three hundred million dollar gross worldwide, and a sequel already in the works, it seemed that the world was to embrace this absurdly popular franchise once again.
This time, unlike the rubbery Jim Henson creatures from the trilogy of films from the 90s, this latest iteration of the franchise comes complete with state of the art CGI turtles, a robotic Shredder (straight out of Bay’s own Transformers franchise it would seem), and a sense of gravitas and high production values, and enough wit and humour to please all the eight-year-old boys in the audience. For this is a film aimed strictly at the kids. It’s a film that feels designed as an extended toy commercial, which is not surprising considering this is a film about four pizza loving mutant turtles who also happen to have been trained by a mutant rat in the art of Ninjutsu.
The story itself is, once again, an origin story, but not necessarily the origin story that you’ve probably heard about. No, the turtles are not aliens, but no doubt the new rebranded origin will annoy purists. The first half of the story follows Megan Fox’s fashion and style reporter, April O’Neill, trying to make a name for herself as a serious journalist.
It takes April around thirty minutes to stumble upon our gang of mutated reptiles, after which, she learns that she may have a bigger connection to the creation of the turtles themselves. Yes, while the turtles newly rebooted origin story is not extra-terrestrial in nature, purists may have a hard time with the insanely coincidental nature of April’s connection to the turtles themselves.
However, coincidence matters not when it comes to turtles, as lets face it, that’s not why you’re here. The turtles themselves are actually pretty sophisticated creations, with fans being pleased to know that all the turtles’ distinct personalities are intact. Unfortunately though, that’s as far as it goes.
Despite some glimmers of hope in the mostly mo-cap performances (Noel Fisher as Michelangelo is the standout), the turtles characterization fails to stretch beyond their basic surface personality, rendering them nothing more than overblown CGI action figures.
The human characters fare less than their CGI counterparts, with Megan Fox doing her best but ultimately coming across as dull and expressionless, while Will Arnett as April’s cameraman Verne, seems neutered as the not-so-funny-sidekick, while William Fichtner is clearly awaiting his pay check.
Therein lies the problem. The film is so tailor-made to its base commercialism, that it forgot that it was an actual movie. At one point, a character even goes on to describe the ingredients of Pizza Hut’s latest recipe…
Despite a couple of nifty action set-pieces such as mountaintop chase and a Splinter/Shredder smack-down, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is completely devoid of any heart or soul, reeking of the worst kind of commercialism imaginable.
Still, it could be worse, it could be Transformers.