#REVIEW: “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
One of my obsessions as a child of the early 1990s was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved the Movies, watched the original 1987 TV Series religiously, had many of the toys and played the Arcade Game on my NES for hours on-end. My favourite Character was Michelangelo because he was just an awesome Dude. While the Movies have had trouble standing the test of time (watch The Secret of the Ooze again and see if anything other than the Ninja Rap holds up), I still have fond memories of the four Mutant Turtles.
So it goes without saying that Michael Bay producing a Live-Action Reboot (coming out the same year as the series celebrates its 30th anniversary no less) made me a little apprehensive. And while it is not the colossal train wreck the original rumours and trailers suggested, this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is only a partial step in the right direction.
April (Megan Fox) wants to find her big story for Channel 6 News, and is trying to get to the bottom of a crime spree by the Gang terrorizing New York City – The Foot Clan. While investigating, she witnesses a strange looking vigilante break up a robbery. And then later sees four of these same vigilantes save a train platform filled with hostages. She discovers their identities as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – four six-foot tall mutated Turtles who have perfected their Martial Arts skills and live secretly in the sewers beneath the city. And with The Foot’s leader Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) slowly rising to power, their secret lives are about to change.
The look of the Turtles’ faces was a point of contention for many Fans after the first Trailers premiered, myself included. But after seeing the Film, I cannot imagine why it was ever a problem. Coupled with impressive CGI, this is the best these Characters have ever looked. They are highly detailed, and watching them in action – especially against the Shredder – is simply spectacular. Kudos to Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello) and Pete Ploszek (Leonardo) for their excellent Motion- Capture work. They all do pretty wonderful voice work as well, minus Ploszek who was inexplicably replaced recently by an almost unrecognizable Johnny Knoxville. While I am not a fan of the look of the Turtles’ Sensei/Father Splinter, Danny Woodburn and Tony Shalhoub give equally great performances as the Motion Capture and voice of the famous Rat.
Sadly, alongside their Human Co-stars, no one seems to have any real time to develop their Characters. Once the Film gets moving, it never stops until the Credits roll. While this is a welcome change compared to a large number of other Films released this Summer (including Bay’s own Transformers: Age of Extinction), it dramatically stunts just about every scene in the Film. Any time we even get a hint of development, the Film begins moving in another direction entirely. When Fox looks like she is struggling with the lack of material, something is seriously wrong. I was excited to see William Fichtner chew-up the scenery, but he does barely anything outside of explaining the ridiculous plan for City-wide domination. At least Will Arnett gets to ham it up as her Cameraman Vernon Fenwick, providing some much needed, non-Pop Culture-infused Comic Relief.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no Masterpiece by any stretch. Despite being directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it is plagued by Bay-isms like exaggerated Slow Motion, blatant product placements, ill-advised goofy humour and explosions for the sake of explosions (but surprisingly Fox is not overly objectified). But thankfully, the Film exceeds expectations. The revised origins are interesting and not awful, and the Turtles are all wonderfully acted and captured on-screen. And somehow, the Film manages to entertain mostly. It could have been better, but I am more than content with the final Product. So let the nostalgia wash over you, enjoy the thinly-veiled references and try not to pick the Film to pieces. The fact that the Film does not deliberately set-up its sequel is more than enough reason to enjoy the ride. Cowabunga, Dude.
Paramount Pictures Canada release TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES on Friday, August 8, 2014.