Whilst long time fans of the Turtles legacy – be it the animated series of the late 80s/early 90s or the original 1990 live-action movie - will likely balk reflexively at the sheer mention of Michael Bay’s involvement (he produces here rather than directs), the truth of the matter is that this new film version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t quite the train-wreck one may have expected it to have been.
Granted it isn’t a great film either – just a thoroughly average one.
The background to the story is hastily summed up in the opening moments (assuming familiarity on behalf of the audience) and yet there have been some considerable changes in this version. The turtles themselves are hulking and grotesque - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - and their scarred, brutish bodies are more realistic (as far as the concept a mutated walking and talking turtle goes) and are also physically differentiated from each other in stature rather than just by their colours and personality.
The CG is well realised and looks surprisingly good in motion, especially commendable considering that much of the latter half of the film is presented in broad daylight rather than choosing the obvious (and easier) option of perpetually obscuring their forms in shadow. The encounters with arch villain The Shredder (a cross between Bay’s Megatron and a Swiss Army knife) are fun - though short lived - and the exhilarating downhill truck sequence ends up being the film’s highlight.
These are undeniably 'Teenage Mutant Turtles', however those expecting their fill of Ninjutsu will be sorely disappointed. Aside the aforementioned encounters with The Shredder, there is a distinct lack of martial arts; a big factor contributing to this is the result of the Foot Clan being just a bunch of mercenaries with guns. It’s dull and unimaginative – much like the overarching plot, which ends up with the villain’s master plan being eerily similar to that of the risible 2012 reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Megan Fox (as April O’Neil) takes centre stage in the first third of the movie with a crazed desperation (she’s not a terrible actress, just unimpressive), the mere casting of William Fichtner results in a huge ‘villain’ signpost appearing above his head as soon as he appears onscreen, Whoopi Goldberg phones it in, and voice-work from Johnny Knoxville barely registers. Only Will Arnett regularly receives laughs as affable cameraman Fenwick and it’s a blessing that he gets more screen time as the film goes on.
All in all, this new iteration of the popular Turtles franchise is not a total disaster, certainly not to the point where fanboys need rage on about it (as predicted when the project was first announced); it’s just not that great of a film either. Although thuddingly unimaginative in parts, a plethora of Turtles references and a handful of fun sequences make this just about watchable.
16th October 2014