Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review: The Scourge Of The Movies?
Posted on October 16, 2014
Director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles, Wrath Of The Titans) and producer Michael Bay (Transformers) lazily resurrect the Turtles in this by-numbers blockbuster.
But Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo are a tad more aggressive than fans might remember. Forget the cheery neon-green posters of the 90‘s Turtles movie, Liebesman gives us darkness, squeezing the fun from our mutant heroes who look huge, oafish and gross. In the film’s weirdest move, Michelangelo constantly flirts with a woman who turns out to be his adopted mother (of sorts) while Donatello turns geek with the lazy addition of broken glasses.
Considering this is a Turtles movie, Liebesman spends very little time getting to know the heroes with a half shell. Instead, TMNT follows the standard Bay formula, shoehorning in human characters who help our mutant good guys out.
“There are plenty of things TMNT does better than Transformers: Age Of Extinction”
Original Transformer’s heroine Megan Fox steps in as April – a news reporter searching for an inside angle on the Foot Clan attacks. Violent and genuinely menacing, the hostage-taking Foot Clan assassins prompt the first vigilante response from our teenage heroes. And April’s there to see it. From here the plot twists in circles (including another unlikely connection between April and the Turtles), the Foot Clan hop into the back seat and their leader Shredder takes the wheel.
First introduced as a human warrior, Shredder later takes on a robotic appearance with no apparent explanation. It’s a jarring, flimsy switch. As robot samurai he’s the perfect excuse for annoying whirring metal sound effects, trademark Bay, Transformers circa 2007. Aside from the predictable city carnage, there are a spattering of novel action sequences, namely a snowscape chase scene with rolling trucks and Turtles sledging on their shells.
TMNT has a highly derivative and bland villainous plot throughout, cluttered with bad-guys including a devilish scientist dressed as the Milk Tray Man. Motivations are hazy, failing to shift beyond cartoonish world domination.
TMNT is as shallow as blockbusters come. Writers Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec (both Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and Evan Daugherty (Divergent) make minimal effort to give their film depth. Instead TMNT works a formulaic plot into a loud and dumb comic-book flick reliant on coincidences and inexplicable plot points. But there are plenty of other blockbusters out there following this same lazy routine – take this year’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers Age Of Extinction. Even the vast number of Marvel releases is sowing the seeds of formula lethargy for the future.
“A shallow blockbuster”
TMNT is undoubtedly popcorn fodder but there are plenty of things it does better than Transformers: Age Of Extinction. For a start it has a solid female lead and, despite being constantly hit-on by the Turtles and her human colleague, this is as meaty as recent Bay roles get. Megan Fox works this to her advantage – April is smart, driven and unfazed by male bravado.
Neither does TMNT take itself too seriously, ridiculing the whole crazy concept of teenage mutant ninjas. The gags feel wedged in, but they have a cajoling, nostalgic charm. A handful of amusing retro moments – beatboxing Turtles and a 99 cheese pizza – are the movie’s most memorable and TMNT succeeds in combining these nods to Turtles’ heritage with the cutest origin story – think baby terrapins feeding on sliced pizza.
There’s no escaping it, TMNT is entertainment for the sheer sake of it. The plot is lazy, the character development is virtually non-existent. Bay and Liebesman’s whole Turtles reboot lacks the finesse of similar comic book titles. Even the retro 90s soundtrack is negligent when compared with Guardians’ Awesome Mix, despite the Marvel hit sharing many of TMNT’s issues with villains and formula. For many TMNT will represent everything that is wrong with the movies.
TMNT might be shallow but it’s much more fun than Bay’s most recent Transformer’s flick. Even so, Will Arnett’s supporting role as sidekick Vern steals the comedy from right under the Turtle’s heavily debated nostrils, and that remains a bad sign for TMNT 2. Cowabunga.
VERDICT: A very generous ✭ ✭ ✭ 3/5
Running Time: 101 minutes
UK Release Date: 17 October 2014
Images: © MMXIV Paramount Pictures Corporation.