Wednesday, 17 September 2014

[Review] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Dear Michael Bay. As of this date, I am issuing you and your brethren a restraining order to stay away from my childhood. Please, please, please stop tarnishing my beloved childhood memories with your half-assed phoned-in antics. Consider your production company -- Platinum Dunes -- barred from being anywhere near the vicinity of my childhood memories. Thank you and have a kind day.

Okay, perhaps I'm a tad melodramatic. So i'll put my tendencies for melodrama aside for a moment and give you a fair review.

In this latest retelling of the turtles origin, Megan Fox takes on the role of plucky TV reporter April O'Neil. She aspires to be taken as a serious journalist yet has been relegated to the role of hosting disposable puff pieces. In the midst of a city-wide crime wave perpetrated by the mysterious foot clan, she just so happens to come across a secret group of vigilantes fighting back. And anyone who knows their Turtles history should connect the dots right about now. With the turtles identities exposed they eventually team up with April to bring an end to the foot clan's reign of terror.

So it's the same as it always has been. The heroes in a half shell must band together and overcome the adversaries thrown before them in order to stop the evil Shredder and his loyal Foot clan from seeking -- in this case -- world domination.

If there is one thing to applaud Michael Bay and company for then, it has to be that the turtles themselves remain intact. The four brothers are exactly as one would expect. Leonardo is still a cool, calm and collected defacto leader for the group to look up to. Raphael is still the ultimate rebellious pain in the ass. Donatello is very much the tech wizard and resident geek of the brothers. And last but not least, Michelangelo is still the same lovable surfer goof that he always was. The personalities of the four turtles are still the most endearing element of this film and subsequently the least of its problems.

Despite their personalities remaining intact, the exterior appearance of the turtles is a little alienating. In that typical Michael Bay fashion, the turtles have been modernized and updated to resemble steroid induced dude bros with facial features that are perhaps a little too human for their own good. It's all just a little too disconcerting. In spite of their increased body mass, the turtles themselves are rendered without weight as they glide through the air performing magnificent feats of wire-fu. It's as if the tech guru's behind such visionary wizardry have never heard of the laws of physics.

On the other hand, the human characters offer very little. Megan Fox makes for an entirely bland and uninspired April O'Neil. Sure, Megan Fox is quite an appealing woman on the eyes but her performance is so entirely one note that it would seem that she is consistently staring into the void in everlasting pursuit for an actual emotion.

Even though the new origin story involving the creation of the Turtles includes April as an emotional focal point, Megan Fox simply does not have the emotional range to make it meaningful. On the side, Will Arnett also shows up as a sometimes amusing comic sidekick as April's loyal cameraman. Its Will Arnett being Will Arnett for all intents and purposes.

The plot is mostly disposable filler. The script is made up entirely of expository dialogue that comes so close to being the equivalent of white-noise. So devoid of originality is this script that even the new origin story is a recognizable blatant rip off of the origin story as previously seen in The Amazing Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Jonathan Liebesman's direction is pedestrian at best. His style consists of ripping off everyone else's style and adding little of his own. It would be hard to not imagine producer Michael Bay standing over his shoulder and barking his orders of direction as the film has Bay's fingerprints all over it.

But what about the action you ask? With Michael Bay's involvement than the action must be worth a damn, right? Yes and no. There is one big setpiece involving a chase through snowy terrain that is reasonably well crafted and fun to watch. But it's immediately let down by a finale that evokes memories of the climactic battles from the last three Transformers movies all rolled into one. It all comes across as B-tier Michael Bay as it tries to replicate a similar cityscape explosive conclusion only with less of a budget backing it.

At its best, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles manages to be mildly entertaining. Despite my many, many complaints. There are occasional moments of charm scattered throughout that won me over. The elevator moment being one such moment. But at its worst, it's a film that looks as if it were made entirely made by committee. It's a film scrutinized with a fine comb by studio executives, test audiences and fanboys alike.

Look no further than the poor treatment of William Fichtner's villainous millionaire mogul. Who, at one point, was supposed to assume the role of the Shredder. However, due to internet fan related backlash, Fichtner is merely relegated to a supporting role making way for an even less effective Shredder. Despite the implemented threads, the film has no spine to follow through with any of its proposed changes and ultimately lacks a singular vision.

One could completely understand that the target audience -- being young children -- will cease to care about such criticisms. It's not that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is flat out terrible or deserving of the word hate, rather it's just completely and utterly disposable. Kids may enjoy their time with it, but us kids of yesteryear might find ourselves occasionally smiling whilst still glancing at our watches.

(out of five)



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