Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Jonathan Liebesman
Published Aug 07, 2014It's important to remember about this reboot of goofy and irreverent '80s property Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that it's aimed squarely at kids and perhaps those with a healthy appetite for nostalgia. In that regard, the film mostly succeeds by re-capturing the familiar sense of infectious fun about the heroes in a half-shell while adjusting for inflation by making everything bigger and slicker.
If the three screenwriters here have once again messed with the Ninja Turtles' back story, that's probably because much of it never really made a whole lot of sense anyway. This time around, hack television personality April O'Neil (Megan Fox) stumbles upon the identity of the vigilantes responsible for fighting back against both the mysterious Foot Clan terrorizing New York City and their diabolical leader, Shredder.
The four crusaders of justice — Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo — were box turtles that escaped along with the rat Splinter from a fire at a laboratory where April's father worked. They retreated to live in the sewers, where the experiments they had been part of at the lab caused them to talk and grow to be the size of humans. Splinter acted as surrogate dad, looking after the precocious turtles and teaching them martial arts from a book he found in the sewer.
Updating the look of the TMNT by swapping out the clunky suits of the older films for state-of-the-art CGI, the brawnier and more impressive Turtles still retain the dynamic that made the novelty of the concept so appealing in the first place. Each of them is given his moment to shine and it's likely that, just as it's always been, new fans will all leave with a different favourite of the group.
When the casting of Fox was initially announced, the prevailing opinion was that she might be too much of a bombshell for the part, but the role's been altered here slightly to make the decision a little more palatable. As one of the many pretty faces you'll find on television reporting on frivolous non-stories, this O'Neil allows Fox to anchor the film even if it doesn't exactly give her all that much to do.
It's a shame, too, that the action and fight scenes, filmed largely in jittery close-ups, so often mistake disorientation for excitement. While a sequence featuring the rapid descent down the side of a steep, snowy hill helps show what modern technology can do for the franchise, the hand-to-hand combat eventually grows monotonous and tiresome. Then there's Will Arnett, stuck playing sidekick to Fox and given the thankless task of being the comic relief in a film where there are already wise-cracking mutant turtles.