Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23 September 2014.

Way back in 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird self-published a single-issue comic, entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Within five years, Turtle Power had swept the world. TMNT merchandise was everywhere. Driven by the popularity of the kiddie friendly cartoon series, we had action figures, lunch boxes, costumes, t-shirts and breakfast cereal. In Australia, a daily tabloid newspaper even gave away collectible TMNT coins. I still have the full set, stored safely somewhere under my parents’ house.

In 1990, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello made their way to the silver screen with a live action blockbuster featuring animatronic character heads created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Although very clunky, I have very fond memories of watching the feature alongside my cousins in a packed suburban Sydney cinema during the school holidays.

The film also spun off a top selling soundtrack album featuring some dodgy pop songs which happen to mention turtles in their lyrics (as most pop songs do). There was also quite a media frenzy when white rapper de jour Vanilla Ice was announced to appear in the sequel.

By the time the rushed follow-up big screen adventure was released a year later, the TMNT craze had peaked and Mr Ice’s 15 minutes of fame had expired at the 10 minute mark. In 1993, a second sequel debuted to little fanfare.

Following an animated attempt at a reboot in 2007, the “heroes in a half-shell” are back, and if you have kids, your disposable income is anything but safe. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Battle: Los Angeles), this $125 million live action feature is backed by producer Michael Bay.

With motion capture technology utilised to bring the turtles to life, this film is a Michael Bay production in every way but one. It doesn’t run for three hours. Otherwise, all the hallmarks of a Bay production are present: it’s an overblown, flimsy, yawn inducing disposable piece of toy marketing.

“Actress” Megan Fox stars as April O’Neil. An on-screen charisma vacuum, she is outdone by men in body stockings covered with ping pong balls in terms of acting and depth of character. Funny man Will Arnett is wasted as April’s cameraman, Vern Fenwick. And what on earth is Whoopi Goldberg doing here in a particularly unfunny cameo as O’Neil’s television news channel editor?

The plot follows puff piece TV presenter O’Neil as she attempts to uncover the mysterious Foot Clan which has infiltrated New York City. Witnessing an attack be thwarted by four turtle shaped shadows, she meets our heroes…you know the rest.

Plot holes abound but will probably go over the heads of the intended audience. A not-so-subtle plug for a certain pizza company that is associated with huts (not Jabba) made my wonder how one gets food delivered to a sewer. And a convenient new link between key characters, similar to the recent Spider-Man reboots contributes nothing but frustration. The 3D is passable but adds very little, except the ability to snooze with no-one noticing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a definite miss in my books, but what do I know? The film has already grossed $333 million. Expect sequels, hopefully sans Vanilla Ice.

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Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:38  Leave a Comment  
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