Our favourite ‘heroes in a halfshell’ are back on the big screen! Question is… did we care that they left?
Rejoice. After a seven year absence, the “heroes in a halfshell” have returned to our cinema screens and though few missed them, the good people at Nickelodeon have decided that now is the time to dig up the old reptilian fossils and squeeze them dry for as much money as they’re worth.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is produced by Michael Bay, that plunderer of 80’s nostalgia favourites and helmed by his protégé Jonathan Liebesman, auteur behind such classics as Battle: Los Angeles and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (remember that? No?). With credentials like that, you wouldn’t be blamed for entering the cinema with somewhat low expectations and graciously Liebesmen and Co meet them dead on.
We begin with April O’Neil (Megan Fox), second-rate news reporter for a New York TV station, who longs to crack a big story that will get her taken seriously as a journalist. She begins reporting on a crime wave caused by the dreaded Foot Clan, however, the Clan’s schemes are being undermined at every turn by a mysterious group of vigilantes. Through her ‘intrepid’ reporting skills, O’Neil discovers that these vigilantes are in fact giant talking martial arts loving turtles. Then some stuff happens, people fight and then it ends.
With a synopsis as ridiculous as that, one would hope that the film would at least be perversely enjoyable in a “so bad it’s good” way but it isn’t to be. The film is so ill-judged yet so unbelievably dull it defies belief.
It’s a problem that plagues Bay’s own Transformer franchise. The film’s concept is given a gravity and pretentiousness that it doesn’t deserve. The filmmakers, nervous and all too aware that this is where they’re headed, seek to undermine their own grim-dark seriousness with their own special brand of fratboy humour. Their rationale, I imagine, is for the sake of balance but what this does is create a tonally confused film that has no idea what it wants to be. The fact that 95% of the jokes in the film are about as funny as a brain haemorrhage does the film no favours either.
The turtles themselves are less agile ninjas and more hulking monstrous gym-bros (and just as obnoxious). We, naturally, learn next to nothing about them over the course of the 101 minute running time, the filmmakers having decided that time was better spent ogling at Megan Fox.
On which note, can we all bow our heads for the career of Megan Fox? Once on the brink of uber-stardom, she has lived out the past few years as a Hollywood pariah for absurdly comparing Michael Bay to Hitler. Now the prodigal daughter has returned home, reduced to playing second fiddle to a bunch of giant turtles. She’s just as wooden as ever, though the film does provide her with ample opportunity to show off her trademark acting technique; Staring Gormlessly At CGI Monsters As They Punch Each Other For An Eternity.
Elsewhere on the acting front, the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, William Finchter and Will Arnett appear to be slumming it for the paycheck and/or the respect of their children. Is there really no-one else in Hollywood willing to offer these people work?
The action scenes are mostly serviceable, on one occasion dipping into mildly enjoyable territory. However all too often the action falls into Bay’s classic modus operandi: lots of movement on the frame and some extremely awkward editing, causing the audience to lose their place in the action and thusly their place within the narrative. If we can’t see who’s hitting each other and what the effect of that is, then why should we care about the ultimate outcome?
In the interest of charity, the opening scene is nicely designed, harking back to the original comic books, and the main villain is initially quite intimidating. But these small flourishes are insignificant in comparison to the tidal wave of crassness and idiocy that pervades the rest of the movie.
It is a film with no heart, no head and very little in the way of excitement. The kids in the audience seemed to enjoy it immensely though, so good for them.
The TMNT franchise was always, for this reviewer, something you would watch if there really wasn’t anything else on TV. As a concept they are more than a bit stupid but since they were designed as a parody of a certain trend of comic books during the 1980’s, that was partly the point. Somewhere along the line somebody forgot the joke. And now we’re all paying for it.