We heard that there was to be a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and there was much rejoicing. We heard that this was to be produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dune’s production company and there was much anguish. Speculation that the Turtles were to become alien beings, Megan Fox leading the human cast and a tonal shift away from the original Mirage Comic book series suggested this was not going to be the return we were all craving.
Early reports state-side suggested that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was Transformers in new clothing. Loud, obnoxious, a curious sense of humour, sexist and nonsensical. It is all these things. But somehow it feels less poisonous than the Bay directed robot series.
The plot is relatively meaningless but let’s do a quick run through. April O’Neal (Megan Fox), she of the yellow jumpsuit fame, is a light entertainment reporter desperately trying to carve a career as a series reporter. She covers an event hosted by scientist and millionaire Eric Sacks (the always watch-able William Fichtner), in a plot point reminiscent of The Amazing Spider-Man, it turns out that Sacks used to work with April’s dad creating important research into something or over, then… spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, Shredder’s there for some reason and NINJA TURTLES!
In all their CGI glory along with Splinter, they are impressively designed creatures but always feel nothing more than computer constructs. They make for an enjoyable bunch of characters, writers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty have kept in mind that they are teenagers. There’s a playfulness and energy to them which wasn’t overly apparent in the undisputed classic 1990 film version. Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo are each present and correct with their defining characters quirks and Tony Shaloub’s Splinter is a benevolent presence. The screen definitely lights up when they’re about.
Elsewhere William Fichtner does his rich-man slime ball act he’s perfecting over the years to a tee. So much so that Shredder does become little more than a henchman in his schemes, in all truth the arch-nemesis didn’t really need to feature. He could have been held back for potential sequels. Will Arnett does what we know and love him for. Megan Fox actually gives one her better performances. Sure she has little to do but ask questions whether its holding a microphone or running and screaming but she’s become a much more entertaining performer since her early days.
Whilst this doesn’t sound like it adds up to anything remarkable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is actually a lot of fun. Perhaps it was low-expectations going in or maybe that the pace of the film allows you to overlook major plot holes and unconvincing CGI but for ninety minutes the film does exactly what it sets out to do – entertain. The interaction between the four hard shelled heroes is always snappy and fun. The set-piece involving a truck and the turtles sliding down a mountain side is energetic, almost slapstick in it’s action – ruined only by a moment of what seems to be producer Michael Bay’s “fantastic” sense of crude humour.
Despite it numerous failings, TMNT 2014 is a purely entertaining blockbuster. Certainly an improvement on any of the Transformers films and the recent Spider-Man offerings. Whilst it may miss some of the emotional heart of the original film (I am not joking) it’s unabashed fun and is certainly one of director Jonathan Liebesman’s stronger offerings. Aside from the aforementioned crude joke Bay the producer seems to have informed the action more than anything else and in his prime he was one of the strongest action film makers out there, The Rock can attest for this.
Treat it as what it is; a film about teenage, mutant, ninja turtles produced by Nickelodeon and go along for the ride there is super fun to be had.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now via Paramount Home Entertainment.