A Charmless Reboot. Some Impressive Digital Effects Can’t Mask The Bayisms That Zap The Soul Out Of These Heroes In A Half Shell.
I’m actually in two minds over who actually directed this movie because it completely smacks of Michael Bay in every single sense. Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath Of The Titans) certainly knows how to shoot digital effects heavy action flicks but there’s nothing that can make you escape from that erring sense of Transformers-exposure all over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In this new origin story of the 4 mutated turtles, who are taken under their wing by a mutant rat that happens to be a former ninja master, sees the quartet running around New York City as vigilante crime fighters against The Foot. The Foot being an organised crime syndicate that has infected corporate NY, along with the street thugs as we originally knew them. Enter April O’Neil (a hopelessly miscast Megan Fox), an intrepid reporter and bam we have essentially 4 ogling teenage boys (who are amphibious) and one overtly sexualised woman running around in a sea of testosterone. Then there’s our big bad Mega-Shredder-Tron, who looks more like he’s been ripped out of Transformers: Age Of Extinction than belonging here.
From a production perspective the film is impressive, especially the digital capture turtles and its in the non-fighting exchanges where they really shine. Splinter, however, what a disaster – he looked terrible and, in spots, not finished properly. Like all Michael Bay flicks, there’s well set up wanton destruction and fight scenes which will appease the non-discerning crowd but for some of us, for whom TMNT are an intrinsic part of our youth, it’ll come across as dressing designed to hide the flaws in the film.
From a story and character perspective there’s a real arrogance here. The story is dull, painfully dull and treads a very familiar arc. The film knows it too, but it doesn’t care instead insisting on turning our heroes into ghetto tough guys with hokey modern tongue. I appreciate the need to alter the Turtles characters for their cinematic re-invention in the modern day, but they come off utterly charmless and annoying (especially Michelangelo). I get they’re teenagers, clearly so do the three writers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty because that over-sexed hormonal angle in Michelangelo’s crush on April comes off creepier, verging on sexual harassment than actually sweet. It’s that same sexualisation of woman that all of Michael Bay’s films are afflicted with, flaunting body parts, overtly stylised costuming and shooting. And it’s this overtness that sucks all the charm out of it and doesn’t belong in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mythology.
It just feels like a Michael Bay movie, like a Transformers-Lite, it’s gone straight through the process line and spat out the other end. So I ponder how much directorial control Liebesman had over the film? I’m thinking much handholding was going on here.
The film is already a smash and the sequel is on the way. I hope that the focus now goes to character and story over female props and explosions!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES opens TOMORROW nationally.