Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - crawling back into their shells

movie review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Since their introduction as comic book characters in the 1980s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become a pop culture phenomenon. Known for their ninjitsu skills and love for pizza, the wisecracking quartet have graced the big and small screens numerous times with their zany adventures. Their latest cinematic outing, however, is one of their least entertaining.

The franchise reboot centers the origin story of the reptile vigilantes on the character of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a television reporter tired of the fluff pieces she has to work on and eager to take charge of more important assignments. In an attempt to break an actual news story, April pursues a gang called the Foot Clan that is led by the evil mastermind Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and has been terrorizing the city. Along the way, she stumbles upon four masked figures, who eventually turn out to be the titular heroes, fighting off the bad guys. Neither her cameraman (Will Arnett) nor her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) pay any heed to her seemingly ludicrous claims, but April keeps investigating, ultimately developing a friendship with the four brothers – dorky Donatello (Jeremy Howard), goofy Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), authoritative Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), and rebellious Raphael (Alan Ritchson) – and their mutant rat mentor, Splinter (Tony Shalhoub). But as she discovers the Turtles’ connection to her own past, she also learns the truth about her late father’s former lab partner, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), while becoming instrumental in defeating the Foot Clan and thwarting Shredder’s plan to unleash a toxin on the city.

Director Jonathan Liebesman has taken a page from producer Michael Bay’s playbook to create this special effects-heavy installment that is as hollow as it is predictable. The movie doesn’t choose to be dark (like Christopher Nolan films), nor does it commit to being full-on fun (à la Guardians of the Galaxy). Instead it twaddles aimlessly, unsure of its own tone. Fighting begins and time slows down, and logic is defied at every turn. The CGI-generated Turtles and Splinter look creepy, while Shredder looks like he has escaped from a Transformers movie and is ready to saunter back into one.

Most of the characters lack definition, development, and charm. With all the focus on Megan Fox’s character, the film turns into the April O’Neil show, almost making the Turtles feel like supporting characters in their own movie. April is potentially a strong character, but that trait is lost here among the mundanity of the action. Will Arnett seems out of place; Whoopi Goldberg is wasted in a role that barely matters; and Megan Fox is, well, Megan Fox.

Ultimately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t unbearably awful, but it isn’t special either. The movie retreads familiar paths, somehow simultaneously managing to be both silly and drab. This is a by the numbers action film that tries to cash in on a popular franchise and ends up suffering from inconsistency, cringe worthy product placement, shallow script, and a near-terminal CGI overdose.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 21st September, 2014 *

No comments: