Watch out, ya’ll ’bout to get shell-shocked… or so the theme tune to this new take on the heroes in a half shell goes. Being shell-shocked is an odd thing to associate with a film based on a kids range of comics, toys and cartoons, but I think, maybe… just maybe, they were going for a play on words there. Because they’re turtles. Turtles have shells. Do you see? DO YOU SEE?! Anyway, this is my review of the new teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film which, for some reason, has only been released in the UK this past week. We’re like a third world country or something now. Click the link below.
The origins on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been tweaked somewhat for this new film. Because origins now require that all things be tied into everything and that some evil corporation has to be behind it all is a requirement of modern films, the Mutant Turtles we all know are now somewhat related to April O’Neil (Megan Fox). Not by blood. So that’s OK. But by association. See, as a child April playing child reporter in her dad’s lab where he’s working on a mutagen formula meant to heal the world of all ills. This is being tested on 4 turtles and a rat. When he discovers what his partner’s real plan is he sets fire to the lab and April saves the test subjects and releases them into the sewer where the mutagen formula leads them to grow rapidly. In the present that former lab partner, Eric Sacks (William Fitchner), has built a huge technology company that does everything it seems. He also may or may not (he is) working with The Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) with a plan to infect New York with a virus that can be cured with the mutagen found in the Ninja Turtle’s blood. The intention being to infect everyone with a disease and then swoop in as the hero with the cure.
So yeah, it’s got that Amazing Spider-man all things are connected thing going on. Guarantee if the ever introduce Baxter Stockman he’ll be from Sacks Industries, or have ties to it, and his Mausers were being made by them. Anyway, how is the film? Actually, rather surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad. I mean, this ain’t great… or even really good… but it’s got plenty going for it. For a start it knows exactly what sort of film it is. There’s no moments of faux seriousness. No attempt to present the premise as anything other than the silliness that it is. These are important things to get right when adapting what is a child’s plaything to a cinematic experience meant for all. G.I. Joe Retaliation got that right and this new Turtles film gets that right too. As flat as the characters are, they are fair representations of the originals they’re based on. I was a little irked by the voices of the Turtles not sounding quite right, Dunno if I can get used to hearing Johnny Knoxville’s voice coming out of Leonardo, for instance, but generally it’s all fine. Although I really couldn’t get into Tony Shaloub’s Splinter voice.
Another thing the film gets very right is that it has the common decency to end before its welcome is outstayed. The film has a running time of barely over 90 minutes which is so refreshing after seeing the ridiculously long stinkfest that was Transformers 4. The weird thing is, that despite it’s quick pace and short running time, there’s a number of redundant scenes scattered throughout the film. For example, April witnesses a Foot Clan robbery at the docks that is thwarted by a vigilante (The turtles but she doesn’t know that yet). She goes home and tells her room-mate about what happened. The following scene is her telling the guys at Channel 6 news what happened in pretty much the same way. Later there is a scene where she’s digging around her belongings for evidence linking the Turtles to the previously mentioned lab incident. We see her room-mate calling her mother to ask if she can come home, scared at how crazy April seems to be. This could have been skipped by going to the next scene with April bringing her evidence to her boss (who is Whoopi Goldberg for some reason) with her, a shot shot in between of her quickly rooting through her belongings would be all the tie we need. Also, in that scene with her boss she doesn’t show the picture of the Turtles she took, but then shows that to Eric Sacks a few scenes later.
This also leads to the film’s weakest segment. An approximately 10 minute long series of exposition dumps. April meets Sacks, he tells her of his past and the Mutagen. April then goes to find the Turtles, for a second rooftop chat scene in 20 minutes, and she is taken to their lair where Splinter explains the entire life history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and how April saved them and how he taught them ninjutsu (from a book he found by the way). This all leads to the inevitable April accidentally led the Foot Clan to the Turtles scene where we finally get an actual Ninja Turtle focused fight scene. All this leads to quite a saggy second act which a 90 minute film should really be able to avoid.
Thankfully this all leads to a gloriously silly series of action sequences for the film’s finale. Apparently there is a snow capped mountain range within 20 minutes helicopter flight from New York. The actual finale, where the Ninja Turtles are fighting The Shredder on the roof of Sacks Tower is really quite well staged. It has a progression of events. The Shredder is always, constantly, depicted as being far stronger as a fighter than all the Turtles combined, as he should be. Despite looking a bit like a Michael Bay interpretation of a Transformers Powermaster figure The Shredder does work quite well. Shame he’s lacking a personality, or uncle Phil’s voice. The aim of the final action scene is to prevent Eric’s Sacks from spurting a toxic substance from it’s tower. I only wrote that sentence to force an ejaculation joke. I just found it funny that his name was Sacks and his tower was gonna be the source of the virus.
There is a certain amount of the stink of Bay on this film, he did produce it after all. But thankfully it’s not the insufferable stink. There’s no racist or homophobic stereotypes or jokes. Thankfully kids won’t be presented with that sort of hateful crap from this film. The stink I refer to is mostly the previously mentioned redundant scenes, the sheer stupidity of the film… it really is very stupid… and the abundance of glory shots. The film is filled with moving crane and dolly shots for scenes where there is no need for us to be getting spun around a character. There’s also an odd excess of Dutch angles in the first 30 minutes or so. Unless director Jonathan Liebsman was trying to recreate the feeling of being drunk all these camera work choices just lead to a slightly nauseating feel.
In the end what we have is a film that is inoffensive silliness that, thankfully, understands how silly it is. The action sequences are fun. Characters are relatively authentic cardboard cut outs of their comic counterparts. The film lacks the solidity of the previously mentioned G.I. Joe Retaliation, mostly due to questionable story pacing and the Michael Bay-esque nonsense. In all, it was a lot better than I was expecting. It was certainly a better film than the trailers had me believing it to be. So tired of seeing that same trailer. Speaking of which, did you guys see the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer? It was fecking awesome.