((yawn)) >tap< Is this thing on?
Ah, great. Okay, so Michael Bay hired director Jonathan Liebesman and brought back the somewhat radioactive Megan Fox as the human lead in yet another remake of the amusing children’s tale ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ What’s Liebesman done before? ‘Battle: Los Angeles‘ (an incoherent mess) and ‘Wrath of the Titans‘ (a me-too Greek mythology flick). His lack of experience creating a film shows, and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is true to the comic book origins of the tiny box turtles who grow up in the NY sewers to become smart-aleck ninjas, but holy cow, it’s a dry exercise in how to barely string action sequences together into a tired, trope-ridden story.
There’s no story art, no Oscar-worthy cinematography, no acting that really…J
Oh, I can’t go on. It’s a live-action movie with a ton of motion capture about four 7-foot turtles who have human facial expressions, adore pizza and have been taught by their genetically tweaked rat sensei to be wicked good ninja warriors defending the streets of New York from bad guys. What the heck did I expect?
Well, I expected something fun. The four heroes, Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard), are teenage boys who have been raised in an underground dojo and really are crazy good ninjas. The sarcasm’s present, as is the tension between leader Leonardo and his alpha sibling Raphael, there’s a pizza cameo courtesy of Pizza Hut (with 99 cheeses!) but even the theater full of kids I shared for this screening were remarkably quiet, more intimidated by the non-stop violence than amused by the amphibious antics.
And this is a really violent film. I’d estimate that at least 100 people die in this movie from cars flying, buildings collapsing, and good old turtle on bad guy mayhem. The bad guys are all part of the Foot Clan, led by Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) who spends most of his time in a bad-ass, but really uncomfortable looking steel suit that makes him look like the angry love child of Iron Man and one of the Autobots. Yikes.
The Ninja’s sensei and virtual father is Splinter (Danny Woodburn), a 7 foot rat who spouts ancient Japanese koans for no obvious reason and has taught the boys all they know about martial arts after finding a book on Ninjitsu, the art of ninja fighting, in the sewers. Darn handy. What if he’d found ’50 Shades of Grey’ in the sewer instead?
And then there’s our feckless reporter, a sort of dopey oh-my-God variation of stoic Lois Lane called April O’Neil (Megan Fox). Assigned to the fluff stories at Channel 6 news and teased by her colleagues about what an airhead she is — including by newsroom boss Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg looking more unhealthy on screen than she’s ever looked in her long and quite impressive cinematic career) — she’s still risking life and limb to track down the facts behind some chemical thefts from the docks.
She spies Raphael foiling the dastardly Foot Clan’s plot, led by the cute but mysterious Asian baddie Karai (Minae Noji), and ends up getting a photo of the four turtles. Dude. Not good. They wipe her phone and warn her off, which of course propels her further toward investigating the vigilantes on the half shell and getting pulled into the stupid plot by Shredder and business tycoon Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) to poison the city of NYC, then sell the vaccine and make millions. Cause ya know it only takes a few hours to make enough vaccine for millions of people.
Also, it’s a bit confusing for Sacks to be talking about how he’s going to make lots of money because he already lives in an amazing mansion (pretty sure it’s the same one they used for the exteriors of the School for Gifted Youngsters in the ‘X-Men’ series), has his own helicopter to get to meetings, and appears to be insanely wealthy. Why would he want more money? Aren’t evil masterminds supposed to be poor for just this reason?
Ah, there I go again, trying to apply logic and story development to this film. And again, it just collapses. Truth of the matter is that at best, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a guilty pleasure, but even in the oeuvre of Michael Bay films, it’s not very high up on the chart. It’s certainly a competent production with good special effects, visual effects and motion capture for the various people, but it’s just not fun. There’s no development of a single character in the film — heck, we barely see Shredder before he becomes Metal Ninja Guy — and even the interesting peripheral characters like April and Karai are ignored.
Unless you’re some sort of Michael Bay fanatic, there’s just not much here. Even if you like Megan Fox, you’ll be disappointed. No skimpy outfits, no bikini shots, nothing for the voyeur in you (unlike ‘Transformers,’ but that’s another story). I’d say go watch the cartoon and save your $10 for something better in the theater.