I’ll just get it out of the way and say that if you grew up as a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you probably should indulge this film at least once. If you’re a film fan who didn’t, it is pretty average to poor and offers little, even for a summer blockbuster. This has Michael Bay-isms all through it (banal scripting, video-game sheen, blatant sexism and product placement – the movie is basically a Pizza Hut ad at times) and even if he didn’t direct it, he might as well have. And, if you’re a kid (specifically a boy aged 10-15), you should definitely lap this cgi-fest up just as Bay planned. If you fall into neither of those categories, there is no reason what so ever to watch this movie even in the context of a kids/family action film.
Even if you do fall into one of them, you cannot escape the overwhelming half- heartedness that nags the film. It leaves you wanting more – especially as a fan – as if the whole production is only behind it because it CAN be made, not that they really wanted to do it. Bizarrely, it cruises along at only just beyond 90 minutes. A good half hour shorter than most modern blockbusters. Perhaps an extra 30 minutes may have made it even duller, but it possibly could have given us a little more of what we wanted too. That would mainly be the Turtles themselves. Actual combat is thin and seems to take a back seat to more screen time for a miscast Megan Fox’s April O’Neal. The turtles have their moments with some genuine laughs and camaraderie retained for old school fans, but then there is laughable dialogue and terrible characterizations to counter anything that was good or fun. These are the Ninja Turtles for the iPod generation and sometimes it’s a little hard to swallow. A massive set piece involving a lot of things sliding down a mountain is a confusing centre piece, but exhilarating nonetheless. Shredder is here to act as bad guy, but he should be called Mecha-Shredder as he looks like he was left over from Bay’s Transformers franchise, and not in a good way. It all adds up to something that looks more like Playstation 3 territory than a film.
I won’t deny it, but there are a couple of moments when you’re almost glad, as a fan, that this movie has been made (!) A fun sequence of their origin as told by Splinter to O’Neal and a couple of decent nods to the original film and comics come to mind. Plus I don’t care what any hardcore fan or non-fans might say, I think they look great in a “let’s try and re-invent the image” kinda way even if they’re basically just stereotypes of all those brainless gym junkie tattooed “men” that exist today (you know the type). Raphael is way too big to the point of distraction though. How the hell does a sewer dwelling mutant turtle get as ripped as a wrestler exactly ? I’ll say they got the voice cast pretty right too.
Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of Jonathan Liebesman’s film seems to be the undeniable fact that when the credits roll, missed opportunity and forgettable are the first words that come to mind. I thought it might at least offer something for a guilty pleasure re-watch. Not really. Perhaps an inevitable sequel will remedy some of that. If it doesn’t plan too, maybe just forget about making it as I finished it simply wanting more and I thought that was going to be the least of its problems. If they’re willing to give Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim) and Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) squillions to handle such things, I just wish this one didn’t cross Bay’s desk and landed on someone else’s of their ilk. It might have all been worth it then. As it stands, unless you’re a pre-teen, or going in for purely nostalgia reasons, you won’t find anything really redeemable.