Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(M) Paramount DVD/BD & Digital Download

Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello’s story seems to be a perfect fit for today’s audiences with cutting edge CGI. The challenge will be finding a story that measures up to the special effects?

Growing up with TMNTs, this rendition brings a certain amount of excitement and some trepidation. What will they do with this beloved foursome? Will a new generation catch the ‘Cow-a-bunga’  fever?

When Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello were introduced as a parody of many of the comics on the market in 1984, who would have known that they would lead to a franchise of comic books, games, cartoons and now, five feature films.

Due to their contrarian roots, levity always managed to balance their amazing strength and ninja skills. The story of the turtles and their rat leader/father, Splinter, mutating due to a science experiment is told with a new spin for modern audiences. The enemies on the streets of New York continue to be Shredder and his Foot Clan.

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is the fledgling reporter who witnesses the turtles during one of their vigilante events and becomes their primary human contact. As part of the storyline, she also has a historical connection with the title teenagers and a familial history with the new villain. The modern twist to this reptilian tale is the historical and subversive role of the multimillionaire, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner).

With the combination of Sacks and Shredder, the mutant teens have an arsenal of enemies to battle under and above the streets of New York. After an arduous development of their back story, the pizza eating teens must defend their friends and the people of the city from the release of a deadly toxin over New York.

With the advancements in CGI, it is amazing this version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has not been brought to the big screen sooner. The timing is right for a new generation of comic-inspired story fans and can still be remembered by many of the original fans of the “heroes in a half shell”.

When the Turtles are on the screen, their lines and action sequences make it worth coming out to the cinema. Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles) honours the source material and makes the heroes strong, heroic, but with a certain level of teenage cheekiness. Staying loyal to their specific personalities and their youthful attitudes, they make the film entertaining for the younger and older fans.

A standout action sequence has to be the snow-bound chase where stunts and dialogue are beautifully choreographed. Both action and dialogue amongst the heroic teens is a highlight of the film. Even with Liebesman’s direction, one cannot miss the influence of Michael Bay (Transformers). This maybe considered a positive and negative but as the producer, his fingerprints are all over this film with product placement and the heavy reliance on effects minus any concern for storyline.

The ‘shell half empty’ component of the film fell into two areas: the human story and the pseudo-villains.  For all of the effort that Liebesman placed on VFX, the human characters suffer somewhat.

“They’re turtles, they’re mutants, they’re ninjas and… well, and they’re teenagers.” – April O’Neil

This is the type of dialogue that fills the storyline and much of it is left to Megan Fox. She has proven to be window dressing in most of her films and lacks screen presence in this outing. She does not have the ability to carry a major motion picture, much less a new franchise.

Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Lego Movie) is wasted. With his proven comedic credentials, the majority of his dialogue misses the mark. The writing for both lead characters seems elementary and lacks the timing for witty humour you might expect in a TMNT film.

The second difficulty of this film and many of the other comic-inspired films of 2014 would be the villain. Many writers seem to have forgotten that a good hero is better when put up against a truly evil villain. The villain duties are split in this film between Sacks and Shedder.

William Fichtner failed as the villain in The Lone Ranger and he fails here, too. He does not convey true cinematic villainy, even when he is controlled by his dark shadows mentor, Shedder (Tohoru Masamune). The original villain to the Teen Turtles, Shedder is left with reliance on cool gadgetry, but lacks any level of intelligence to be considered a villainous mastermind. He has a great suit, but no soul. Yet, even with these difficulties, like this years Godzilla, the salvation of the film was found with the Turtles.

The number of children attending this film was surprising with a PG-13 rating, but the overall the film was pretty tame. The violence level was similar to most of the cartoons on the Cartoon Network and the language was mild. There is minimal innuendo, beyond a teenage crush on April O’Neil by two characters. The key warning for this film would be to turn to not think too hard about the storyline and enjoy a fun film.

Thankfully the writers did not take themselves too seriously and made fun of many of the cliches of TMNTs. All attempts in the previous attempts to bring these heroes to the big screen failed. With this version they did get the effects and action right and there is hope that they will invest in a script and a better April O’Neil for the upcoming sequels.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

1. What is the value of mentorships?  ( Exodus 17:9, Take time today to read any Gospel of Jesus and his relationship with his disciples)

2. What is Biblical justice? (Romans 12:19, Micah 6:8)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum, and is a regular blogger. You can read his reviews at russellingreveiws.blogspot.com.au

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