Director Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an enjoyable film, and works as an ode to the legacy of the Turtles at best. Equal parts intense and funny, this film has some brilliant action sequences but a plot borrowed from several other superhero movies, including the 1990 original TMNT film, The Amazing Spiderman, Batman Begins and The Incredibles, to name a few.
Channel 6 reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is set on uncovering the criminal activities of the Foot Clan, much to the chagrin of her boss Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg) and cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). During one of her escapades, O’Neil sees unknown vigilantes defeat the Foot Clan and foil their chemical smuggling plan, which sends her into a frenzy, and she begins to dig some more. Another attack on the subway brings her face-to-face with these vigilantes, who happen to be none other than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) are four brothers who have mutated into humanoids from actual turtles along with the rat Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub) in a mysterious lab experiment.
The names ring a bell in April’s memory, and she realizes that the turtles and the rat are in fact her pets, whom she helped escape from a lab fire that killed her father years ago. She recounts her findings to her father’s old ally and scientist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner). Unbeknownst to her, Sacks has his own diabolical plan and has been employed by Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) to wreak havoc in New York City (but of course). From then on, it’s crash-boom-bang all the way. With Michael Bay as the producer, we couldn’t have expected more. But the fight scenes, unlike in Bay’s previous offerings, are exhilarating and a visual delight, thereby making you want to root for the good guys. The 3D only adds to the thrill and you can expect a few nunchakus and katanas to come flying your way. Cowabunga indeed!
Every superhero movie is only as good as the villain the hero(es) are meant to defeat. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shredder gets an upgraded suit, complete with robotic controls and boomerang knives. Ruthless and skilled in Ninjitsu, Shredder makes for a formidable bad guy and it is definitely fun to watch the battle between the two teams unfold on-screen. Megan Fox does more than be an eye candy in this film, and gets to be in the thick of the action. Her acting prowess, however, is far from developed since her Transformers days. Apart from the primary characters, most others are underdeveloped and pointlessly added for laughs, especially that of Whoopi Goldberg. Minae Noji’s Karai is completely forgettable, even though the character has a relevant backstory in the comics. A gifted actor like William Fichtner is also under-utilized, and given generic bad guy dialogues to intimidate the turtles.
Yet this movie makes a strong impression as it has superb voice-over, and believable characters in the form of the Ninja Turtles, who are in fact, actors filmed using Motion Capture technology. The portrayals of the heroes in a half-shell are true to the original characteristics, where Leo is the leader, Raph is the bulky bad-ass, Donny is the tech-wiz and Mikey is the goofball. Though they are skilled in martial arts, they are still teenagers and learning to adapt to the world, squabbling and having fun along the way. Watch out for the awesome beatboxing scene in the elevator and the chase down the icy slopes of a mountain. The humor is scattered in-between and Will Arnett’s Vernon Fenwick and Michelangelo get the best lines, which make you chuckle amidst tense scenes. Several pop culture references (pizzas, Batman voice, Xavier Institute and the likes) are also thrown in for good measure as a salute to the parody-esque origins of the Ninja Turtles.
Why should you watch this film?
The Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles! If you are someone who grew up watching the reptilian brothers in cartoons, movies or otherwise, then you are sure to enjoy this film. Agreed, there is not much originality to the plot and at times, the film feels rushed, but the turtles ground this movie and give it more soul. Despite clichéd scenes and below-par acting by a few of the characters, this movie deserves a watch. If only the makers had put a little more effort in the story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would have been the perfect blockbuster.