********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Actors: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for three decades, and over the years they have built a solid reputation and a large fan base. So when something is that old and popular, it is difficult to create something new around it without upsetting someone or the other. This year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was bound to suffer from the same problem, because if you aren’t creating something as sensational as Christopher Bolan’s take on Batman, then it isn’t worth making at all, right? Wrong. Because it is absurd to remain stuck with the “be true to the source” idea, for in that case, nothing would ever change. And characters have to keep evolving, sometimes in a subtle manner, sometimes a bit more radically, for that is the only reason why people would be able to watch the same set of characters even after decades. The movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does stay close to the source in more ways than one, but it fearlessly experiments with new ideas to kickstart a franchise here, and if you ain’t one of those fans who gets offended easily, you might just enjoy this popcorn flick, which is fun and cute in a way, with some great action sequences.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) dreaming of finding that exclusive news piece which would justify her years spent in studying journalism. To achieve her goal, she pursues stories around the gang called Foot Clan which has been terrorizing the city of New York. One night she notices the clan at work at the docks and sees this as an opportunity for her big news piece. But the members of the clan are suddenly taken out by a mysterious vigilante who disappears before she can grab a good look at him. No one is ready to believe her story, and it is now April alone who will have to uncover the truth and in turn learn things about her past. This is just the beginning of a roller-coaster ride where the stakes keep getting bigger.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a rather simple and straightforward plot, and its screenplay does not try to go overboard with the vigilante theme which is the hottest topic in Hollywood as of today. And that probably works out for the best for the movie. Director Jonathan Liebesman keeps things fun and colourful rather than going for the edgier gritty settings. The plot does get silly at times, and so if you came searching for serious “meaningful” cinema, then you are going to have your head in your hands for most parts of the movie. But if you can ignore those aspects, and can be delighted by a fast-paced flick, with great visuals and some wonderful action scenes, then there is indeed a lot to enjoy in this version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Liebesman does know his action, having directed the likes of Wrath of the Titans and Battle Los Angeles previously. The ninja fight sequences stand out in the movie, and the climax is as elaborate and as outrageous (in a good way) as those seen in the Transformers movies, which ain’t too surprising as Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes is co-producing this movie. The sight of the turtles itself, with their more-turtle like features, does take some time to get used to, but they do grow on you as the movie progresses. There are a lot of references to pop culture, which might be seen as a bit lame by some, though they would make you chuckle.
The turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael, created through the use of motion-capture technology, have quite distinct personalities, with their traits quite acutely portrayed. There is Master Splinter of course, in his rat-like form, much like the original stories, along with their arch nemesis Shredder in a pretty awesome suit. Megan Fox has a lot of screen time, and is more central to the movie than what we saw of her in the Transformers series, though like those movies, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles demands little of her in terms of acting. Her energy adds to the vibrancy of the film, but beyond that, there ain’t much that Megan Fox does for the character of April. Will Arnett plays her co-worker Vernon Fenwick, and unlike the previous versions of this character, is more supportive towards April O’Neil. Arnett adds a bit of charm to the character, but there ain’t much he’s asked to do as well. William Fichtner plays the industrialist Eric Sacks, and makes his character more memorable with a rather slick and commanding performance.
Overall it really depends on what you are looking from a film before you enter the theatre. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles never sold itself as anything beyond a fun-filled enjoyable ride, the same way that a Transformers movie does. The hardcore fans of the original Turtles may find reasons to be offended by the movie, but for the general audience, this is one of those that can be found entertaining (the action sequences itself should make up for the deficiencies in any other areas), then forgotten, before you arrive again two years later for the sequel. There is of course a sequel happening, with a June 2016 release date announced. So by the time that the Avengers have saved the planet from another dangerous being, the other Marvel superheroes have averted numerous calamities, Batman has fought Superman in a dark setting, and the world feels no longer safer than before, it does provide comic relief to see four turtles who have grown to human proportions play the vigilante role. Absurdity can be charming at times, and for that reason, the sequel is awaited…