– by C Eden
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is rad. When you’re old enough to know about the other versions in comic, cartoon and movie form, the latest instalment is going to get judged harshly. When the story of four mutant turtle brothers and their ninja rat sensei is something you have grown up with, one walks into the film with high expectations. Surprisingly, they are mostly met – and with the aid of a 3D format and a giant screen, possibly even surpassed in some parts.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the film is family-friendly, a little scary at times but full of action and of course, humour. The action starts right away with the dreaded Foot clan soldiers breaking into shipping containers and causing havoc as they try to steal chemicals to create more genetically altered creatures. Enter blurs of kicks and punches from the vigilantes who try to stop them and then disappear into the night like all good heroes do.
The story gives classic character, newsreporter April O’Neil, more of a past and her own story in the turtles saga than any of the previous turtles adventures. With Megan Fox (Transformers, Jennifer’s Body) playing the character, one can understand her bulk screentime and intertwined past with the turtles. April’s struggle to be taken seriously as a reporter sees her argue with her boss, Bernadette Thompson, played by the effortlessly talented Whoopi Goldberg, while she pitches a story on the turtles. When she is finally fired she turns to her cameraman, Will Arnett (Vernon Fenwick) and he battles his crush on her to help out as she pursues the turtles for a scoop.
The main storyline is a False Flag scenario; a company run by the sinister Mr Sacks (William Fichtner, The Dark Knight, Black Hawk Down) who wants to release a deadly toxin on New York city so his company can be the one that sells the antidote to a suffering public and make millions of dollars. Add the arch nemesis of the turtles, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune,) to the mix and everyone in the audience gets excited, old and young.
Shredder is first seen literally beating up a man while both his hands are tied behind his back and it gets better from there. Old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans will look forward to seeing the revamped-for-2014 Shredder costume. A combination of Edward Scissorhands, a bot from the video game “One Must Fall” and the old-school helmet and spikes from the cartoons and comics, it is a scary monstrosity – fit for one of the most feared villains of the last three decades.
The effects are good, the fight scenes move quickly and incorporate bullet-time like slow motion as well. In 3D, many of the effects are definitely involving, although the movements can be quite fast and difficult for the audience to see which turtle is doing what as they whizz past in blurs across the screen.
All the turtles are true to their known characters, Donatello (Jeremy Howard) with his gadgets and hacking, Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville and Pete Ploszek) being the leader, Raphael (Alan Richson) bringing the teen angst and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) with his humour. Except for Michelangelo, the voices of the turtles seem a little too gruff and like they belong to older men. Some of the humour and in particular the impromptu beatboxing in the elevator helps to remind the audience they are young and like having fun.
There are a lot of elements which have remained the same; it is often a dangerous thing for a successful franchise a lot of people have grown up with to suddenly change key points but the movie manages to combine old with the new in a way that almost works…The turtles still love their pizza, Michelangelo still thinks things like fart jokes are funny and there is that rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael simmering in the background. The differences are apparent in the way the turtles look; they are more “mutant” than they have looked in the past and Splinter’s (“Monk’s” Tony Shaloub and Danny Woodburn) accent is faded enough to have more than a tinge of an American accent in some parts. He has also been given a whip-like tail in this installment, one that can grab people like a lasso and throw them around. Whether these new things work will be for each individual audience member to decide.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a franchise that so many people love, it is hard work to come up with something that isn’t going to destroy childhood memories for the older viewers or come across as a quickly thrown together story to make money from little kids. The film will probably divide audiences but overall, it isn’t terrible. There are a lot of jokes and a bunch of action that is sure to entertain everyone. It is definitely one for the whole family and fun all round.