Release date: 17 October 2014
Running time: 101 mins
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub
Assemble the villagers. Sharpen the pitchforks. Light the flaming torches. When it was first announced that Michael Bay would be overseeing a reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise as a producer, the internet community was up in arms, ready to run the menace out of town once and for all. It has become very fashionable to criticise Bay; his shallow approach to storytelling, childish sense of humour and despicable attitude towards women often makes this completely justifiable. However with this re-imagining of the heroes in a half shell, there is very little to get angry about. Call off the witch hunt! False alarm, sorry everyone.
Not to say that this is completely devoid of any tiresome Bay-isms; there is of course canon fodder if you wish to take pot-shots. The shameless pizza based product placement, the unnecessary tinkering of the Turtles’ mythology, and Michelangelo’s creepy infatuation with Megan Fox’s April O’Neil -including one wildly inappropriate comment- could be done without. For the most part though, these points are overpowered by a palpable sense of relief that a childhood favourite has escaped total butchering.
The Turtles’ brand of humour -a mix of pop culture references and obnoxious teenage jokes- may not appeal much to viewers old enough to remember the original series, but the action set pieces will entertain the young and young at heart. An impressive use of CGI Kung-Fu allows the heroes to live up to their name, and a downhill fight scene/car chase is unquestionably the highpoint. Yet while there is enough peril to keep things interesting, it’s the villains are the let-down, with arch-enemy Shredder a particular disappointment. Possessing a definite physical threat, his character isn’t expanded beyond his over the top, Swiss Army style body armour.
In many ways, the greatest strength lies in how it stays faithful to its Saturday-morning cartoon roots. Thankfully director Jonathan Liebesman resists the temptation to provide a gritty, Dark Knight style make over, and instead favours the more playful touch that made the series so popular. It makes for an uneven piece, with more than a couple of eyebrow raising misfires, but at it’s heart is an unapologetically fun blockbuster without a shred of pretension. It should also be commended for not pandering to grown up TMNT fans who adored the show twenty years ago; rather this has been made with the new generation of youngsters in mind: exactly the way it should be. Turtle Power indeed.