Thursday 16 October 2014

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

World of Blackout Film Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3D) Poster

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3D)
Cert: 12A / 101 mins / Dir. Jonathan Liebesman
WoB Rating: 4/7

Never let it be said that the spirit of Saturday morning moviegoing is a thing of the past, and no 10:30am showing would be complete without an infant bawling the moment the house-lights go down. This is a 12A. Sure, the A stands for advisory, and you know your kids better than the cinema staff do, but a general rule of thumb is that a 12A isn't going to be suitable for a toddler. Especially a toddler who gets freaked out by the dark and has been taken to see a deafening movie in a dark room. I weep for the future.

So, this is Paramount making a tellingly clear statement about where they are, now they no longer have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to bolster their ranks. The latest incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks as if it's had everything thrown at it except restraint and self-awareness, with family-friendly comedy and action jostling for position against a backdrop of an oddly sterile, 3D rendered New York. Among the performers who aren't brought to the screen via motion-capture*1, Will Arnett and Megan Fox carry the look and stench of mid-career desperation, playing second fiddle to four animated reptiles and their guardian rat. The only on-screen human who looks like they're enjoying any of it is Mr William Fichtner, who in all fairness doesn't have to try very hard to be dastardly entertaining, and carries his role as the obviously-evil Eric Sacks with unselfconscious ease.

Truth be told, TMNT is nowhere near as bad as the press its been getting following its stateside release; it's just nowhere near as good as the property deserves. And as much as people will criticise the motion-capture, green-screen, 3D and animation elements of the movie, they're actually what it does best. The fight-scenes are surprisingly satisfying, even if the Turtles' nemesis Shredder is now (more than ever) just Darth Vader in spikier armour. The dynamic between young Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and their father/sensei Splinter is touching to the point where it seems out of place in a film as brash and careless as this one.

It seems ironic that a movie from a franchise with such an established history never quite seems to know who it's playing to. A retro-reboot which acts as if it owes nothing to its forebears, unearthing character names and catchphrases from earlier iterations, not out of respect or nostalgia but contractual obligation. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could have been a great film, if only with a lot more focus and a Nolan-esque darkness to counter the gags, half-gags and nonsense. Visually it passes the test, but thematically it's a mess of juggled demographics and box-ticking. I have no problem with a movie being utter trash, but at least make it enjoyable trash. There's a darkly touching superhero movie struggling to get out here, but it doesn't escape this time round. In fact it barely manages to raise its face to the bars at the window.

And I'm as troubled as most people by Michael Bay's objectification of Megan Fox in the first two Transformers movies; but in all honesty, if you're not going to follow her denim hotpants around at arse-height with a worryingly lingering camera for the duration of the film, why have you put her in it?*2
Because it's sure as hell not for the acting or charisma…

Oh, and 3D + Shaky-cam? No. Just, no.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
I suppose it is.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not nearly enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
It probably achieves what the studio wants it to, but I'm not so sure about the writers…

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're going to watch this, the cinema screen will do it more justice than your TV.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
I may skip through it before the inevitable sequel.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I didn't hear a Wilhelm, but if you caught one, let me know where it is in the comments-box below…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
So that bit where April O'Neil leaves the trampolining TV news report mid-morning, pops on her cycle-helmet (good girl) and pedals off into town, and in the very next shot is wheeling her way around the docks and it's night-time? She's been biking around New York for ten hours, has she? I swear the passage of time in this flick is as hyperkinetic as the camerawork...

*1 Although that's arguable in Fox's case, admittedly.
*2 Yep, I'm very aware that the end of that the second sentence in that paragraph totally undermined the first one and makes me look like a terrible hypocrite. The point remains, however; why is Fox in this film? She's terrible in it. Laughably bad. And if she's not dad-bait then the film (or more pertinently the box office figures) won't benefit from her presence. TMNT producer Bay and Megan Fox and have famously had their differences in the past, and her reconciliation speech is about as sincere as anything in the Transformers movies, so I don't buy that he owes her any great favours by giving her a part in TMNT. It's a sad day when a film is let down by the humans in it...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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