HOLLYWOOD FINALLY DOES JUSTICE TO A CHERISHED CHILDHOOD PROPERTY WITH A FUN MOVIE THAT BLENDS NOSTALGIA WITH SOME FRESH IDEAS
Director: Jonathan Liebsman
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub and Whoopi Goldberg
Studio: Paramount Studios
Length: 1 Hr, 41 Mins
From the late 80’s until the early 90’s, the Teenage Mutant Teenage Turtles were a juggernaut. Originally an independent comic book that was toned down and kiddified, the quartet of mutated turtle warriors named after renaissance artists could be seen on after school and Saturday morning cartoons, best selling video games, a popular line of toys and just about anything else their faces could be slapped on and sold for a buck. There was even a pair of live action movies. During their heyday, the Turtles ruled the heap of childhood cool, so fans of the heroes in a half shell were understandably nervous about the new movie adaptation (Hollywood doesn’t exactly have a sterling record when it comes to adapting cherished childhood properties to film). Concerns and doubts deepened even further when it was revealed that Michael Bay was producing the new movie, and when rumours began circulating that he was planning on dramatically changing their backstory, there was a virtual tsunami off online pushback (and casting Megan Fox as news reporter April O’Neil didn’t win many converts either). Turns out fans didn’t have to worry.
New York City is under siege from a mysterious criminal syndicate known as the Foot Clan. The police and government are powerless to stop them and the Foot rule both the streets and the shadows. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is an ambitious young reporter stuck covering “fluff and froth” stories for the local news until she stumbles on the existence of a vigilante that’s begun opposing the Foot. Pursuing the story further, she learns that there are four vigilantes protecting New York, and they’re anything but human. She soon learns that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and their father/sensei Splinter, a mutated rat) are entwined with her own tragic past, and they soon find themselves co-operating to fight an enemy that threatens everyone in New York.
TMNT is a fun movie that will appeal to the kid inside you while entertaining the actual kids beside you. A summer popcorn movie that never comes close to taking itself seriously (it is a movie about giant talking turtles skilled in nin-jitsu, after all) it’s pure, lighthearted entertainment. The plot is as straight forward as you can get, moving briskly from scene to scene almost like a comic book, never lingering too long on any particular detail, and director Jonathan Liebsman maintains a healthy blend of action and comedy. Like Transformers, the humans are mere set pieces and relegated to supporting roles while the movie centres on the turtles and their introduction to the world. As a kid, my favourite turtle was Raphael, the sarcastic smart ass (go figure), but here’s he a brash, hard headed, reckless loner and the movie provides surprising depth between him and his brother turtles. The special effects are slick and seamless and the action scenes are fresh and captivating (in previous movie versions, the turtles were played by actors in prosthetic body suits but this new incarnation uses body capture and CGI technology perfected in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes movies). This version of TMNT also arguably offers the most intimidating Shredder outside of the comic book pages, an ominous, unstoppable presence that looks like he could go a few rounds with the Man of Steel. While some liberties are taken with the characters’ story (the first black and white comic book appeared on store shelves over 30 years ago), the movie is filled with Easter eggs and nods aimed at purists and hardcore fans.
Is this the launch of a new franchise? Paramount may hope so, but that depends on this one’s box office performance. And guaranteed there will be some long time turtle fans upset or offended by the movie (there’s already an online community devoted to hating the turtles nostrils), but TMNT is a simple movie that takes little effort to enjoy. If you were a fan of the 80’s cartoon (or movies), or are still on speaking terms with your inner child, Turtles will provide you a nice window back into your childhood.