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Another in a long line of bloated, underdeveloped summer blockbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles falls well short of its fans’ expectations.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots the franchise at the very beginning, with an animated legend of the Turtles being narrated by their master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub). He notes that they must remain hidden in their sewer dwelling until the day when their great powers are needed. Cue April O’Neil (Megan Fox) who, alongside her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), is grasping at her chance to become a hard-hitting TV journalist. While she is very interested in a series of brash crimes committed by the Foot Gang, she is relegated to covering fluff pieces and – as Fenwick dubs them – froth. Determined to get to the bottom of the crimes, O’Neil takes it upon herself to investigate.
While she is on her way to interview a witness, she captures a Foot Gang crime in progress. Too excited to call the police, she moves in for a better angle on her camera phone (provided by Microsoft). The crime is spectacularly broken up by a shadowy vigilante whose immense strength is able to throw around Foot Clan members just as easily as the shipping containers they are pilfering. Armed with no evidence whatsoever, and only her own account to back it up, O’Neil exasperatedly tries to get her editor to air the story on the evening news.
Made a complete laughing stock, O’Neil continues her search for the vigilante, until providence provides an incredibly dangerous means for her to do some real life reporting. The Foot Gang holds a subway platform hostage in order to draw out the vigilante, and O’Neil is able to sneak in far enough to get taken as a hostage herself. Just as she is about to be executed for taking more cell phone footage, the hostages are saved. O’Neil follows their unlikely escape route, and discovers a group of six-foot-tall talking turtles who are ninjas, and also teenagers. She ingratiates herself with the charismatic reptiles, and joins their “family” in order to help them foil the Foot Clan’s dastardly plans.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had so much promise, yet fails to deliver on any aspect of the film. A movie that should be filled with action packed sequences is instead left to the doldrums of O’Neil trying to gain credibility as a reporter, and becoming increasingly more unhinged as she does so. Megan Fox’s O’Neil is a complete enigma. She endeavors to widen the character’s range by wildly fluctuating between emotions – seemingly at random. Coming off as an alien who is half-heartedly trying to act human, Fox’s acting gives the impression that the director handed her emotion flash cards on the spot, and she is doing her best to emulate the pictures.
Meandering between a brooding journalist that no one takes seriously, to a completely unhinged conspiracy theorist: her character has absolutely no consistency, and even less development. The Turtles themselves have a respectable quality about them, as the fun-loving subterranean ninjas, but they are hardly the focus of the movie. Whenever the camera shows any of the four, its focus quickly turns to either Fox’s pouty lips spouting more half-hearted nonsense, or to the beginning of an action sequence.
The limited action sequences in this film (there are about three full action sequences) are respectable, and relatively well shot. Taking a page from The Amazing Spiderman book of action filming, the “camera” follows the turtles as they spin, slide and tumble through their surroundings. While a lot of the action is hectic and a bit murky (they do live in the sewer after all), they provide a welcome respite from the rest of the movie’s many faults.
The awkward plot does not allow for any speculation, as much of the dialogue is shoe-horned in awkwardly to fill any gaps and tie any loose ends. Incredibly straight forward, there are no twists, no tense moments and certainly no cliff hangers. Playing more like a movie exclusively for young children (I had the pleasure of seeing it with several dozen) and less like a rad throwback to the early 90’s cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles completely missed its chance to be a unique and interesting movie.
While it will certainly have many more sequels, and will most likely do plenty of business at the box office, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did not resonate with my inner child, nor did it have anything to offer my more mature sensibilities.