According to wikipedia the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a “parody of four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics’ ‘Daredevil’ and ‘New Mutants,’ Dave Sim’s ‘Cerebus’ and Frank Miller’s ‘Ronin.’” They quickly became something of a sensation, but with popularity came an erosion of the subversive aspects of the story. In short, they became the thing they once poked fun at. That self-unaware tradition continues with the release of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a Michael Bay produced big screen reboot.
The plot of the new film can be summed up by one line from obnoxious cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). “Four turtles, one’s fighting a robot samurai. Why not?”
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for this turtle soup, here’s more detail:
Megan Fox stars as April O’Neil, a television lifestyle reporter with pastel blue nail polish who wants to be taken seriously. When she follows a lead on a stolen chemical plot to a dark and rainy dock she discovers the biggest story of her life, the existence of seemingly indestructible vigilantes. Trouble is, no one believes her, least of all her colleagues at the station. “I think you found Superman,” mocks one reporter. Risking her career and her life, she follows the story only to discover the vigilantes are actually sewer dwelling super turtles fighting against the evil Shredder and his Foot Gang minions. As strange as the story is, she soon discovers she may have a personal connection to these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When people say they hate CGI movies “TMNT” is the kind of movie they’re referring to. A microcosm of what’s wrong with summer spectaculars, it’s a soulless exercise in generation X brand nostalgia that creates an elaborate backstory—one that throws away the original origin story—as an excuse for the TMNT to spout one liners.
But no matter how quippy Leonardo (voice of Johnny Knoxville), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) may be, it’s near impossible to get on side with this noisy, cluttered movie because it’s simply a frantically shot—director Jonathan Liebesman never met a zoom or dolly shot he didn’t love—collection of pixels with very little organic matter on display—other than Megan Fox’s teen dream face; all pouty lips and tousled hair—and when everything is fake, nothing feels real or emotionally connected.
Perhaps I’m overthinking a movie about Ninja turtles, but the film wants you to underthink and that’s the problem. Unlike “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which mixed humor, action and self-awareness, “TMNT” feels more like an exercise in brand revitalization than a movie.