Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fever has struck again! Since the resurgence of the popular franchise and animated series from Nickelodeon, the turtles return to the big screen after 20 years with a reboot from director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans (2012)) starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and William Fichtner.
Years after the death of her father in a lab accident, aspiring TV news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is hot on the case of a recent crime wave by the infamous Foot Clan. One night she happens upon a robbery at the docks and witnesses a battle between a mysterious vigilante and the criminals. The clan, led by 'The Shredder' (Tohoru Masamune), and his second in command Karai (Minae Noji), plan to drive the vigilantes out in a subway hostage situation. April stumbles on to their plan and sees not one, but four vigilantes take down the Foot and rescue the hostages! When she follows them to the rooftops she discovers, to her surprise, that the vigilantes are in fact Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! As April soon discovers their mysterious origin and meets their rat master, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), she becomes involved in a plot by Shredder and the Foot to release a biological agent on New York City and the only cure is the green mutagen that flows within the blood of the turtles!
While the newest TMNT movie has little in common with the 1990 film aside from the central characters, the 2014 movie is much faster-paced, more action-packed with Michael Bay (one of the producers) style explosions, and overwhelming CGI special effects. Gone are the cute, cartoon-style turtles; the new turtles are bigger, stronger, and even disturbingly realistic. The new turtles also have much more personality than previous incarnations, with each one possessing their own personal accouterments that reflects their individuality. They range from random, found clothing, to various types of armor, decorations, even jewelry and gadgets. With the old turtles, the only way to distinguish them was either by their weapons of choice or their multicolored headbands (which were added in the 1987 animated series, whereas in the original comics, they all wore red). Their personalities however stay true to their origins (as featured in their famous and catchy original theme song) however on a much bigger scale. Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville) still remains the stalwart leader, whereas Michelangelo (voiced by Noel Fisher) is ever the goof-off, comic relief "party dude". Raphael's (voiced by Alan Ritchson) demeanor is just as rude ("but cool") and crass as ever, complete with a scarred face and chomping on a toothpick. Donatello's (("does machines") voiced by Jeremy Howard) 'nerdiness' is amplified with the addition of huge thick eyeglasses as well as various tech-gadgets  attached to his shell. Sensei Splinter plays a much more active role in this movie, no longer the kind and passive teacher, he becomes more of a harsh disciplinarian who can also kick-ass when he needs to. As for the choice of Megan Fox as the damsel-in-distress April O'Neil, (no longer a part of Michael Bay's Transformers franchise since the second film and their supposed feud) plays a less demure female lead, often portraying April as determined and often fool-hearty, willing to do anything for a story. Will Arnett plays her cameraman Vernon, who was also a supporting character in the original animated series. William Fichtner plays Eric Sacks, a billionaire scientist and socialite who worked with April's father.
Megan Fox as April O'Neil
Along with this new movie, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the TMNT. Back in 1984, comic book creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird formed an independent comic book company called Mirage Studios and produced a self-published, black & white, comic book entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleslittle did they know that their small independent comic would spawn even more comic books, cartoons, toys, video games, movies, and countless other forms of merchandise into what would become an immensely successful, world-famous franchise! With the initial "Turtle-mania" sparked by the 1987 animated series, (which would last through the late 1980's and into the mid-90's) the franchise has seen it's ups and downs over the years with a recent resurgence with the second animated series in 2003. In 2007 the turtles were given a face-lift and a fully-CGI theatrical movie simply titled TMNT. While the fans reception was mixed, it would soon spark a new revamped CGI animated series on Nickelodeon in 2012.
For many fans of the TMNT, this movie can be seen two ways, while some long-time, hardcore fans may be furiously disappointed about the drastic changes made to the characters that they knew and loved growing up; for the newer, younger fans, this is an enjoyable adaptation of the TMNT franchise. The movie is fun and entertaining and that's what the TMNT are all about. While these characters have grown and changed during the years, the spirit and fun of the turtles has never changed. The turtles themselves have always remained simple and lovable in their own rights.
There is a surprisingly sparse amount of down-time in the new movie for which usually allows for emotional or character development in most films. While the focus is definitely on the action and special effects, the story itself is somewhat predictable and cliche, right down to the stereotypical super-villain desiring destruction right down to a "Today New York City, Tomorrow the world!" mentality. The story moves fairly quickly and rarely slows down, the humor is witty and maybe even a little juvenile, thanks mostly to Michelangelo's cut-ups (I think they even managed to throw in a fart joke somewhere!), as well as their innate love for pizza!
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun and entertaining movie! Fans both young and old can enjoy watching it. I felt my own inner 10-year old crack a smile as they cried "Cowabunga!" and fought off a ridiculously, huge Shredder, who possessed enough blades to fill a dozen Swiss-Army knives! I haven't had this much fun at the movies in a long time. Of all the recent remakes of all my favorite childhood toys such as G.I. Joe and Transformers, I think for once, Hollywood got it right and finally gave the fans what they wanted: "TURTLE POWER!" Enjoy your pizza!
LINKS: Official Movie Website, Mirage GroupNickelodeon, Turtlepedia