Review by C.J. Bunce
Somewhere around the halfway mark of the new movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a fun action flick comes together. If you can get to that point without falling asleep. With the modern special effects this movie should not have needed to have been compared to the original 1990 film version. Unfortunately the slow start and less-than-appealing villains keep this one from the top tier of this summer’s would-be franchise blockbusters.
So what’s worth the admission price? First off, Megan Fox. Not for a second does she flinch from a strong portrayal of April, the well-known friend of the Turtles. She delivers even the silliest lines as if she’s playing serious drama. And the film is better for it. Although the perpetually young looking actress may be typecasting herself with films like the original Transformers and this similar action genre entry, she may also be simply carving out a niche she’s darned good at.
The biggest failing of Iron Man 2 was the “annoying guy” played over and over in movies by Sam Rockwell. That same caricature is in TMNT, but played by Will Arnett, who I have not seen before simply because I don’t watch his admittedly popular series including 30 Rock and Arrested Development. Here he offers what seems like an impersonation of the Night Shift and Batman era Michael Keaton, and it’s some funny stuff.
Then there are the Turtles. Initially Michelangelo (voiced by The Riches’ Noel Fisher) and his over-the-top cool teenager style is the big win. As with the comic book and other prior incarnations, he’s got all the best lines and provides some very necessary comic relief opposite some dark villainy. Once the pace of the story moves to a faster clip we begin to care about the entire team. That team is led by Splinter, a very realistic looking, Skeksis-inspired, human-sized rat. The CGI action sequence between this ninja and the metal armored shogun Shredder is right up there with the Yoda face-off with The Emperor in Attack of the Clones or maybe even the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn face-off with Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. If only someone turned the lights up and lost the shake cam so we could see what was happening, this would be some excellent movie-work.
Not to be ignored, the motion capture and CGI work on the Turtles is so well rendered you can get through the entire movie without recalling these kid turtles aren’t real. As they are bashed against walls, thrown downhill in an avalanche, and riding surf-style atop a semi-truck, they truly appear to have girth and weight. Absolutely impressive.
Then we have the human villain Eric Sacks, a scientist turned company exec played by William Fichtner, who also seems typecast lately in these bad guy roles, so much so that as soon as you see him you know his good guy schtick is phony and he will be soon revealed for his true character. Fichtner’s good guy roles seem to better reflect his acting chops. And Shredder is a one-note villain whose only really good scene is his entrance.
The violence is a little more than you’d see for other summer hits that would appeal to kids. Guardians of the Galaxy is a far better film with a lot less darkness. Still, there’s some good fun to be had here. Fans of the series will have plenty to like, and most kids will probably have fun, too. One scene with a slow-moving elevator toward the film’s end shows how much more fun the film’s creators could have had with these teen ninja turtles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is in theaters now.