Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Fourteen years after the Steve Barron directed ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comes the reboot. Gone are the rubber turtle suits, 2014’s turtles are created by the latest in studio CGI technology.
The 2014 film is missing a key character, and arguably the best thing about the 1990 film – Casey Jones, but more on that later. It’s little known, but by way of the lips of Mark Kermode, who probably got this information from Wikipedia, 1990’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ became the second highest grossing independent movie of all time of that year, and also was in the highest grossing films worldwide of 1990. If you want to know why a franchise film this would struggle to be distributed by major studios then it is because of doubts around adapting from a successful cartoon / comic book. This seems absurd nowadays, but probably represented scepticism around the early nineties about superheroes and comic books.
Jonathan Liebesman who directs the 2014 version, has been behind films like ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’, both received a panning from critics, but in Liebesman’s defence, he does a good job at presenting flashy action sequences, and I will say ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ is one of those films I will stand up, and I reckon it’s long overdue for a reappraising. In ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ he puts together some memorable moments, but the second half of the film is top heavy in this regard, leading to a mid-point lull
We don’t really see the turtles for the first twenty minutes of the film. Instead po-faced sexpot Megan Fox tries to revive her flagging acting career by playing April O’Neil. Roving reporter O’Neil is fed up with having to present stories involving her jumping up and down on a trampoline wearing lyrca. O’Neil is a serious journalist, and she, alongside reluctant but loyal cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), are on the hunt for the big story. Fox doesn’t do a bad job as O’Neil, but you can’t quite help but think that the role would be better suited to a pluckier likeable female lead actress.
In New York the big story is about a gang called the Foot Clan who is up to no good, dealing dodgy chemicals. Thwarting the Foot Clan is a group of mysterious vigilantes, who later reveal themselves to be the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. In this version of the Turtles, O’Neil is actually closely connected to Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. It turns out her Father’s Project Renaissance lab experiment was responsible for their mutation, and in a laboratory accident she was the one who prevented the turtles from being harmed.
The main problem is that the film is dull as ditchwater. Or should that be sewer water? The leader of the Foot Clan Shredder is consigned to a background character brought out for a few fight scenes in the second half of the film. He is not the deadly potent nemesis that the Turtles deserve to be up against. And we also have to put up with rich scientist / businessman Eric Sacks, who portrays corporate evil, but nothing more. I can’t help but feel we needed more scenes involving the Turtles in action earlier in the film, maybe after O’Neil discovers their identity, just a few more fight scenes of them foiling the Foot Clan, and perhaps even the introduction of a character like Casey Jones to bring a little edge and anarchy to the proceedings.