Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Home Video Critic
I’d normally be the first one to admit that as far as movie ideas go, this far into the 21st Century, at least, we’re bound to revisit some familiar tropes in order to generate some viewer interest. This would include another go at some 80s properties, as seen in years past with a slew of Michael Bay productions based on countless kids’ cartoons, namely the Transformers franchise.
But then again, after numerous oh-so-bad live action interpretations and one CGI-version, why oh why must we immediately head for yet another adventure starring heroes in a half shell? Was another He-Man story not in the cards?
As pretty and CGI-accurate as it can be (blessed be the absence of rubber costumes), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or let’s call it TMNT for short) is incredibly low on story and substance, proving that just because you can hire geniuses to create the most realistic anthropomorphic warrior turtles, doesn’t mean you necessarily should.
Under the guidance of Bay ad the direction of genre helmer Jonathan Liebesman, all of the classic elements are there, with the evil Foot Clan spreading terror all over New York City, under the leadership of Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) with the assistance of a mystery villain.
When young intrepid reporter April O’Neill (Megan Fox, inexplicably back into a Michael Bay project after an infamous Hitler reference post-Transformers 2) seeks a big break on a major story to get ahead in her career, she stumbles upon proof of the existence of not one but four vigilantes whose stealth makes them hard to document.
When the Clan ups their game and create hostage situations to sniff out their half-shelled opponents, the boys have to come out of obscurity — not to mention their rad sewer lair — to come to April’s aid, much to their sensei Master Splinter’s concern.
With a chemical threat in the works and evil lurking in the shadows, the big Apple faces its biggest challenge, with its only glimmer of hope resting in the hands of mutated turtles with deadly fighting skills.
To try and find originality in this project is like trying to explain the meaning of life to a one-year old. There is little to no back story to the turtles’ origin, other than the obligatory exposure to special chemicals which caused them to develop human-like abilities. Some story elements point to them and Splinter being subjects of a life-saving drug, but most of the focus sadly rests on their ninja skills and love of pizza.
Similarly to Transformers, there is very little room for innovation, and so the film invariably follows the same path as its much less convincing film predecessors, with the heroes and villains remaining the same. Blessedly, the Vanilla Ice soundtrack is missing in action, a small boon in an otherwise futile project.
You can check out the extras if you’re into seeing what the mo-cap actors look like with suits and dots on, with one of the guys having been voiced instead by Johnny Knoxville in post-production. A neat look behind the screen magic but adds very little to the film unless you’re really into CGI minutiae and pre-visualization.
And so, with a color-by-numbers premise and characters as flat at their cartoon counterparts, this incarnation of TMNT is destined to join its brothers in the mythical realm of the discount bin at Walmart. I’ve seen worse pablum as a critic and moviegoer, but this one scrapes the barrel for a morsel of respectability, in vain.
I had hoped we’d outlived the “Cowabunga” age, but in the search for the almighty dollar at the box office, nothing is sacred.
Well, at least it wasn’t another Battleship. Oy.
1 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.