April O’Neil (Fox) wants to be a real reporter, not a presenter of puff. She thinks she’s found her story when she happens across some giant amphibian crime-fighters, but the story gets much bigger than expected.
To express any disappointment in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for being a ridiculous mess might be ridiculous in itself. This is an idea that started as a quick doodle, a parody of, among others, Daredevil and Frank Miller’s Ronin comics. It was a goof, but its current incarnation grossed north of $300 million worldwide. That’s a pretty serious goof.
The movie might be more enjoyable if it took more pleasure in its core silliness. This, though, because it’s the era of introspective superheroes, has to have some grit under its shell. The ’80s wide-eyed cartoons and the squishy ’90s animatronics are succeeded by slick, beefy mo-cap. The turtles are now swollen, mouldy-looking things, like the result of leaving the cast of The Expendables somewhere damp. They scowl and growl more than they joke. They have daddy issues. They have maybe two good gags.
The plot is so wispy it might not actually be there at all. There’s a plucky reporter (Megan Fox, in a role so joyless and underwritten that much of her dialogue is simply breathing loudly or shouting proper nouns) who has convoluted history with the turtles; a scientific genius (but the sort of idiotic genius who snarls, “Drain all their blood, even if it kills them!”) who has a convoluted plan to hold New York to ransom; and a big, metal-covered foe, Shredder, who has sundry impenetrable convolutions all of his own. It’s a tricky old do for a kids’ film.
Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath Of The Titans) further carves his niche as go-to guy for perfunctorily plotted tripe about imaginary creatures. There are directors who can make this kind of daftness fun — Justin Lin, for one — but Liebesman doesn’t seem to be in it with his viewers. Letting story slide in favour of violence severe enough to secure 12A, for a film with a big PG following, suggests a want to satisfy the bosses, not the fans. These turtles are neither for kids nor adults; they’re teenage in the most awkward, annoying sense.
Heroes in a half-arsed shell.