It has been seven years since the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film, the underrated CGI affair from Kevin Munroe, TMNT (Munroe, 2007). And, it’s 21 years since the last live-action Turtle film – the disastrous and rightfully maligned, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (Gillard, 1993), often incorrectly referred to as Turtles in Time.
So, is the world ready for a new adaptation of the world’s favourite, heroes in a half shell?
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Right, first of all this isn’t a terrible film, but it is a terrible adaptation. These are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by proxy.
There are four mutant turtles, their father is Splinter – a mutated rat – and April O’Neil and the Shredder are here too. However, that is it. As with any Michael Bay production, the man is obsessed with surface. Anything relating to the Turtles’ rich, 30-plus year history is absent. This isn’t a film for the fans nor is it likely to inspire the sort of adoration that was witnessed in the ‘90s. The one thing that unites this with the other films is the franchises continued product placement bastardization. Hello Pizza Hut!
The film doesn’t bother with much in the way of an origin tale, leaving that to a title animation sequence depicting the majority of the important facts. Later on we do see the turtles as children, but their ninja status is fundamentally undermined when it turns out that Splinter learnt his skills from a ‘ninjutsu for dummies’ book and then instructed his four pupils. Hamato Yoshi – Splinter’s sensei in the original film and comic book – doesn’t get a look in here. This adaptation screams of Bay’s arrogance, that he knows best, which isn’t surprising considering he’s mooted to have intended for the turtles to be aliens in this film.
Jonathan Liebesman directs here with moderate aplomb, there really isn’t anything exciting to report; the film delivers with reasonable competency although unsurprisingly, the script is awful and the human characters have little to do other than explain what backstory we’re given.
The turtles themselves then, or more accurately the CGI. Many of the fans maligned the turtles appearances and while, yes, they definitely lack the appeal of the Henson puppets from the original trilogy, it isn’t their ‘look’ that’s the problem – all we’re presented with is caricatures. We’re never given the opportunity to really get to know the turtles.
As for the Shredder, well he’s arguably a bit-part-player here, quite literally reduced to nothing more than a kitchen utensil – albeit one that appears more Transformer than can opener.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t stink as much as many will have feared but at the same time it’s difficult to see who the target audience is for this film. Fans will be disappointed and it’s unlikely to inspire new devotees. No, if you’re a fan of the franchise, do yourself a favour and spend sometime with the definitive adaptation to-date, Nickelodeon’s CGI series. These turtles might not be aliens from another planet, but they might as well be.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is released nationwide on Friday October 17, 2014.