Twitter Plot Summary: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back and more mediocre than ever before! Huzzah! Or not.
Five Point Summary:
1. She’s April O’Neil, because she’s wearing a yellow coat.
2. This is truly diabolical. At least Mikey has some amusing dialogue.
3. So… this Sacks guy. Any point to having him in this?
4. Showdown with Shredder. He looks very sharp.
5. It’s finished. At last.
Near the start of this reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, erstwhile cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) advises reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) that people often just want froth and foam from their news and media because it helps them forget about their everyday problems. It’s a line that feels like it was dropped in deliberately, almost as an apology or even a statement of intent for this interpretation of the Ninja Turtles. After all the recent efforts to turn comic book and fantasy films towards the darker side, Ninja Turtles revels in its light approach to storytelling. Whilst a light and frothy film is all well and good, in this case it’s as if they forgot to make a film actually about the Turtles. They’re in there, of course, but all the soul of their world has been sucked out and replaced with really bad CGI.
For all intents and purposes this is a soulless reboot. The Turtles occasionally have the spark of what made them interesting in the first place – Michelangelo in particular – but otherwise their story is sanitised and exactly what you would expect from the Michael Bay stable – moribund and lifeless, bordering on the awful. There are a few amusing moments, sure, but they are few and far between and not sufficiently spaced out. Furthermore Leonardo and Donatello are relegated to supporting characters behind Mikey’s jokes and Raphael’s inner turmoil, and Splinter is peculiar looking yet competent martial artist, but that’s it. Megan Fox, having made amends with Michael Bay after their falling out after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, does nothing interesting with April O’Neil, the character reduced to being a pretty face and not much more.
Will Arnett proves to be the most entertaining of the human characters, even if his best moment comes from Vernon playing “Careless Whisper” whilst making a sandwich at home rather than anything he actually says or does – most of his performance is muted and sadly lacking, which is a shame given how funny he has been in almost every other project he’s been involved in. Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo as Vernon and April’s news room boss, but you question why she bothered taking the role given how little she contributes to the story.
On the bad guy front, Shredder is an imposing force and the efforts to update his outfit are impressive, but as a character he is nothing more than a plot point and a CGI suit of armour for most of his screen time. In a more physical, “actually on set” role is William Fichtner as Eric Sacks, a scientist in cahoots with Shredder, who plans to kill a load of people and then release a cure generated from the Turtles’ blood, all so he can make a lot of money. The cad.
Looking back at the early speculation that the Turtles would have an alien origin, and given the film that we received, perhaps a retool of the Turtles’ origins may have helped after all. Then again, perhaps not. Ninja Turtles is as Vernon suggests at the very start – merely froth and foam, but without the possibility of a tasty beverage underneath. It’s a peculiar thing to imagine, but the original film in 1990 at least had characters to root for. This CGI-dominated monstrosity may have done well at the box office in the US, but from a critical perspective it’s thrown the turtles out along with the mutagenic ooze that created them. Ho hum.