Review: 'Ninja Turtles' gets dark, digital reboot

Posted at 08/14/14 2:37 PM

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were first seen in comic books way back in 1984. Since capturing the fancy of the audience, this franchise spun off to have its own cartoon series, toys, video games, and of course, films.

The first TMNT live-action film was shown in 1990, followed by two sequels. In 2007, a CGI-animated film simply entitled "TMNT" was shown. This current TMNT film is a live action-computer-generated motion capture combination-style reboot of the franchise, produced by Michael Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman.

In this reboot, we start at the very beginning again, before the world knew about the turtles. April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is a TV journalist who desperately wants to be taken seriously at work. When she incidentally witnesses shadowy figures fighting against some criminals, she reports them to her boss, who of course does not believe her. She later discovers that these unseen vigilantes are actually four young overgrown turtles with ninja fighting skills.

From there, we will again be told the origins of our four "heroes in a half-shell" who are named after Italian Renaissance painters. There will be certain big changes in the story of how the turtles came to be from how we used to know it. Their Sensei rat Splinter learned his awesome martial arts skills from a book. It also showed how April first knew the Splinter and the turtles as a little girl in her scientist dad's laboratory.

When main villain Shredder (this time in an all-metallic suit armed with boomeranging blades) finds out where the turtles' lair was, he and his henchmen attack it and abduct three of them captive in order to suck out their blood to extract the secret super formula that runs in them. Of course, the bad guys leave one turtle, as well as April and her driver/admirer Vernon (Will Arnett), to save the day. You know how this story will end, so that should not a spoiler, is it?

When Michael Bay's name is attached to a film, we expect wild action and big explosions, and we won't be disappointed here in that regard. The "cowabunga" action sequences still ruled! Even Splinter had a grand martial arts fight scene with Shredder. This reboot is for the young kids of today so it is acceptable and understandable that everything felt so juvenile. The sense of humor in these action scenes is also juvenile, most of the visual jokes would be best appreciated by young kids. Most adults could muster a smile at least.

Megan Fox seems to be Michael Bay's muse, as she also appeared in Bay's other franchise, "Transformers." She is no doubt beautiful, but unfortunately her acting sadly remains to be very amateurish. Will Arnett is not really any help if his function here is to be the comic relief. His character was actually extraneous with corny lines.

However, the best part of film remains to be the Turtles themselves. They are as we know them: Leonardo, the serious leader; Raphael, the hotheaded one; Michaelangelo, the whimsical one; and Donatello, the smart one. They were made to look a little darker, heftier and angrier, like most classical superheroes are expected to look these days. No more bright cheerful colors allowed, it seems.

Nevertheless, these Turtles are still fun and funny for the younger set, and fondly amusing for the parents. That silly elevator scene is proof of this appeal. These cool Turtles will endure despite the uneven quality of this film reboot. 5/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."