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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Stars: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fitchner
Director: Jonathan Liebeman
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 101min
Released Aug 8, 2014
Reviewed by Hal C F Astell

My expectations have been off quite a lot this summer with the big blockbusters. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the Tom Cruise movie, 'Edge of Tomorrow', as much as I did, for instance, but didn't think the new 'Transformers' movie would be quite as relentlessly horrible. I knew 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' would be great but it knocked my socks off anyway and '22 Jump Street' was even more of a ruthless ripoff than I could have imagined.

I wasn't expecting a decent movie in this latest reboot of the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' franchise, which now includes four TV series and five films, but it was a little better than my imagination set me up for after the trailer. Well, for the first half at least. The second half turns to utter dreck and is nigh on unredeemable, but for a while it plays out pretty well as it reimagines the origin story of our pizza-loving heroes. For a while. Remember that.

I should emphasise that I only know the ninja turtles from the comic books. I had a few collections when they were relatively new back in England, where during the video nasty era they were known as the 'Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles'. Ninja was a bad word back then, as every time anyone uttered it a little kid lost their eye to a pair of nunchucks. Or so prophecied the idiots at the 'Daily Mail'. Perhaps not growing up with the movies or the late eighties TV series helped me here.

Because this is all reimagined, we get a fresh intro. There are good guys and bad guys, of course. The bad guy is Shredder, who has an underground crime organisation called the Foot Clan. On the side of truth, justice and the American way is Splinter, a batch of rather ADD editing and the four future saviours that he hyperbolises. This didn't seem quite right, but hey. Neither did the title, which was accompanied by no credits.

Because the heroes are four giant CGI box turtles, we spend our time following April O'Neil instead. She starts out at the Brooklyn docks investigating the Foot Clan because she wants to be a serious reporter. Channel 6 News only has her covering fluff like trampoline exercises in public ('froth', Vern, her cameraman, calls it), but she wants to move on up.

And she finds her story. Seeing action at the docks, she goes in solo to witness a mysterious shadow throwing shipping containers at the thieving Foot Clan foot soldiers. Of course she's a laughing stock when she raises this to her editor, Whoopi Goldberg, who calls it nothing.

We know she's dedicated though because when everyone runs away from something in the street, she runs towards it instead, whatever it is. It turns out to be the Foot Clan taking hostages on a subway platform to draw out the vigilante. She gets caught because she's an idiot and her role is about to be elevated from hostage to executed hostage number one when the lights go out and the turtles show up. She might just be filming it all but she certainly snaps a picture of their celebration on the roof afterwards when she follows her nose. Right as they're saying, 'Completely unseen!' Ah, the irony.

So far, so good, but we're coming up to the bad stuff. It's plot convenience time, ladies and gentlemen! April recognised the symbol left at the docks but couldn't place it until she saw the turtles and hears their names. Then she connects the dots and realises that, get this, they're her turtles from her dad's lab at Sacks Industries, where she released them and a rat into the sewers when the lab went up in flames. She doesn't save her dad, mind you, just the four baby turtles and a rat.

The turtles have grown big and strong and become martial arts masters, of course, and that's fine because if we really try to justify that we're completely lost. But they're up against an even bigger bad guy. Shredder is big, bald and tough, but he hides in the shadows anyway, like he doesn't like his nose or something. He has an odd accent, not just the Japanese he speaks. And his student is Eric Sacks, who worked with April's dad and whom she completely trusts.

Oh, sorry, we're not supposed to realise that the moment we first see him, but c'mon folks. He's the head of Sacks Industries, who are good guys, they promise, there to put the fires out whenever anyone starts them in the city. In other words, he's Christopher Walken from 'Batman Returns', almost down to the same recognisable accent.

This isn't the worst thing in the movie. It isn't even the worst thing in the movie thus far, which surely has to be the orange turtle hitting on April because bestiality makes for good jokes in an action comedy for kids, right? Nope. Haven't they learned anything since 'Howard the Duck'? I guess not.

Anyway, of course Sacks is Shredder's student and with the assistance of Shredder in his Ludicrous Suit, Splinter is left at death's door, three turtles are captured so their blood can be used as the mutagen Sacks thought he'd lost decades earlier and their high tech base is blown to bits. Great day for turtlekind, huh?

Well, that's the end of the good half. As you can see, there are problems, many problems, but the characters are decent for this sort of movie, Megan Fox isn't hard on the eyes as April and the turtles look decent in this big muscly visualisation. Sure, it was annoying to find that they're now ethnic street turtles (and offensive when I found out that they're played by white guys) and I cringed at the thought of the inevitable funky fresh rhymes, but we haven't heard any yet, fool.

That's almost it for good stuff though. It's all about to go completely insane, Michael Bay style insane. Almost everything that happens from this point on is stupid at the very least, very stupid for the most part and often flat out WTF dude.

This is the sort of movie where a TV cameraman can drop a truck off a cliff and turn it round while it's reversing down a snowy, rocky mountainside. The most stable truck in the history of the world runs down the longest ski slope in the history of the world for what seems like forever, surrounded by a bonanza of CGI stuntwork. Someone watched 'Fast and Furious 6' and totally bought into the runway scene, huh? Imbeciles.

This is the sort of movie where there's a convenient sewer running downhill all the way from the bottom of the ski slope right into Sacks Towers in downtown New York. One great big slide. And you thought the railway scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' was a stretch.

Eventually we get to the big fight scene on the roof of Sacks Industries. When I was twelve this would have been the coolest thing ever. Who could be bored watching a huge robot ninja samurai walking Swiss army knife with its Darth Vader helmet and its Freddy Krueger blades? On both hands! And the knives detach and function as boomerangs! And the turtles go flying off the roof into the convenient scaffolding like they've watched too many Jackie Chan movies. This is awesome! Well, it would have been awesome in 1983 but now it's just boring.

The saddest thing about this movie is that the scene I was dreading all along turns out to be the best one. Yeah, the turtles beatbox on down in the elevator. That's what this is all about. The rest is boring. Can someone set Shredder onto Michael Bay so we don't have to watch any more of his movies? I don't know how much more I can take. Even with pizza.

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